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Slave Narratives: a Folk History of Slavery in the United States From Interviews with Former Slaves Arkansas Narratives, Part 5

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Interviewer: Mrs. Bernice BowdenPerson interviewed: Lizzie McCloud     1203 Short 13th Street, Pine Bluff, ArkansasAge: 120?

"I was one of 'em bless your heart. Yes ma'm, Yes ma'm, I wouldn't tell you a lie 'bout that. If I can't tell you the truth I'm not goin' tell you nothin'!

"Oh yes, I was a young lady in slavery times—bred and born in Tennessee. Miss Lizzie and Marse John Williams—I belonged to them—sho did! I was scared to death of the white folks. Miss Lizzie—she mean as the devil. She wouldn't step her foot on the ground, she so rich. No ma'm wouldn't put her foot on the ground. Have her carriage drive up to the door and have that silk carpet put down for her to walk on. Yes Lord. Wouldn't half feed us and they went and named me after her.

"I know all about the stars fallin'. I was out in the field and just come in to get our dinner. Got so dark and the stars begin to play aroun'. Mistress say, 'Lizzie, it's the judgment.' She was just a hollerin'. Yes ma'm I was a young woman. I been here a long time, yes ma'm, I been here a long time. Worked and whipped, too. I run off many a time. Run off to see my mammy three or four miles from where I was.

"I never was sold but they took we young women and brought us down in the country to another plantation where they raised corn, wheat, and hay. Overseer whipped us too. Marse John had a brother named Marse Andrew and he was a good man. He'd say to the overseer, 'Now don't whip these girls so much, they can't work.' Oh, he was a good man. Oh, white folks was the devil in slavery tines. I was scared to death of 'em. They'd have these long cow hide whips. Honey, I was treated bad. I seen a time in this world.

"Oh Lord, yes, that was long 'fore the war. I was right down on my master's place when it started. They said it was to free the niggers. Oh Lord, we was right under it in Davidson County where I come from. Oh Lord, yes, I knowed all about when the war started. I'se a young woman, a young woman. We was treated just like dogs and hogs. We seed a hard time—I know what I'm talkin' about.

"Oh God, I seed the Yankees. I saw it all. We was so scared we run under the house and the Yankees called 'Come out Dinah' (didn't call none of us anything but Dinah). They said 'Dinah, we're fightin' to free you and get you out from under bondage.' I sure understood that but I didn't have no better sense than to go back to mistress.

"Oh Lord, yes, I seed the Ku Klux. They didn't bother me cause I didn't stay where they could; I was way under the house.

"Yankees burned up everything Marse John had. I looked up the pike and seed the Yankees a coming'. They say 'We's a fightin' for you, Dinah!' Yankees walked in, chile, just walked right in on us. I tell you I've seed a time. You talkin' 'bout war—you better wish no more war come. I know when the war started. The Secessors on this side and the Yankees on that side. Yes, Miss, I seen enough. My brother went and jined the Secessors and they killed him time he got in the war.

"No, Missy, I never went to no school. White folks never learned me nothin'. I believes in tellin' white folks the truth....