Slave Narrative of Robert McKinley

Interviewer: Anna Pritchett
Person Interviewed: Robert McKinley
Location: Indianapolis, Indiana
Place of Birth: Stanley County, N.C.
Date of Birth: 1849
Place of Residence: 1664 Columbia Avenue, Indianapolis, Indiana
Occupation: “herb doctor”

Federal Writers’ Project of the W.P.A. District #6 Marion County Anna Pritchett 1200 Kentucky Avenue, Indianapolis, Indiana

FOLKLORE ROBERT MCKINLEY-EX-SLAVE 1664 Columbia Avenue, Indianapolis, Indiana

Robert McKinley was born in Stanley County, N.C., in 1849, a slave of Arnold Parker.

His master was a very cruel man, but was always kind to him, because he had given him (Bob) as a present to his favorite daughter, Jane Alice, and she would never permit anyone to mistreat Bob.

Miss Jane Alice was very fond of little Bob, and taught him to read and write.

His master owned a large farm, but Jane Alice would not let little Bob work on the farm. Instead, he helped his master in the blacksmith shop.

His master always prepared himself to whip his slaves by drinking a large glass of whiskey to give him strength to beat his slaves.

Robert remembers seeing his master beat his mother until she would fall to the ground, and he was helpless to protect her. He would just have to stand and watch.

He has seen slaves tied to trees and beaten until the master could beat no longer; then he would salt and pepper their backs.

Once when the Confederate soldiers came to their farm, Robert told them where the liquor was kept and where the stock had been hidden. For this the soldiers gave him a handful of money, but it did him no good for his master took it away from him.

The McKinley family, of course, were Parkers and after the Civil war, they took the name of their father who was a slave of John McKinley.

A neighbor farmer, Jesse Hayden, was very kind to his slaves, gave them anything they wanted to eat, because he said they had worked hard, and made it possible for him to have all he had, and it was part theirs.

The Parker slaves were not allowed to associate with the Hayden slaves. They were known as the “rich niggers, who could eat meat without stealing it.”

When the “nigger traders” came to the Parker farm, the old mistress would take meat skins and grease the mouths of the slave children to make it appear she had given them meat to eat.

Interviewer’s Comment

Mr. McKinley is an “herb doctor” and lives very poorly in a dirty little house; he was very glad to tell of his early life.

He thinks people live too fast these days, and don’t remember there is a stopping place.

Submitted January 10, 1938 Indianapolis, Indiana

McKinley, Parker,

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

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