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The Slave Narrative Collection
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Bert Luster

Age 85 Years
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

I'll be jest frank, I'm not for sho' when I was born, but it was in 1853. Don't know the month, but I was sho' born in 1853 in Watson County, Tennessee. You see my father was owned by Master Luster and my mothers was owned my Masters Joe and Bill Asterns. I can remember when Master Astern moved from Watson County, Tennessee he brought me and my mother with him to Barnum County Seat, Texas. Master Astern owned about twelve slaves, and dey was all Astern 'cept Miriah Elmore's son Jim. He owned 'bout five or six hundered acres of ground, and de slaves raised and shucked all de corn and picked all de cotton. De white folks lived in a big double log house and we slaves lived in log cabins. Our white folks fed us darkies! We ate nearly ever'thing dey ate. Dey ate turkey, chickens, ducks, geese, fish and we killed beef, pork rabbits, and deer. Yes, and possums too. And whenever we killed beef we tanned the hide and dere was a white man who made shoes for de white folks and us darkies. We didn't have no mean overseer. Master Astern and his son jest told us niggers what to do and we did it, but 50 miles away dem niggers had a mean overseer, and dey called him "poor white trash, "old whooser," and sometime "old red neck," and he would sho' beat 'em turrible iffen dey didn't do jest like he wanted 'em to.

Seem like I can hear dem "nigger hounds barking now. You see whenever a darky would get a permit to go off and wouldn't come back dey would put de "nigger hounds" on his tail and run dat nigger down.

De white women wove and spin our clothes. You know dey had looms, spins, and weavers. Us darkies would stay up all night sometime sep'rating cotton from the seed. When dem old darkies got sleepy dey would prop their eyes open wid straws.

Sho' we wore very fine clothes for them days. You know dey dyed the cloth with poke berries.

We cradled de wheat on pins, caught the grain, carried it to de mill and had it ground. Who', I ate biscuits and cornbread too. Keep telling you dat we ate.

We got de very best care when we got sick. Don't you let nobody tell you dem white folks tried to kill out dem darkies 'cause when a darkey took sick dey would send and git de very best doctors round dat country. Dey would give us ice water when we got sick. You see we put up ice in saw dust in winter and when a slave got sick dey give him ice water, sometimes sage tea and chicken gruel. Dey wanted to keep dem darkies fat so dey could get top price for 'em. I never saw a slave sold, but my half brother's white folks let him work and buy hisself.

I was about 14, and I milked the cows, packed water, seeded cotton, churned milk up at de Big House and jest first one chore and den another. My mother cooked up at de Big House.

Dey was a lot of talk 'bout conjure but I didn't believe in it. Course dem darkies could do everything to one another, and have one another scared, but dey couldn't conjure dat overseer and stop him from beating 'em near to death. Course he didn't flog 'em till dey done sumping.

I married my woman, Nannie Wilkerson, 58 years ago. Dat was after slavery, and I love her, honest to God I does. Course in dem days we didn't buy no license, we jest got permits from Old Master and jumped over a broom stick and jest got married.

I sho' did hate when the Yanks come 'cause our white folks was good to us, and jest take us right along to church with 'em. We didn't work on Sad'days or Christmas.

We raised gardens, truck patches and such for spending change.

I sho' caught hell after dem Yanks come. Befo' de war, you see de patroller rode all nite but wouldn't bother a darkey iffen he wouldn't run off. Why dem darkeys would run off I jest couldn't see.

Dose Yanks treated old master and mistress so mean. Dey took all his hams, chickens, and drove his cattle out of the pasture, but didn't bother us niggers honest. Dey drove old master Astern off'n his own plantation and we all hid in de corn field.

My mother took me to Greenville, Texas, 

cause my step-pappy was one of dem half smart niggers round dere trying to preach and de Ku Klux Klan beat him half to death.

Dere was some white folks who would take us to church wid 'em, dis was aftah the war now, and one night we was all sitting up thar and one old woman with one leg was dah and when them Klans shot in amongst us niggers and white folks aunt Mandy beat all of us home. Yes suh.

My first two teachers was two white men, and dem Klans shot in de hotel what dey lived in, but dey had school for us niggers jest de same. After dat, dose Klans got so bad Uncle Same sent Soljers down dere to keep peace.

After de soljers come and run de Klans out we worked hard dat fall and made good crops. 'Bout three years later I come to Indian Territory in search of educating my kids.

I landed here 46 years ago on a farm not far from now Oklahoma City. I got to be a prosperous farmer. My bale of cotton amongst 5,000 bales won the blue ribbon at Guthrie, Oklahoma, and dat bale of cotton and being a good democrat won for me a good job as a clerk on the Agriculture Board at the State Capitol. All de white folks like me and still like me and called me "cotton king."

I have jest three children living. Walter is parcel post clerk here at de post office downtown. Delia Jenkins, my daughter, is a housewife and Cleo Luckett, my other daughter, a common laborer.

Have been a christian 20 years. Jest got sorry for my wicked ways. I am a member of the Church of God. My wife is a member of the Church of Christ. I'm a good democrat and she is a good republican.

My fav'rite song is: "Dark Was the Nite, and Gold the Ground" and "Couldn't Hear Nobody Pray."

I'm glad slavery is over, but I don't think dem white folks was fighting to free us niggers. God freed us. Of course, Abraham Lincoln was a pretty fine man. Don't know much about Jeff Davis. Never seen him. Yes, and Booker T. Washington. He was one fo the Negro leaders. The first Negro to represent the Negroes in Washington. He was a great leader.

During slavery time never heerd of a cullud man commiting 'sault on a white woman. The white and cullud all went to church together too. Niggers and white shouting alike.

I remember some of the little games we played now: "Fox in the wall," "Mollie, Mollie Bride," and "Hide and go Seek."

Contributed by M. Dawson, 05/06/03


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