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The Slave Narrative Collection
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Isabella Jackson

Age 79 Years
Tulsa, Oklahoma

"Boom...Boom! Boom...Boom!: that's the way the old weaver go all day long when my sister, Margaret, is making cloth for the slaves down on old Doc Joe Jackson's plantation in Louisiana. The Jackson plantation was small and there was only three or four slave families kept on it regular. The master's house was just a common ordinary plank building made from sawed lumber that come from the saw mill on another plantation. There wasn't many what  you call log cabins down there in Louisiana as I remember, mostly like the "Doc's" house, plank.

That was near a little place of Bunkie, and it's my birthplace, and I guess where all Mammy's children were born because she was never sold but once and nobody but the old Doc ever did own her after she come to his place.

He always say couldn't nobody et work out of Mammy but him. I guess that's just his foolery 'cause if she ain't no good the Old Doc most likely sell her to some of the white folks in Texas.

That's what they do to them mean, no account salves, just send them to Texas. Them folks sure knew how for to handle 'em!

There was lots of babies among the slave families and while the older folks was working in the fields the babies were taken care of by the cook. Not in the kitchen either.

There was a special house for the children, that's where I got my raising. The children were fed from wooden troughs and the food was mostly pot likker and corn pone seasoned with fat meats. the way they'd feed 'em was just about like folks would feed the hogs, except the food had to be good.

What I mean it was clean and it had to be cooked right or else the cook would be punished with the whip. Every Sunday morning the overseer come to eat with the children. That's what you'd call an inspection trip, the Who-ee-ee! If the food wasn't right, clean and fresh, the cook better watch out!

But I was talking about my sister, Margaret. I can still see her weaving the cloth - Boom!...Boom! - and she hear that all the day and get mighty tired. Sometimes she drop her head and go to sleep. The mistress get her then sure. Rap her on the head with almost anything handy, but she hit pretty easy, just trying to scare her that's all.

The old Master though, he ain't so easy as that. The whippings was done by the master, and the overseer just tell the old Doc about the troubles, like the old Doc say:

"You just watch the slaves and see they works and works hard, but don't hay on the whip, because I is the only one who knows how to do it right!"

That man go so mean even the white folks was scared of him, 'specially if he was filled with drink. That's the way he was most of the time, just before the slaves was freed.

All the time we hear about slaves on that place getting whipped or being locked in the stock, that one of them things where your head and hands is fastened through holes in a wide board, and you stands there all the day and all the night, and sometimes we hears of them staying in the stock for three four weeks if they trys to run away to the north.

Sometimes we hears about some slave who is shot by that man while he is wild with drink. that's what I'm telling about now.

Don't nobody know what made the master mad at the old slave, one of the oldest on the place. Anyway, the master didn't whip him; instead of that he kills him with the gun and scares the others so bad most of 'em runs off and hides in the woods.

The drunk master just drags the old dead slave to the graveyard which is down in the corner away from the growing crops, and hunts up two of the young boys who who was hiding in the barn. He takes them to dig the grave.

The master stand watching every move they make, the dead man lays there with his face to the sky, and the boys is so scared they could hardly dig. The master keeps telling them to hurry with the digging.

After while he tells them to stop and put the body in the grave. They wasn't no coffin, no box, for him. Just the old cloths that he wears in the fields.

But the grave was too short and they start digging come more, but the master stop them. He says to put back the body in the grave, and then he jumps into the grave hisself. Right on the dead he jumps and stomps till the body is mashed and twisted to fit the hole. Then the old nigger is buried.

That's the way my mammy hears it and told it to us children. She was a Christian and I know she told the truth.

Like I said, Mammy was never sold only to Master Jackson. But she's seen them slave auctions where the men, women and children was stripped naked and lined up so's the buyers could see what kind of animals they ws getting for their money.

My pappy's name was Jacob Keller and my mother was Maria. They's both dead long ago, and I'm waiting for the old ship Zion that took my mammy away, like we used to sing of in the woods.

"It has landed my old Mammy,
It has landed my old Mammy,
Get on board, Get on board,
'Tis the Old Ship of Zion --
"Get on board!"

The Civil War didn't reach in to the Jackson plantation, what I mean I didn't see a Yankee soldier all the time of the war nor none of them after it was over. We heard about the fighting down around New Orleans, I reckon it was, but it didn't get no closer to us than that.

Slave days were bad, even if the master was what you call good. sometime the good masters have a bad day and the slaves would get it took out on them. But the freedom done away with all that whipping and beating.

What I know about my marriage is mostly DON'T'S. Because I don't know the year it was, nor the day, not who was the preacher, not how old I was, nor how old was the man I married, Moses Jackson. That's the one thing I most remember, his name, and it's the most important, I guess. And the marriage was at Bunkie.

We farmed and lived down in Louisiana 'til my husband died and I moved to Oklahoma in 1921. Come to Tulsa then and it was just before the riot, bad business, that was, but I was working for a fine white family and living in the quarters, minding my own business, so I wasn't bothered at all.

Three of my children live in Tulsa, one is farming somewhere in Louisiana and the other is in New Orleans. There was ten in all, but five of them dead.

 

 

  

Contributed by M. Dawson, 05/06/03


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