Slave Narrative of Sophie D. Belle

Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
Location: Forrest City, Arkansas
Age: 77

“I was born near Knoxville, Georgia. My mother was a professional pastry cook. She was a house woman during slavery. She was owned by Lewis Hicks and Ann Hicks. They had Saluda, Mary, Lewis, and Oscar.

“Mother was never sold. Mr. Hicks reared her. She was three-fourths Indian. Her father was George Hicks. Gordon carried him to Texas. Mr. Bob Gordon was mean. He asked Mr. Hicks to keep mother and auntie while he went to Texas, Mr. Gordon was so mean. My mother had two little girls but my sister died while small.

“I never saw any one sold. I never saw a soldier. But I noticed the grown people whispering many times. Mother explained it to me, they had some news from the War. Aunt Jane said she saw them pass in gangs. I heard her say, ‘Did you see the soldiers pass early this morning?’ I was asleep. Sometimes I was out at play when they passed.

“Master Hicks called us all up at dinner one day to the big house. He told us, ‘You are free as I am.’ I never had worked any then. No, they cried and went on to their homes. Aunt Jane was bad to speak out, she was so much Indian. She had three children. She went to another place to live. She was in search of her husband and thought he might be there at Ft. Valley.

“Mother stayed on another year. Mr. Hicks was good to us. None of the children ever worked till they was ten or twelve years old. He had a lot of slaves and about twenty-five children on the place growing. He had just a big plantation. He had a special cook, Aunt Mariah, to cook for the field hands. They eat like he did. Master Hicks would examine their buckets and a great big split basket. If they didn’t have enough to eat he would have her cook more and send to them. They had nice victuals to eat. He had a bell to ring for all the children to be put to bed at sundown and they slept late. He said, ‘Let them grow.’ Their diet was milk and bread and eggs. We had duck eggs, guinea eggs, goose eggs, and turkey eggs.

“I don’t know what all the slaves had but mother had feather beds. They saved all kind of feathers to make pillows and bed and chair cushions. We always had a pet pig about our place. Master Hicks kept a drove of pea-fowls. He had cows, goats, sheep. We children loved the lambs. Elvira attended to the milk. She had some of the girls and boys to milk. Uncle Dick, mother’s brother, was Mr. Hicks’ coachman. He was raised on the place too.

“I think Master Hicks and his family was French, but, though they were light-skin people. They had light hair too, I think.

“One day a Frenchman (white) that was a doctor come to call. My Aunt Jane said to me, ‘He is your papa. That is your papa.’ I saw him many times after that. I am considered eight-ninth white race. One little girl up at the courthouse asked me a question and I told her she was too young to know about such sin. (This girl was twenty-four years old and the case worker’s stenographer.)

“Master Hicks had Uncle Patrick bury his silver and gold in the woods. It was in a trunk. The hair and hide was still on the trunk when the War ceased. He used his money to pay the slaves that worked on his place after freedom.

“I went to school to a white man from January till May and mother paid him one dollar a month tuition. After I married I went to school three terms. I married quite young. Everyone did that far back.

“I married at Aunt Jane’s home. We got married and had dinner at one or two o’clock. Very quiet. Only a few friends and my relatives. I wore a green wool traveling dress. It was trimmed in black velvet and black beads. I married in a hat. At about seven o’clock we went to my husband’s home at Perry, Georgia. He owned a new buggy. We rode thirty miles. We had a colored minister to marry us. He was a painter and a fine provider. He died. I had no children.

“I came to Forrest City 1874. There was three dry-goods and grocery stores and two saloons here—five stores in all. I come alone. Aunt Jane and Uncle Sol had migrated here. My mother come with me. There was one railroad through here. I belong to the Baptist church.

“I married the second time at Muskogee, Oklahoma. My husband lived out there. He was Indian-African. He was a Baptist minister. We never had any children. I never had a child. They tell me now if I had married dark men I would maybe had children. I married very light men both times.

“I washed and ironed, cooked and kept house. I sewed for the public, black and white. I washed and ironed for Mrs. Grahan at Crockettsville twenty-three years and three months. I inherited a home here. Owned a home here in Forrest City once. I live with my cousin here. He uses that house for his study. He is a Baptist minister. (The church is in front of their home—a very nice new brick church—ed.) I’m blind now or I could still sew, wash and iron some maybe.

“I get eight dollars from the Social Welfare. I do my own cooking in the kitchen. I am seventy-seven years old. I try to live as good as my age. Every year I try to live a little better, ‘A little sweeter as the years go by.'”

Belle, Gordon, Hicks,

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

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