Willis Woodson

"I'm borned at a place called Whiterock, but don't rightly 'member no other name, but it was a long, long way from here, though. I was the prop'ty of Marse Richards, but he sold me and my maw and a lot of darkies to Marse Ike Isom. Maw said Marse Ike done pay $500 for me, cheap 'cause I's purty little and couldn't do much work.

"Marse Isom moved to Texas and everybody holped load de wagons, and we starts real early in a cold mornin'. De old womens and little chillens rode in de wagons, but de men walked. We traveled real slow, though, and it wasn't no worse'n plowin' all day. One Marse Isom's sons rid behind on a big, white hoss, and seed none of the darkies runned off. At night we fixes a supper and goes to bed and all de niggers is chained together and slept on straw beds. The white men tooked turns guardin' dem with guns.

"We gits to de new farm, long ways from where we lives befo', and starts clearin' land. When we gits settled, Old Miss picks me to be nuss to her chillen. Maw didn't work in de field. She say she done been hurt when she got a whippin' when she ain't growed, and her back ain't good no more. Old Miss say, 'Eva, you come in de kitchen and make some chittlin's, and iffen you cooks good, you can work in my kitchen.' Maw, she make dem chitlin's and dey's damn good, so she gits to cook den.

"Marse and Old Miss lives in de big house, with boards outside, 'steadin' logs. It have big rooms, lots of dem, and a big fireplace all 'cross de side one room. Me and 'nother boy has to bring in logs to build de fire, him totin' one end and me totin' one end. I stays in de house, so I gits good clothes and shoes, too. Some dem niggers didn't have hardly no clothes, though,

"De mostest fun I ever got was when Marse Isom 'lows me to be footman. He gits me a uniform, most like a sojer's, 'ceptin' mine am red with black stripes down de pants. I 'member it jist like yesterday, de first time I puts it on. Marse give a cel'bration at he house and de doorman am sick, so I has to be it. He give me dat suit and say to hurry put it on. Den he make me come to de front door and let him in over and over, so as to git de hang of it. He told me to take his hat and cane and put dem up, and to say, 'Thank you,' and 'Dis way, please,' and not to say no more to nobody, and I didn't. After dat night I opens de door lots of times, but mostest I wears dat suit when I takes de white folks to church, while dey listens to preachin' and I holds de hosses.

"I never did see no niggers whipped, but I done see dat whip hangin' in de barn. It a big, long thing, lots bigger'n a horsewhip, and I know it must have been used, 'cause it all wore out at one end.

"All de fun we has am huntin' and fishin'. We can go any night if we gits a permit from Marse Isom. Sometimes at night, he lets all de big niggers git together 'hind de cabins and make a big bonfire. Den we sings all de songs we knows, till nine o'clock, den Marse rings de bell, to cut out all de noise.

"Jus' befo' dat war am over, some soldiers marches through de farm and kilt all de cows and stock and burns de barn, Marse beg dem not to burn he house, so dey didn't. Some dem niggers quits when dey freed, without no supper, but not dis nigger! I stays sev'ral years, den gits a job snakin' logs in a sawmill. Den I marries and has seven chillen and I stays with first one, den 'nother. I holps dem all I can. I been patchin' up some fishin' tackle today."