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Mitchell, A. J.

419 E. 11th Avenue, Pine Bluff, Arkansas

Age 78 Occupation Garbage hauler

"I was 'bout seven when they surrendered. I can remember when my old master sold Aunt Susan. She raised me. I seen old master when he was tryin' to whip old Aunt Susan. She was the cook. She said, 'I ain't goin' let you whip me' and I heard my sister say next day he done sold Aunt Susan. I ain't seed her since. I called her mma. My mother died when I was two years old. She was full Injun. My father was black but his hair was straight. His face was so black it shined. Looked like it was greased. My father said he was freeborn and I've seen stripes on his back look like the veins on back of my hand where they whipped him tryin' to make him disown his freedom.

"Old Jack Clifton was my master. Yes ma'm, that was his name.

"I 'member when they had those old looms --- makin' cloth and old shuttle to put the thread on. I can see 'em now.

"I can 'member when this used to be a Injun place. I've seen old Injun mounds. White folks come and run 'em out and give 'em Injun Tarritory.

"I heared the guns in the war and seed the folks comin' home when the war broke. They said they was fitin' 'bout freedom, tryin' to free the people. I 'member when they was fitin' at Marks Mill. I know some of the people said that was where they was sot free.

"I don't know as I seed any Ku Klux when they was goin' round. Hearin' 'bout 'em scared me. I have a good recollection. I can remember the first dream I ever had and the first time I whistled. I can remember when I was two or three years old. Remember when they had a big old conch shell. Old master would blow it at twelve o'clock for 'em to come in.

"Old master was good to us but I 'member he had a leather strap and if we chillun had done anything he'd make us younguns put our head 'tween his legs and put that strap on us. My goodness! He called me Pat and called his own son Bug --- his own son Junie. We played together. Old master had nicknames for everybody.

"My first mistress was named Miss Mary but she died. I 'member when old master married and brought Miss Becky home.

"Marse John (he was old master's oldest son) he used to tote me about in his saddle bags. He was the overseer.

"I 'member old master's ridin' hoss --- a little old bay pony --- called him Hardy. I never remember nobody else bein' on it --- that was his ridin' hoss.

"Old master had dogs. One was Gus and one named Brute (he was a red bone hound). And one little dog they called Trigger. Old master's head as white as cotton.

"I do remember the day they said the people was free --- after the war broke. My father come and got me.

"Now I'm givin' you a true statement. I've been stayin' by myself twenty-three years. I been here in Pine Bluff --- well I jest had got here when the people was comin' back from that German war.

"My God, we had the finest time when we killed hogs --- make sausage. We'd eat cracklin's --- oh, we thought they wasn't nothin' like cracklin's. The Lord have mercy, there was an old beech tree set there in my master's yard. You could hear that old tree pop ever' day bout the same time, bout twelve o'clock. We used to eat beech mass. Good? Yes ma'm! I think about it often and wonder why it was right in old master's yard.

"I've cast a many a vote. Not a bit of trouble in the world. Hope elect most all the old officers here in town. I had a brother was a comstable under Squire Gaines. Well of course, Miss, I don't think it's right when they disfranchised the colored people. I tell you, Miss, I reed the Bible and the Bible says every man has his rights --- the poor and the free and the bound. I got good sense from the time I leaped in this world. I 'member well I used to go and cast my vote just that quick but they got so they wouldn't let you vote unless you could reed.

"I've had 'em to offer me money to vote the Democrat ticket. I told him, no. I didn't think that was principle. The colored man ain't got no representive now. Colored men used to be elected to the legislature and they'd go and sell out. Some of 'em used to vote the Democrat ticket. God wants every man to have his birthright.

"I tell you one thing they did. This here no fence law was one of the lowest things they ever did. I don't know what the governor was studyin' 'bout. If they would let the old people raise meat, they wouldn't have to get so much help from the government. God don't like that, God wants the people to raise things. I could make a livin' but they won't let me.

"The first thing I remember bout studyin' was Junie, old master's son, studyin' his book and I heard 'em spell the word 'baker'. That was when they used the old Blue Back Speller.

"I went to school. I'm goin' tell you as nearly as I can. That was, madam, let me see, that was in sixty-nine as near as I can come at it. Kiss, I don't know how long I went. My father wouldn't let me. I didn't know nothin' but work. I weighed cotton ever since I was a little boy. I always wanted to be weighin'. Looked like it was my gift --- weighin' cotton.

"I'm a Missionary Baptist preacher. Got a license to preach. You go down and try to preach without a license and they put you up.

"Madam, you asked me a question I think I can answer with knowledge and understanding. The young people is goin' too fast. The people is growin' weaker and wiser. You take my folks --- goin' to school but not doin' anything. I don't think there's much to the younger generation. Don't think they're doin' much good. I was brought up with what they called fireside teachin'."


