Andrew Goodman

"I was born in slavery and I think them days was better for the niggers than the days we see now. One thing was, I never was cold and hongry when my old master lived, and I has been plenty hongry and cold a lot of times since he is gone. But sometimes I think Marse Goodman was the bestes' man Gawd made in a long time.

"My mother, Martha Goodman, 'longed to Marse Bob Goodman when she was born, but my paw come from Tennessee and Marse Bob heired him from some of his kinfolks what died over there. The Goodmans must have been fine folks all-a-way round, 'cause my paw said them that raised him was good to they niggers.

"Old Marse never 'lowed none of his nigger families separated. He 'lowed he thought it right and fittin' that folks stay together, though I heard tell of some that didn't think so.

"My Missus was just as good as Marse Bob. My maw was a puny little woman that wasn't able to do work in the fields, and she puttered round the house for the Missus, doin' little odd jobs. I played round with little Miss Sallie and little Mr. Bob, and I ate with them and slept with them. I used to sweep off the steps and do things, and she'd brag on me and many is the time I'd git to noddin' and go to sleep, and she'd pick me up and put me in bed with her chillun.[Pg 75]

"Marse Bob didn't put his little niggers in the fields till they's big 'nough to work, and the mammies was give time off from the fields to come back to the nursin' home to suck the babies. He didn't never put the niggers out in bad weather. He give us something to do, in out of the weather, like shellin' corn and the women could spin and knit. They made us plenty of good clothes. In summer we wore long shirts, split up the sides, made out of lowerings—that's same as cotton sacks was made out of. In winter we had good jeans and knitted sweaters and knitted socks.

"My paw was a shoemaker. He'd take a calfhide and make shoes with the hairy sides turned in, and they was warm and kept your feet dry. My maw spent a lot of time cardin' and spinnin' wool, and I allus had plenty things.

"Life was purty fine with Marse Bob. He was a man of plenty. He had a lot of land and he built him a big log house when he come to Texas. He had sev'ral hundred head of cattle and more than that many hawgs. We raised cotton and grain and chickens and vegetables, and most anything anybody could ask for. Some places the masters give out a peck of meal and so many pounds of meat to a family for them a week's rations, and if they et it up that was all they got. But Marse Bob allus give out plenty, and said, 'If you need more you can have it, 'cause ain't any going to suffer on my place.'

"He built us a church, and a old man, Kenneth Lyons, who was a slave of the Lyon's family nearby, used to git a pass every Sunday mornin' and come preach to us. He was a man of good learnin' and the best preacher I ever heard. He baptised in a little old mudhole down back of our place. Nearly[Pg 76] all the boys and gals gits converted when they's 'bout twelve or fifteen year old. Then on Sunday afternoon, Marse Bob larned us to read and write. He told us we oughta git all the learnin' we could.

"Once a week the slaves could have any night they want for a dance or frolic. Mance McQueen was a slave 'longing on the Dewberry place, what could play a fiddle, and his master give him a pass to come play for us. Marse Bob give us chickens or kilt a fresh beef or let us make 'lasses candy. We could choose any night, 'cept in the fall of the year. Then we worked awful hard and didn't have the time. We had a gin run by horsepower and after sundown, when we left the fields, we used to gin a bale of cotton every night. Marse allus give us from Christmas Eve through New Year's Day off, to make up for the hard work in the fall.

"Christmas time everybody got a present and Marse Bob give a big hawg to every four families. We had money to buy whiskey with. In spare time we'd make cornshuck horse collars and all kinds of baskets, and Marse bought them off us. What he couldn't use, he sold for us. We'd take post oak and split it thin with drawin' knives and let it git tough in the sun, and then weave it into cotton baskets and fish baskets and little fancy baskets. The men spent they money on whiskey, 'cause everything else was furnished. We raised our own tobacco and hung it in the barn to season, and a'body could go git it when they wanted it.

"We allus got Saturday afternoons off to fish and hunt. We used to have fish fries and plenty game in them days.

"Course, we used to hear 'bout other places where they had nigger drivers and beat the slaves. But I never did see or hear tell of one of[Pg 77] master's slaves gittin' a beatin'. We had a overseer, but didn't know what a nigger driver was. Marse Bob had some nigger dogs like other places, and used to train them for fun. He'd git some the boys to run for a hour or so and then put the dogs on the trail. He'd say, 'If you hear them gittin' near, take to a tree.' But Marse Bob never had no niggers to run off.

