A Little History

Oklahoma Slave Narrative

Mollie Barber

Two year before de war broke out I was born, four mile north of Helena, Arkansas, on de old plantation of Nat Turner who was stomped to death by a bull 'bout 15-year ago - I read about it in de Arkansas papers.  My father was Reuben Turner ; before dat he was a Slade and maybe some other names too, for he was sold lots of times. When de war come 'long he went off to de North, fought in de war, and never come back. Mammy was Satira Turner , and she was taken from her folks in Missouri and sold when she was a child. She was sold two-three times in her life, once at Jefferson, Texas, to a Master King who live someplace dey called Black Jack. During de war she was run, with some other slaves, from Missouri to Mississippi, Holly Springs she thought it was, den over into Arkansas, down to Texas, back to Arkansas, and all 'round.   My birth month is de lucky month of July, on de last day of it, Mammy told me. I always been lucky too, wid plenty to eat, plenty to wear, and a good clean house to live in. Dat's about de luck folks can figure on anyways.  Dere was but one more child dan me; his name is Lucius , living down 'round Sulphur Springs, Texas, de last time I hear.  De Old Master's wife was Emma Turner , and Ann Turner was deir daughter. Dey wouldn't let any of de slaves learn reading and such, and dey had a white overseer to run things. He picked out de biggest slave man on de place and made him de "whip-man." When de overseer or de Master figured a slave was due a beating, dey call in de whip man and he lay on de lash.  My mammy work 'round de house and in de fields too; seem lak she done 'bout ever'thing. Before he run off to de North, father would haul de cotton and grain to Helena for Master, and at night he work some more to make "out money", which de Old Master keep part of and let my father keep de rest. Made boots and shoes, mostly.  Money makes me 'member 'bout dat 'Federate money. It got so dead dey give it to de chillen to make doll dresses wid; dat money was real no 'count stuff - wid a wagon-load of it, you was still poor!  Sometimes de white masters would sell de slaves, put 'em on de block and bid you off, de way mammy told me 'bout it. When de slave was put on de block de white folks gather 'round and de bidding would start. De owner talk about de sale dis-a-way:  "I got dis 'ere Negro woman, wid sound teeth; she a good cook, and can have some good little Negroes. What I offered for her?"  Den some man in de crowd say, "Fifty dollar; I give fifty!" De owner say: "We start at dat. Fifty dollar . . . . . Waiting for de next bid!" And 'fore de bidding off is done, dat woman bring in maybe one thousand dollars.  Dat's de way de Turner 's done; ever'time dey need some money,  off dey sell a slave, jest like now dey sell cows and hogs at de auction places.  'Nother time, mammy said, one of de slave women was bid off for six-hundred dollars single; dat mean widout her chillen. De woman went 'round her new Master's house crying all de day, and he asks her: "Aint I bein' a good Master? Don't you like me fo' a Master?"  "You is a good Master", de woman told him, "but I is crying 'bout my babies. I got six pair o' twins, some of dem not yet six-month old, and I don't like bein' sold f'om chillen!"  What my mother say is - her new Master went back and brought ever' child of hers and keep dem all together til dey was free.  Freedom come a year before my mammy knew 'bout it, and she learn 'bout it accidental-like. She was cooking de Christmas dinner for her Mistress, and she went out to de yard for something when a colored man come by. Dey got to talking and he told her 'bout de Freedom - dat she was free jest like all de folks dat had been slaves. She run back in de house, grab up what little clothes she had, make a bundle and leave dat place wid de dinner 'most ready. Bless her old black heart! She was glad to be free!  Most of our masters was white - Caucasians, dey call they-selves - but somewheres in de selling and trading we had some Creek Indian folks and dey give us 60-acre of land.  I married Doc Barber at Helena, Arkansas, but he been dead a long time now. My son, Sam , lives part time wid me, but work keeps him 'way most de time.  De colored Methodist church is where I go, and I try to live right. I know if I live for Jesus he will show me de Way.