NAME OF WORKER---Bernice Bowden

ADRESS---1006 Oak Street, Pine Bluff, Arkansas

DATE---November 2, 1938

1. Kame and address of informant---Gracie Mitchell

2. Date and time of interview---November 1, 1938, 3:00 p.m.

3. Place of interview---117 Worthan Street

4. Kame and address of person, if any, who put you in touch with informant--- Bernice Wilburn, 101 Miller Street, Pine Bluff, Arkansas

5. Kame and address of person, if any, accompanying you---None

6. Description of room, house, surroundings, etc.---A frame house (rented), bare floors, no window shades; a bed and some boxes and three straight chairs. In an adjoining room were another bed, heating stove, two trunks, one straight chair, one rocking chair. A third room the kitchen, contained cookstove and table and chairs.

"They said I was born in Alabama. My mother's name was Sallie and my father was Andrew Wheeler. I couldn't tell when I was born---my folks never did tell me that. Belonged to Dr. Moore and when his daughter married he give my mother to her and she went to Mobile. They said I wasn't weaned yet. My grandmother told me that. She is dead now. Don't know nothin' bout nary one o' my white folks. I don't recollect nothin' bout a one of 'em 'cept my old boss. He tock us to Texas and stayed till the niggers was all free and then he went back. Good to me? No ma'm---no good there. And if you didn't work he'd see what was the matter. Lived near Coffeyville in Upshaw county. That's whar my husband found me. I was living with my aunt and uncle. They said the reason I had such a good gift makin' quilts was cause my mother was a seamstress.

"I cooked 'fore I married and I could make my own dresses, piece quilts and quilt. That's mostly what I done. No laundry work. I never did farm till I was married. After we went to Chicago in 1922, I took care of other folks chillun, colored folks, while they was working in laundries and factories. I sure has worked. I ain't nobody to what I was when I was first married. I knowed how to turn, but I don't know whar to turn now---I ain't able.

"I use to could plow just as good as any man. I could put that dirt up against that cotton and corn. I'd mold it up. Lay it by? Yes ma'm I'd lay it by, too.

"They didn't send me to school but they learned me how to work.

"I had a quilt book with a lot o' different patterns but I loaned it to a woman and she carried it to Oklahoma. Mighty few people you can put confidence in nowdays.

"I don't go out much 'cept to church---folks is so critical.

"You have to mind how you walk on the cross; If you don't, your foot will slip, And your soul will be lost."

"I was a motherless chile but the Lord made up for it by givin' me a good husband and I don't want for anything."

NAME OF WORKER---Bernice Bowden

NAME AND ADDRESS OF INFORMANT---Gracie Mitchell, 117 Northern Street, Pine Bluff

According to her husband, Gracie spends every spare moment piecing quilts. He said they use to go fishing and that Gracie always took her quilt pieces along and if the fish were not biting she would sew. She showed me twenty-two finished quilt tops, each of a different design and several of the same design, or about thirty quilts in all. Two were entirely of silk, two of applique design which she called "laid work". They were folded up in a trunk and as she took them out and spread them on the bed for me to see she told me the name of the design. The following are the names of the designs:

1. Breakfast Dish

2. Sawtooth (silk)

3. Tulip design (Laid work)

4. "Prickle" Pear

5. Little Boy's Breeches

6. Birds All Over the Elements

7. Drunkard's Path

8. Railroad Crossing

9. Cocoanut Leaf ("That's Laid Work")

10. Cotton Leaf

11. Half an Orange

12. Tree of Paradise

13. Sunflower

14. Ocean Wave (silk)

15. Double Star

16. Swan's Nest

17. Log Cabin in the Lane

18. Reel

19. Lily in de Valley (Silk)

20. Feathered Star

21. Fish Tail

22. Whirligig

Gracie showed me her winter coat bought in Chicago of fur fabric called moleskin, and with fur collar and cuffs.

She sells the quilt tops whenever she can. Many are made of new material which they buy.


NAME OF WORKER---Bernice Bowden

ADDRESS---1006 Oak Street

DATE---November 2, 1938

NAME AND ADDRESS OF INFORMANT---Gracie Mitchell, 117 Worthen Street, Pine Bluff

1. Ancestry---Father, Andrew Wheeler; Sallie wheeler, mother.

2. Place and date of birth---Alabama. No date known, about 80 years old.

3. Family---Husband and one grown son.

4. Places lived in, with dates---Alabama, Texas till 1897, Arkansas 1897-1922, Chicago, 1922 to 1930. Arkansas 1930 to date.

5. Education, with dates---No education.

6. Occupations and accomplishments, with dates---Cooked before marriage at 16; farred after marriage; home sewing.

7. Special skills and interests---Quilt making and knitting.

8. Community and religious activities---Assisted husband in ministry.

9. Description of informant---Hair divided into many pigtails and wrapped with rags. Skin, dark. Medium beight, slender, clothing soiled.

10. Other points gained in interview---Spends all her time piecing quilts, aside from housework.

Interviewer Miss Irene Robertson"

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