"My mother and daddy was free niggers in Mississippi 'cause they bought they freedom from John Williams in Mississippi. They name was John William Sanders and Violet Sanders. John Williams bought dem and me, a suckling baby, from Jim Holmes. When they was through with they work in the fields they did work on they own and bought themselves free. My mother spinned and knitted galluses and did turfing (tufting) on
counterpins to make a little something extra. My daddy sold bodark (Bois d' Arc) seeds and set out hedges for folks. They saved up the money and bought they freedom. My growed up brother worked and bought his
freedom and I heared later on how he give $50 to the missus of me in Mississippi to buy my freedom. I don't know what come of the money but I know that I was supposin' to be free when I get eighteen years old.
Only the war come first and set me free. I come with Mr. Holmes and my mother and daddy by boat up or down, don't know which, the Red River to Fannin County, Texas. I was a fair to little gal 'bout that time. "
"But I 'members when they put me on the auction block. They pulled my dress down over my back to my waist to show I ain't gashed and slashed up. That's to show you ain't a mean nigger. Mrs. Romney Watley come up to me; she say to the man she will go and get the money. But she puts holes in my ears first and tells me she is going to bring back some gold earrings to put in my ears. While she is gone her sister-in-law, Mistress Elizabeth Hooker, the wife of old Judge Hooker, come up and bought me off the block. I think she gave thousands and thousands of dollars for me. Anyway, I know I come high. "
"My mother and daddy got work on old Judge Hooker's farm down in Hunt County on a sharance way of doing. They liked it right fine there 'cause Judge Hooker was a notable good man and he had free niggers and slaves. They all have right nice hewn log cabins with the cracks daubed with mud. They had little puncheon beds and split bottom chairs. They was fireplaces in the cabins. Judge Hooker kept a tavern where we all lived. He was a legislature man, too. He was known fur and wide
in them days. I stayed in the house. I slep' in a little trundle bed that they pulled out from under the bed at night. The coldest nights the old missus took me in the bed with her. I uster curl up down at the foot and sleep warm and comfable as a kitten in a basket. "
""Old missus was sho' fond of me; she called me her 'little Nitty.' She alwas told me that someday when I'm growed up I will be a free Nigger. I was raised up, too--I wasn't jerked up by the hair of my head. Now I heared my mother and daddy say that in Mississippi they had seen some turrible times--that they is some mean white folks that have overseers over the niggers that beat them up and knock them about. My mammy tell how she have to work all day and leave me crying hungry when I'm little baby. She say that when she is in the field one time I fell in the fire and burned myself bad and she don't know nothing 'bout it 'til she come home and find me near to spasms and the skin off my arm. I is still scarred up from it."
"Judge Hooker was my guardian. He used to tell me and all the other niggers they going save theyselves by learnin' and gettin' smart and being good folks. Old missus teach me little but I wasn't much for learnin' out
of the book. I get the word of things from a sperrit that God sent on me."
"They learned me how to spin. I used to spin six cuts in no time to tell. Six cuts is twelve ties and 150 threads to the tie. All old missus' daughters could spin and weave. There was Miss Betsy, Miss Mercy Harris and Miss Sallie Harris. They is named Harris 'cause they married with Mr. Bob and Mr. Will Harris."
"I had plenty playtime. I used to play making marks in the sand. That's jest making figgers in the sand with a piece of bresh and then making frog houses round your feet. I used to have some marbles to play with."
""Four years before the war my mother died. She was sick for some time in the house. I was setting out in the sand in front of the cabin 'cause Old missus was in the house with my mother. 'Bout that time I look up and I see a white figger settlin' down on the roof. It hit the roof, 'Kerbam!' I look
good but I can't see it so clear 'cause it ain't got nothing inside it--like a bird you can look right through--and in jest a minute it is gone. Old missus come out of the cabin and I tell her what I seen and she say, 'It was
the soul of your good mother; she jest died.' My mother was a good Jesus singin' woman. She used to sing:
'I'm going away to the city.
'I'm going away out of sight,
''Cause my Jesus calls me,
'Calls me for to come to him.'
