Slave Narrative of Rose Adway

Interviewer: Mrs. Bernice Bowden
Person Interviewed: Rose Adway
Location: 405 W. Pullen, Pine Bluff, Arkansas
Age: 76
Occupation: Farmed

“I was born three years ‘fore surrender. That’s what my people told me. Born in Mississippi. Let me see what county I come out of. Smith County—that’s where I was bred and born.

“I know I seen the Yankees but I didn’t know what they was. My mama and papa and all of ’em talked about the War.

“My papa was a water toter in durin’ the War. No, he didn’t serve the army—just on the farm.

“Mama was the cook for her missis in slavery times.

“I think my folks went off after freedom and then come back. That was after they had done been sot free. I can remember dat all right.

“I registered down here at the Welfare and I had to git my license from Mississippi and I didn’t remember which courthouse I got my license, but I sent letters over there till I got it up. I got all my papers now, but I ain’t never got no pension.

“I been through so much I can’t git much in my remembrance, but I was here—that ain’t no joke—I been here.

“My folks said their owners was all right. You know they was ’cause they come back. I remember dat all right.

“I been farmin’ till I got disabled. After I married I went to farmin’. And I birthed fourteen head of chillun by dat one man! Fourteen head by dat one man! Stayed at home and took care of ’em till I got ’em up some size, too. All dead but five out of the fourteen head.

“My missis’ name was Miss Catherine and her husband named Abe Carr.

“I went to school a little bit—mighty little. I could read but I never could write.

“And I’m about to go blind in my old age. I need help and I need it bad. Chillun ain’t able to help me none ‘cept give me a little bread and give me some medicine once in a while. But I’m thankful to the Lord I can get outdoors.

“I don’t know what to think of this young race. That baby there knows more than I do now, nearly. Back there when I was born, I didn’t know nothin’.

“I know they said it was bad luck to bring a hoe or a ax in the house on your shoulder. I heard the old folks tell dat—sure did.

“And I was told dat on old Christmas night the cows gets down on their knees and gives thanks to the Lord.

“I ‘member one song:

‘I am climbin’ Jacob’s ladder
I am climbin’ Jacob’s ladder
I am climbin’ Jacob’s ladder
For the work is almost done.

‘Every round goes higher and higher
Every round goes higher and higher
Every round goes higher and higher
For my work is almost done.

‘Sister, now don’t you get worried
Sister, now don’t you get worried
Sister, now don’t you get worried
For the work is almost done.’

My mother used to sing dat when she was spinnin’ and cardin’. They’d spin and dye the thread with some kind of indigo. Oh, I ‘member dat all right.”

Adway, Carr,

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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