Slave Narrative of Joseph Samuel Badgett

Interviewer: Samuel S. Taylor
Person Interviewed: Joseph Samuel Badgett
Location: 1221 Wright Avenue, Little Rock, Arkansas
Age: 72

[HW: Mother was a Fighter]

“My mother had Indian in her. She would fight. She was the pet of the people. When she was out, the pateroles would whip her because she didn’t have a pass. She has showed me scars that were on her even till the day that she died. She was whipped because she was out without a pass. She could have had a pass any time for the asking, but she was too proud to ask. She never wanted to do things by permission.


“I was born in 1864. I was born right here in Dallas County. Some of the most prominent people in this state came from there. I was born on Thursday, in the morning at three o’clock, May the twelfth. My mother has told me that so often, I have it memorized.

Persistence of Slave Customs

“While I was a slave and was born close to the end of the Civil War, I remember seeing many of the soldiers down here. I remember much of the treatment given to the slaves. I used to say ‘master’ myself in my day. We had to do that till after ’69 or ’70. I remember the time when I couldn’t go nowhere without asking the ‘white folks.’ I wasn’t a slave then but I couldn’t go off without asking the white people. I didn’t know no better.

“I have known the time in the southern part of this state when if you wanted to give an entertainment you would have to ask the white folks. Didn’t know no better. For years and years, most of the niggers just stayed with the white folks. Didn’t want to leave them. Just took what they give ’em and didn’t ask for nothing different.

“If I had known forty years ago what I know now!

First Negro Doctor in Tulip, Arkansas

“The first Negro doctor we ever seen come from Little Rock down to Tulip, Arkansas. We were all excited. There were plenty of people who didn’t have a doctor living with twenty miles of them. When I was fourteen years old, I was secretary of a conference.


“What little I know, an old white woman taught me. I started to school under this old woman because there weren’t any colored teachers. There wasn’t any school at Tulip where I lived. This old lady just wanted to help. I went to her about seven years. She taught us a little every year—’specially in the summer time. She was high class—a high class Christian woman—belonged to the Presbyterian church. Her name was Mrs. Gentry Wiley.

“I went to school to Scipio Jones once. Then they opened a public school at Tulip and J.C. Smith taught there two years in the summer time. Then Lula Baily taught there one year. She didn’t know no more than I did. Then Scipio came. He was there for a while. I don’t remember just how long.

“After that I went to Pine Bluff. The County Judge at that time had the right to name a student from each district. I was appointed and went up there in ’82 and ’83 from my district. It took about eight years to finish Branch Normal at that time. I stayed there two years. I roomed with old man John Young.

“You couldn’t go to school without paying unless you were sent by the Board. We lived in the country and I would go home in the winter and study in the summer. Professor J.C. Corbin was principal of the Pine Bluff Branch Normal at that time. Dr. A.H. Hill, Professor Booker, and quite a number of the people we consider distinguished were in school then. They finished, but I didn’t. I had to go to my mother because she was ill. I don’t claim to have no schooling at all.

“Forty Acres and a Mule”

“My mother received forty acres of land when freedom came. Her master gave it to her. She was given forty acres of land and a colt. There is no more to tell about that. It was just that way—a gift of forty acres of land and a colt from her former master.

“My mother died. There is a woman living now that lost it (the home). Mother let Malinda live on it. Mother lived with the white folks meanwhile. She didn’t need the property for herself. She kept it for us. She built a nice log house on it. Fifteen acres of it was under cultivation when it was given to her. My sister lived on it for a long time. She mortgaged it in some way I don’t know how. I remember when the white people ran me down there some years back to get me to sign a title to it. I didn’t have to sign the paper because the property had been deeded to Susan Badgett and HEIRS; lawyers advised me not to sign it. But I signed it for the sake of my sister.

Father and Master

“My mother’s master was named Badgett—Captain John Badgett. He was a Methodist preacher. Some of the Badgetts still own property on Main Street. My mother’s master’s father was my daddy.


“I was married July 12, 1889. Next year I will have been married fifty years. My wife’s name was Elizabeth Owens. She was born in Batesville, Mississippi. I met her at Brinkley when she was visiting her aunt. We married in Brinkley. Very few people in this city have lived together longer than we have. July 12, 1938, will make forty-nine years. By July 1939, we will have reached our fiftieth anniversary.

Patrollers, Jayhawkers, Ku Klux, and Ku Klux Klan

“Pateroles, Jayhawkers, and the Ku Klux came before the war. The Ku Klux in slavery times were men who would catch Negroes out and keep them if they did not collect from their masters. The Pateroles would catch Negroes out and return them if they did not have a pass. They whipped them sometimes if they did not have a pass. The Jayhawkers were highway men or robbers who stole slaves among other things. At least, that is the way the people regarded them. The Jayhawkers stole and pillaged, while the Ku Klux stole those Negroes they caught out. The word ‘Klan’ was never included in their name.

“The Ku Klux Klan was an organization which arose after the Civil War. It was composed of men who believed in white supremacy and who regulated the morals of the neighborhood. They were not only after Jews and Negroes, but they were sworn to protect the better class of people. They took the law in their own hands.

Slave Work

“I’m not so certain about the amount of work required of slaves. My mother says she picked four hundred pounds of cotton many a day. The slaves were tasked and given certain amounts to accomplish. I don’t know the exact amount nor just how it was determined.


“It is too bad that the young Negroes don’t know what the old Negroes think and what they have done. The young folks could be helped if they would take advice.”

Interviewer’s Comment

Badgett’s distinctions between jayhawkers, Ku Klux, patrollers, and Ku Klux Klan are most interesting.

I have been slow to catch it. All my life, I have heard persons with ex-slave background refer to the activities of the Ku Klux among slaves prior to 1865. I always thought that they had the Klux Klan and the patrollers confused.

Badgett’s definite and clear-cut memories, however, lead me to believe that many of the Negroes who were slaves used the word Ku Klux to denote a type of persons who stole slaves. It was evidently in use before it was applied to the Ku Klux Klan.

The words “Ku Klux” and “Ku Klux Klan” are used indiscriminately in current conversation and literature. It is also true that many persons in the present do, and in the past did, refer to the Ku Klux Klan simply as “Ku Klux.”

It is a matter of record that the organization did not at first bear the name “Ku Klux Klan” throughout the South. The name “Ku Klux” seems to have grown in application as the organization changed from a moral association of the best citizens of the South and gradually came under the control of lawless persons with lawless methods—whipping and murdering. It is antecedently reasonable that the change in names accompanying a change in policy would be due to a fitness in the prior use of the name.

The recent use of the name seems mostly imitation and propaganda.

Histories, encyclopedias, and dictionaries, in general, do not record a meaning of the term Ku Klux as prior to the Reconstruction period.

Badgett, Owens,

Federal Writers' Project. WPA Slave Narratives. Web. 2007.

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