"Another spiritual song she had was:
'In the mornin',
'In the mornin',
'In the mornin' when I arise,
'Give me Jesus;
'You can have this world when I die;
'You can have this world when I die;
'But give me Jesus,
'Give me Jesus,
'You can have this world when I die.'
"This was a pleasant song:
'Old Satan mighty busy;
'He rolls rocks in my way.
'King Jesus mighty good friend,
'Like bosom friend;
'He rolls them out of my way.
'Free me, Lord;
'Free me, Lord,
'Walking in the Heaven's highway.
'Oh, free me, Lord,
'Free me, Lord.'
"Judge Hooker was well-fixed man. On his lands he raised corn, millet, rye, oats, hungarian, apples, pears,damsons, cows, hogs, chickens, geese, guineas, turkeys, and jest lots of things. They was saving folks,though. Old missus used to tell me I musn't waste, but save for hard times. I saved some bread 'til it turned black, but she say that wan't what she mean."
"They was 'bout a hundred colored folks on Judge Hooker's place, but you didn't hear of no hungerin' or sufferin'. I can 'member the times when they kill a hunderd head of hogs at one time on that place. He had a hunderd cows and churned three times a day. He had a chest plumb full of money, too. Ain't nobody going to get me to give Judge Hooker a hard name and I'm going to give him the praise of the day--and his heart
busted on account of losing his darkies. "
"Old missus was good, too. She was good to the pore neighbors. She was so good, she didn't take sick and die like some folks; she jest dried up slow like. She never did nothing to me that was mean. I never give her no trouble neither. Jest one time, I stole some dried peaches I had a hankerin' for. But I forgot and took them out of my pocket and was chewing on them and she said, 'What you eating, Little Nitty?' I said, 'Some of them dried peaches.' She told me to go put them back. I done it and she never whup me nor nothing, but when anybody come in the house, she say, 'You didn't know I had a little rogue, did you?' She sho' make me feel 'shamed.
"In that neighborhood, most everybody was good but for a few. There was a old lady Dubose had a slavery girl and she used to lock her in the room and take hot tongs and pull her ears. I heared she did other things
that ain't worth the tellin', but the whitefolks hear of her and take her away and run old lady Dubose out of the place."
"Now, Jim Harris was a man live down that way. He wan't no good man. He had a colored man that he cut up with the cat-o-nine-tails and he put red pepper on the cuts. That was his only nigger. There was talk of
how mean he was and Judge Hooker was making up to buy him off Jim Harris, but hadn't got around to doing it. Then, 'bout that time, the colored man ran away and Harris had the dogs after him, but the colored man circles 'round and met Jim Harris and beat his brains out with a club. They sho' hung that nigger from a bridge on the Sabine River when they got him."
"I guess the reason the Judge and old missus was so good was on account of they seen some of the hard times theyselves. Old missus told me that she married when she was thirteen years old. She said she worked hard and the Judge did too. She say he split rails in the day and she worked in the house and spun lindsey cloth and at night they made shoes and sold them. She said they lived in Tennessee then they come to Texas and get rich. They believed everybody ought to have a chance to buy they freedom and have things. The old missus give me a feather bed for my own when I'm just a little girl. She said I was so good to tote water to the fields for the mens and womens working. The Judge give all his niggers Friday and Saturday off so they can split rails or spin or do some little something to get money for they own. He said they board and keep took up part of the work that was due him. He was one more good man."
"Then the war come. I heared them talking 'bout it and the Second and Third Infantry and Cavalry camped on the place before they go off East. The people come from fur and near. I seen them when they went off.
They was thousands of sojers. They went off singing, 'Goodbye mother; goodbye sister. Farewell, farewell.' Lots of people weeped. Then they got to singin' war songs. Every night the Judge and the old missus had the niggers come to the big house and stand in rows in they clean lowerings clothes with white handkerchiefs tied 'round they heads and have play-party songs. They used to sing:
"'I'm in some lady's garden,
Le' me out of here.
I'm in some lady's garden.
Poor old Reuben,
Poor old boy.
I'm in some lady's garden;
Pray so hard to get out of here.'
"But then they got to singin':
'Went to war with Captain King
And 'tach my horse to a hickory limb.
Look away, look away In the south of Dixie.
I take my rasher on my back
And march south to the Rio Grande.
