Oklahoma Slave Narrative
Lewis JenkinsI was bo'n in Green County, Alabama in January 1844. My mother was a white woman and her name was Jane Jenkins. My father was a nigger. He was a coachman on my master's place. I was told this in 1880 by the white doctor, Lyth Smith, which brung me into the world to my mother. My mastah, who was my grandfather, brung me to Texas when I was jes' 7 or 8 yeahs old. A few yeahs later, he brung my mother down to Texas and she had wid her 3 boys, which was her chillun and my brothers. They was white chillun and name Jones. They fust names was Tom, Joe and Lije. They parted f'om me and I never heerd no mo' 'bout 'em. I diden even down know my mother when I seen her. All my life I done jes' knowed my white kinfolks and nothin' 'tall 'bout the other part of my color. 'Fo I was bo'n, my mother was tucken 'way f'om her playmates and kep' in the attic hid. They tuck me soon as I was born f'om her. When her time to be in bed was up, she'd ask the waitman whar I was at. The waitman was Dr. Lyth Smith. He'd tell her I was at Ann's house. I never got chance to nurse my mother. After she got up and come down, she wanted to see her baby. Now she goes to Ann's house and couldn't find me. After she couldn't find me there, she looked in all houses on the place for me, her baby. Then she commenced screaming, tearing her clothes off and tearing her hair out. They sont her to the calaboose tell they could git her some clothes to put on. She went distracted. She tore out towards town. The way they got her to hush, they tole her I was with my grandma. They had me hid on the road to Texas. The doctor's wife said I was the first nigger she shed a tear over. It was a destruction thing. Well, that scandalized the family and they moved to Texas, and come by and got me an tuck me to Texas. When they crossed the big river, Tom Bigby River in Alabama, 3 miles wide on boat, this woman that had me in hand, was just churning me up and down in the river. They hollered at her, and I says that there's what God tuck me in his bosom. Now you may say, on an' on as I growed, then I was 7 or 8 yeahs old when the white folks tuck me in charge. They was gonna make a watchman outta me to watch for 'em at night. But when they begun this, I wasn't ole 'nuf to remember. The fus' house I was sont to, was the cook's house. The cook said, "Whut you come down heah fer?" I tole her I diden know. "Who sont you?" I said, "Ole Mastah Jenkins." She knowed 'mediately whut I was sont fer, don't you see? She says to me, "Set down little rascal wid her fis' drawed buck, I'll knock you in the head." Well, whut could I do but set, chile lak. 'Fo long I was sleep and they tuck me out doors. Next mawnin' I was tole to go to the big house. Ole Mastah axe me "Whut'd you see last night?" I tole him I diden seed nothin'. Now they got the cow hide an' hit me 3 or 4 licks and axe 'at same question agin. I tole 'em I diden seed nothin'. This went on fer 'bout a hour. I had to take a whippin' ever mawnin', 'cause I had to go to ever house an' never seen nothin'. The last house I went to, well, in the mawnin' as I was gwine back to the big house, a voice come to me and said, "See nothin', tell nothin'." It meant fer me not to lie an' on and on as I growed fer yeahs to come, as I was big 'nuf to plow corn, I was out in the field and a voice, that same voice too, said, "Effen I was you, I'd leave this place, 'cause you'll come to want and won't have." All this was the causing of my conversion. My fust job was scouring flo's and I mean I scoured 'em too. Next I scoured knives and forks. F'om 'at job I went into rail work, and no play. My mastah and his family jes' lived in a log house. My mistress was my grandfather's wife and my grandmother, but I coulden claim 'em. Her and her oldes' chile treated me some rough. I never had no good time tell that old white woman died, an' talkin' 'bout somebody glad she died, I sho' was. They tuck turns 'bout treatin' me bad. There was 'bout 20 slaves on our place, chillen and all. Dewan, which was my uncle, was the overseer. He waked us up jes' 'fo' sunrise and we worked f'om sun to sun. I seen 'em tie niggers hand and foot to mill posts and whip 'em with bull whips. Them was neighbors, doe not our'n. They whipped the women by pullin' they dresses down to they hips and beat 'em tell they was satisfied. For myself, my grandfather whipped me tell his dog tuck pity on me and tried to drag me 'way. This is the scar on my leg whar he pulled on me. He was beatin' me tell I said, "Oh! Pray Mastah." He diden tell me tell after he was thoo' beatin' me doe. I seen 'em sell people, whut wasn't able to work f'om the block jes' lak cattle. They would be chained togedder. They tuck mothers f'om chillun even jes' a week old and sell 'em. They stripped the slaves, women and all and let the bidders look at 'em to see effen they was scarred 'fo' they would buy 'em. Them old white folks woulden learn us to read and write and woulden let they young'ns learn us. My younges' mistress, which is my antie 'mind you, was tryin' to learn me to read and write and was caught an' she got some whippin', almos' a killin'. I never seen but one nigger man hung. He was crippled and had run 'way. I seen dis honey wid my own eyes, no guess work. He had caught a little white girl, school girl too, ravaged her and cut her tongue off. Oh, that was barbous. He oughta been burnt. He diden git his jes' due at hangin'. Patterollers was sho' thoo' the country. They was out to keep down nigger and white mixin' an' to keep niggers f'om havin' liberty to go out 'specially at night. They diden 'low you to come to see a gall 'less she was 18 and you was 21. The cause of this was to raise good stock. The gals coulden mare (marry) tell they was 18 neither, doe they could have chillun. You had to have a pass to go see your gal eben. Now you got yo' pass f'om yo' mastah. Effen you was under 15, you could go play and diden need no pass, but all over 15 jes' had to have a pass. They would go right to bed after they et. No Sadday off, jes' washday off. On Sunday, old mistress let us have sugar, flour and lard, but jes' some Sundays. No other day doe. We was in a great game country an' sho' et our fill of coons, 'possums, rabbits, deer, turkeys and the sich and things people woulden notice now. Cawnbread and sweet potatoes was my favorite foods. Milk and butter was bes' eatin'. We jes' wo' whut you call slips wid jes' two sleeves slipped over our head. No buttons. We wo' the same thing in winter jes' heavier. Never wo' no shoes tell I was old 'nuf to chop cotton. At weddin's they wo' stripes all the time. They made 'em on hand looms. They was mos'ly white and red stripes.We played marbles and ring plays. We usta sing this ditty doing playin':
So many pretty gals So they say
So many pretty gals So they say.
Jes' peep thoo' the window Susie gal.