"Old man Briscoll, who had a place next to ours, was vicious cruel. He was mean to his own blood, beatin' his chillen. His slaves was afeared all the time and hated him. Old Charlie, a good, old man who 'longed to him, run away and stayed six months in the woods 'fore Briscoll cotched him. The niggers used to help feed him, but one day a nigger 'trayed him, and Briscoe put the dogs on him and cotched him. He made to Charlie like he wasn't goin' to hurt him none, and got him to come peaceful. When he took him home, he tied him and beat him for a turrible long time. Then he took a big, pine torch and let burnin' pitch drop in spots all over him. Old Charlie was sick 'bout four months and then he died.

"Marse Bob knowed me better'n most the slaves, 'cause I was round the house more. One day he called all the slaves to the yard. He only had sixty-six then, 'cause he had 'vided with his son and daughter when they married. He made a little speech. He said, 'I'm going to a war, but I don't think I'll be gone long, and I'm turnin' the overseer off and leavin' Andrew in charge of the place, and I wants everything to go on, just like I was here. Now, you all mind what Andrew says, 'cause if you don't, I'll make it rough on you when I come back home.' He was jokin', though, 'cause he wouldn't have done nothing to them.[Pg 78]

"Then he said to me, 'Andrew, you is old 'nough to be a man and look after things. Take care of Missus and see that none the niggers wants, and try to keep the place going.'

"We didn't know what the war was 'bout, but master was gone four years. When Old Missus heard from him, she'd call all the slaves and tell us the news and read us his letters. Little parts of it she wouldn't read. We never heard of him gittin' hurt none, but if he had, Old Missus wouldn't tell us, 'cause the niggers used to cry and pray over him all the time. We never heard tell what the war was 'bout.

"When Marse Bob come home, he sent for all the slaves. He was sittin' in a yard chair, all tuckered out, and shuck hands all round, and said he's glad to see us. Then he said, 'I got something to tell you. You is jus' as free as I is. You don't 'long to nobody but you'selves. We went to the war and fought, but the Yankees done whup us, and they say the niggers is free. You can go where you wants to go, or you can stay here, jus' as you likes.' He couldn't help but cry.

"The niggers cry and don't know much what Marse Bob means. They is sorry 'bout the freedom, 'cause they don't know where to go, and they's allus 'pend on Old Marse to look after them. Three families went to get farms for theyselves, but the rest just stay on for hands on the old place.

"The Federals has been comin' by, even 'fore Old Marse come home. They all come by, carryin' they little budgets, and if they was walkin' they'd look in the stables for a horse or mule, and they jus' took what they wanted of corn or livestock. They done the same after Marse Bob come home. He jus' said,[Pg 79] 'Let them go they way, 'cause that's what they're going to do, anyway.' We was scareder of them than we was of the debbil. But they spoke right kindly to us cullud folks. They said, 'If you got a good master and want to stay, well, you can do that, but now you can go where you want to, 'cause ain't nobody going to stop you.'

"The niggers can't hardly git used to the idea. When they wants to leave the place, they still go up to the big house for a pass. They jus' can't understand 'bout the freedom. Old Marse orMissus say, 'You don't need no pass. All you got to do is jus' take you foot in you hand and go.'

"It seem like the war jus' plumb broke Old Marse up. It wasn't long till he moved into Tyler and left my paw runnin' the farm on a halfance with him and the niggers workers. He didn't live long, but I forgits jus' how long. But when Mr. Bob heired the old place, he 'lowed we'd jus' go 'long the way his paw has made the trade with my paw.

"Young Mr. Bob 'parently done the first rascality I ever heard of a Goodman doin'. The first year we worked for him we raised lots of grain and other things and fifty-seven bales of cotton. Cotton was fifty-two cents a pound and he shipped it all away, but all he ever gave us was a box of candy and a sack of store tobacco and a sack of sugar. He said the 'signment done got lost. Paw said to let it go, 'cause we had allus lived by what the Goodman had said.

"I got married and lived on the old place till I was in my late fifties. I had seven chillun, but if I got any livin' now, I don't know where they is now. My paw and maw got to own a little piece of land not far from the old place, and paw lived to be 102 and maw 106. I'm the last one of any of my folks.[Pg 80]

"For twenty years my health ain't been so good, and I can't work even now, though my health is better'n in the past. I had hemorraghes. All my folks died on me, and it's purty rough on a old man like me. My white folks is all dead or I wouldn't be 'lowed to go hongry and cold like I do, or have to pay rent.[Pg 81]