Emma Simpson

I was born in Walker County ten or twelve years before the war between the States. My father’s name was Alex Brown. He was captured in Africa and brought over to America when he was young. Mother's name was Allie Sue Bradson before she married. She was born in Kentucky. I had two sisters, Feline and Annie Sue Brown, one brother Tom Brown. We was separated when we were born, after we become about two years old, we were give away or sold but we was freed before we were grown and all came back together after the war was over.

We had good quarters. Master he was good to these here old negroes. Masters name Johnny Brown and mistress name Miss Corrine Brown. They was sure good to their old negroes, bless their heart altho they done gone to meet their Savior. We had good beds. We take forked stick drive one end in the ground and the other end would be forked then we lay some poles in that fork and then we would stretch deer hide over them poles then we would get corn shuck and make us beds out of them. I'se cooked mostly bos, chop cotton, corn and plowed like a man.

Nosir, I never earned any money but master he sometime would give me nickel or dime in gold money. I had a place that I storied the money that master gave me when I was freed. I had nearly five dollars.

Master, he had plenty to eat all the time, meat, cornbread, syrup, honey, but no biscuits bread. They didn’t know what flour was them days. We had great big old pot that we hung in the old rock fire place that we cooked on all our meats. Then we had great big old iron skillet that had lid over the top of it that we cooked our bread in. Sometimes we have cornbread pones that we cooked in the ashes. No sir, the slave worked masters big garden cause he had nearly five acres in his garden then he gave us things out of the garden and in hot weather we wore just one dress open all the way down the front of loyal cloth. No shoes in cold weather we had woolen clothes and master would get us a pair brogan shoes. On Sundays we have white loyal dress. Boss, our wedding clothes was just old every day clothes. The dress that I was married in after the war was white loyal clothe that master let me keep. Master he was good man, jolly with his negroes, never got mad or whipped any of his negroes. Mistress she was just a plum angel. Their only child, Annie Lee was the sweetest curly head thing that God ever let live. Poor soul, she dead now, but I use to work, cook with that child in my arms and she just loved her old black mammy, cause she would cry for old mammy to take her just soon as she had seen her master. He had plum good home built and pine logs. They was four room in his home with hall going two ways. There was about one hundred acres in masters farm and he have eleven slaves bit and little. Master he would wake us about four o'clock every morning except Sunday morning and we alway had two holiday in the week cause master would never make us work on Saturday. Then we quits work every evenin when dark run us in. Boss, they was never no slaves punished on masters farm.

My mistress taught me how to read and write my name. The slaves they all had to go to church there on that farm cause master he was very religious. I'se still remember old brother Goree. Ile used to come down in Walker County and preach to both white and black he was always telling us negroes funny things to get us to like him then he preach to us about the slaves. We was always taught to tell the truth and not to steal cause if we do, them bad things the old bad man will get us after we die.

They tried to rest when they went to their quarters after the days work was done. We have holiday on Saturday. Master never did work us on Saturday. We have Saturday off all day to wash our clothes, clean out our quarters, then Saturday night we most time have negro dance, banjo pickin, story telling, ring games. Then on Sunday master carry us to church on another farm there close by. Christmas morning we all get up bright and early to see what old Santa Claus brought us. He always nearly bring us great big sack of candy and nut. Then we prepare great big dinner both white and black to celebrate on Christmas. Then we have lots of fire works. We have cotton pickin contest on the plantation. Master he was good to the winner he alway got big sack something like candy or nuts. The men he some time give them new clothes. When the slaves got sick master he alway go get old black mammy to doctor them. She would give them weed tea for the chills and fevers she would tie camphor string around their neck. Then if old black mammy couldn’t get them well, master he would get the white doctor then some times old black mammy would give them red oak bark tea.

The war between the states they get might near all the young men in the county. I'se begins to think they was gone get all them. When it started they gives great big dance and supper in Huntsville to tell them good by, both white and black were there to tell the soldiers boy good by, cause they knew some would not come back no more. The war got most of the young men both white and black. Some were killed on the battle front. Lord have mercy. War is terrible cause lots of our boy come home sick cripple and one legged one armed and so on. Master he come home and tell us we was free, that we was just as free as he was. Boss, more cryin and taking on was terrible, cause we thought he was the grandes man ever. They begin to ask him what they was going to do and he told them he didnt know that they they didnt want to leave him. So he told them that he still had the quarters and teams and if they wanted to stay and farm on the shares with him they could stay. He would help them manage their crops and see that they would get some grub to make crop on. They all stayed except one and he left, sos we stayed on several years with him and farmed on the halves. I'se married to Ben Simpson several years after the war and we have thirteen children, seven boys and six girls, all them farmin and doing very well. When we married they gave big supper and we had about a week of dancing before.

Well yes, we expect the federal government to take better care of us negroes than they did they just turned us out. They should have give us negroes some land and teams instead if it had been for the good white folk of the south, the negro would have been in terrible shape. The white folks took us in and rented us farms and let us have teams to work and make a livin. We didnt have anything give to us. All we got we had to work for it and it has got lot worse than it was just after the war. We generally farmed after the war. Sometimes we cut cord wood. We generally received just enough wages to barely get by. Sometime we didnt have very much to live on. Of course now, we get a little government pension.

Sometimes when the negro went to vote the KKK would be there and told them not to. Boy, them KKK loos just like ghost or something cause sure are scary looking. Sometimes back yonder the negro voted but it was under direction of their land lords. I'se had several friends among the white folks that held office like General Houston. He and master were great friends. I'se believe son, that the negro ought to have more privileges in voting than they have because the negro have the same responsibility that the white people have. Then we are not allow to help choose our state nor county officers. Course here in Texas, they let us help elect the President and that is about all I thinks. We have good educated bunch of youngsters they are certainly improvement over the negro of other days. Of course, after the war between the states the negro didnt know anything. They was not much more than a bunch of cattle because they couldnt read and write. They couldnt make crop themselves, and much less hold office and good jobs like they do now. But there could still be lots of improvement yet. The negro is still a backward race of people here in the south.

Oct. 13, 1937
B.E. Davis Madisonville, Texas Writer's Project Dist. #8
Palestine, Texas