The Slave Narrative Collection
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Martha Cunningham
(white) Age 81 yrs.

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Page 45 - 47

        My father’s name was A. J. Brown, and my mother’s name was Hattie Brown, I was born in the East, in Saveer County, Tennessee. I had twelve sisters and brothers, all were dead but two. W. S. Brown lives at 327 W. California, and Maudie Reynolds, my sister lives at Minrovie, California.

        We lived in different kinds of houses just like we do now. Some was of log, some frame and some rock. I remember when we didn’t have stoves to cook on, no lamps, and not even any candles until I was about six years old. We would take a rag and sop it in lard to make lights.

        All of our furniture was home made, but it was nice, We had just plenty of every thing. It wasn’t like it is in these days where you have to pick and scrape for something to eat.

        My grandfather and grandmother gave my mother and father two slaves, an old woman and man, when they married, My grandfather owned a large plantation, and had a large number of salves, and my father and mother owned several farms at different places. Our mother and father treated our slaves good. They ate what we ate, and they stayed with us a long time after the War. I remember thought all of the salves owners weren’t good to their slaves. I have seen ‘em take those young find looking negroes, put them in a pen when they got ready to whip them, strip tjem and lay them face down, and beat them until white whelps arose on their bodies. Yes, some of them was treated awful mean.

        I saw mothers sold from their babies, and babies sold from their mothers. They would strip them, put them on the auction block and sell them – bid them off just like you would cattle. Some would sell for lots of money.

        They wouldn’t take the slaves to church. I don’t remember when the negroes had their first schools, but it was a long time after the War.

        Why, I remember when they’d have those big corn shuckings, flax opullings and quilting parties. They would sow acres after acres of flax, then they would meet at some house or plantation and pull flax until they had finished, then give a big party. There’d be the same thing at the next plantation and so on until they’d all in the neighborhood get their crops gathered. I remember they’s have all kinds of good eats – pies, cakes, chicken, fish, fresh pork, beef, -- just plenty of good eats.

        I went over the battlefield at Knoxville, Tenessee, two or three hours after the Yankees and the Rebels had a battle. It was about a mile from our house, and I walked over hundreds of dead men lying on the ground, Some were fatally wounded, and we carried about six or seven to our house. I saw the doctor pick the bullets out of their flesh.

        When the Yankees came they treated the slave owners awful mean. They drew a gun on my mother, made her walk for several miles on real cold night and take them up on the top of a mountain and who them where a still was. They would make her cook for ‘em. They took every thing we had. I was about twelve years old at the time.

        I stayed there with my mother until after my father died, then we moved to Alabama. I was about 22 years old. I married a man named Kelley. He and my brothers were railroad graders. We traveled all over Texas.

        I made the Run. Come here in ’89 with my mother, husband and eight children, My husband and brothers graded the streets for the townsite of Oklahoma City and platted it off.

        When we made the Run, we just stood on the property until it was surveyed, then we’d pay $1.00, and the lot was ours. I camped on the corner of Robinson and Pottawatomie Streets and Robinson and Chickasaw. I owned the Northwest corner. I later sold both lots.

        I am a Christian, Baptist mostly, I guess, and I believe in the Great Beyond. I don’t think you have to go to church all the time to be saved, but you have to be right with the Man up yonder before you can be saved.

        I am a Republican, and it makes my blood boil whenever I hear a Negro say he is a democrat. They should all be Republicans.

        I have been married twice. I married William Cunningham here in 1922. He is dead; in fact, both my husbands are dead, so I don’t see much need of talking about them.

Contributed by M. Dawson, May 2002


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