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Ben Lawson

Age 84 Years
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

I was born in Danville, Illinois. De best I can get at my age I is 84 years old. My father dey tell me was named Dennis Lawson and died before I was born. My mother's name was Ann Lawson, who I saw once. I was given by her to my Mistress, Mrs Jane Brazier, when a kid and she (the mother) was too. She (the mistress) raised me, she and her son, to manhood. I got no brothers or sisters to my knowledge. I was de only slave dey had and dey raised me to be humble and fear dem as a slave and servant. As I was de only slave I slept in de same room wid my mistress and her son who was grown, her husband and father being dead.

I worked on the farm doing general farm work, hoeing, plowing, harvesting the crop of wheat, corn, barley, oats, rice, peas, etc. To make and harvest the cops dey would hire poor white help and as dey was grown and i was a lad, dey kept me in a strain in order to keep up wid dem for if I didn't it was just to bad for my back. So's dere would be work for me to do during the bad days of winter dey built a pen under a shed and dey would lay a cloth on de ground in the pen and wid small mess wire  on top of de pen on which de wheat was laid and wid a wooden maul I would pounder out wheat all day long, even though dey would have thrashed it as dey did de biggest part of it.

At meal time dey would give me what was left of de scraps off dey table in a plate, which I would eat most de time on de back porch in warm weather and inde kitchen in winter.

For summer I wore a lowell shirt and for winter I wore de same old lowell shirt only wid outing slips and a pair of brogan shoes or a pair of old shoes dat was thrown away by my mistress' son.

Their house was a 3 room log house unpainted, wid only one bed room and a dining room and kitchen.

The plantation had 'bout 160 acres and was worked by my Mistress'  son and myself plus poor white hired help, me being de only slave.

I was treated most harshly 'mongst a group of just white people and who seemed to think me de old work ox for all de hardest work. De nearest other Negro slaves were 'bout 15 or 29 miles from me.

When I was grown I ran away one night and walked and rode de rods under stage coaches to Paducah, Kentucky. I got me a job and worked as a roustabout on a boat where I learned to gamble wid dice. I fought and gambled all up and down de Mississippi River at Mobile, Alabama when I was 10 or 14 years old, I ain't sure which.

There wasn't no children for me to play with and it seem like I never was a child but was just always a man. I wasn't never told dat I was free, and I didn't know nothing 'bout de war much dat brought my freedom. Dey kept all of dat away from me and I couldn't read or write so I didn't know.

I've been married only once. My wife is 54 years old, and her name is Hattie Lawson. We have no children. Since we married after freedom there wasn't nothing unusual at our wedding.

 

  

Contributed by M. Dawson, 05/06/03


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