Slave Narrative of Beatrice Black

Interviewer: Irene Robertson
Person Interviewed: Beatrice Black
Age: 48
Location: Biscoe, Arkansas
Occupation: Store and “eating joint”

“I was born below the city pump here in Biscoe. My husband is a twin and the youngest of thirteen children. His twin brother is living. They are fifty years old today (August 6, 1938). His mother lived back and forth with the twins. She died year before last. She was so good. She was sure good to me. She helped me raise my three children. I misses her till this very day. Her name was Dedonia Black when she died.

“She said master brought her, her father and mother and two sisters, Martha and Ida, from Brownsville, Tennessee at the commencement of the old war to Memphis in a covered ox wagon, and from there on a ship to Cavalry Depot at De Valla Bluff. They was all sold. Her father was sold and had to go to Texas. Her mother was sold and had to go back to Tennessee, and the girls all sold in Arkansas. Master Mann bought my mother-in-law (Dedonia). She was eighteen years old. They sold them off on Cavalry Depot where the ship landed. They put her up to stand on a barrel and auctioned them off at public auction.

“Her father got with the soldiers in Texas and went to war. He enlisted and when the war was over he come on hunt of my mother-in-law. He found her married and had three children. He had some money he made in the war and bought forty acres of land. It was school land (Government land). She raised all her thirteen children there. They brought grandma back out here with them from Tennessee. They all died and buried out here. My mother-in-law was married three times. She had a slavery husband named Nathan Moseby. After he died she married Abe Ware. Then he died. She married Mitchell Black and he died long before she died. She was ninety-two years old when she died and could outdo me till not but a few years ago. Her strength left her all at once. She lived on then a few years.

“She always told me Master Mann’s folks was very good to her. She said she never remembered getting a whooping. But then she was the best old thing I ever seen in my life. She was really good.

“One story she tole more than others was: Up at Des Arc country the Yankees come and made them give up their something-to-eat. Took and wasted together. Drunk up their milk and it turning, (blinky—ed.). She’d laugh at that. They kept their groceries in holes in the ground. The Yankees jumped on the colored folks to make them tell where was their provision. Some of them had to tell where some of it was. They was scared. They didn’t tell where it all was.

“When they went to Des Arc and the gates was closed they had to wait till next day to get their provisions. They had to start early to get back out of the pickets before they closed.”

Black, Mann, Moseby, Ware,

Federal Writers' Project. WPA Slave Narratives. Web. 2007-2024. The WPA Slave Narratives must be used with care. There is, of course, the problem of confusion in memory resulting from (73+ years) of the participants. In addition, inexperienced interviewers sometimes pursued question lines related to their own interests and perspectives and attempted to capture the colloquialism of the informant's speech. The interviews provide fascinating insight and surprisingly candid information, however.

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