I wish I was in the south of Dixie--
Don't you? Don't you?'
"Most of the time when they sang they lined up by the big painted gateposts and the Judge and the old missus sat on the porch. "
"We spun clothes and blankets and sent them off to the sojers all the time and the Judge joined the Minute Company. That meant that when they blew a bugle you got to get out of the house and see what's doing.
Mr. Lincoln sent some spies down that way. They stayed at our place. They was four of them and they had on a long brown something and wrap suits. They was curious looking, but we didn't know they was Mr.Lincoln's spies 'til they was gone and we found a letter they left in a chair for us. Old missus said they was spies."
"I was going 'long to church with old missus them days, but I hadn't give up the ghost and jest plumb give in. I think it was 'cause they was Presbyterians and I had a tech of the missionary in me. One time I heared a Missionary Baptist preacher and I got the sperrit. From then on I have the gift of seeing and sometimes I can cure the sick by the laying on of hands. I can still look into New York and far indifferent places and see
what's happening there. Jest 'tother day, the sperrit of the Lord come on me and showed me a lock. I seen troubles in this land. The Lord said the poor white man layed it on the blacks 'til they is bad off as the blacks.
I seen a big black wave of hating going on over the land and the folks getting porer and porer and starving for the chilluns and the old. The Lord said the wicked is flourishing. I seen new kinds of sojers and folks
fighting 'til blood run over the land. It starts in the far corner of the world and spread over the country and it is the judgement for folks being mean and greedy. The Lord give me a power to look in faces and tell the
good from the bad. They ain't so many I can see as has Jesus in them."
"I can't remember just when it was but I remember seeing the blazing star. The old missus went back to Tennessee to see her sister and she left me in the care of young missus Marcy Harris in Hunt County. She
didn't want to leave me amongst the colored people 'cause she was 'fraid I'd get spoiled. I was asleep and I looked out of the window and I seen the blazing star dragging its long tail along the ground. A man staying
there named Mr. Shook came out and said, 'Judgement; judgement is on us.' He got me kind of scared. Then one evening short to that time, I seen the red moon. I called them to come and look that the sun done rising out of time up in the sky. Mr. Harris looked and said it ain't no red moon but a balloon and that it was a sho' sign of war. I don't know if were 'fore the war or after the war. Anyway, it must have been a sho' sign of trouble in the land 'cause they seen plenty trouble in them parts."
"One day come when the Judge called all the darkies up and tole them off the porch, 'You is free 'til Monday. Go in town and have a good time but be back here Monday morning.' When the slaves come back on
Monday the Judge called them in the yard and said, 'I got to tell you that you is free now on account of the war. You don't have to stay no place where you don't want to stay but if you want to stay here you can.'He gave my daddy two hundred acres of land but he boys wouldn't let him have it."
"The Bluebellies come down in them parts. As fur as I seen of them they were mighty kind, but I heared tell that some of them at different places were kind of rough. There was one set of them come down in our part
that killed and sluiced they way around. But the worserest part was the Ku-Klux-Klan and the Black Hawks. They dressed up in white and black
robes 'vastating the folks and was powerful mean. I have had to go amongst them in the neighborhood. But I just built a wall of the Lord 'round me so they couldn't get at me. The turrible things they did ain't worth the telling. I wouldn't want to make no recollection of them."
"I heared there was a man coming that way that could drink the wells dry. I used to set outside and watch to see him coming but I never did get to see him. I don't much believe there was any such man. "
"But one thing I know was that long 'bout that time a white woman done told me to go to a cabin off a place and take a man with me. I went down there and when I saw inside there was a nigber gal in the bed dead and the meat falling off her bones. I picked up the meat and put it back on her and some kind folks buried her. I ain't never really known the truth on it. "
"Some of the niggers sho' get a foolin' on the forty acres and a mule. They get fooled over that and plenty more besides before it is over. Fact to tell they still getting fooled."
"I had a baby, my olderest son, after the war is over and I got married by the word of mouth of the Judge. My husband took a notion he would go back to Mississippi, but I didn't have a hankerin' after it. Something
told me not to go and I 'spect the Lord had a hand in it 'cause when he got out on the ocean the boat sunk and that nigger was drowned. I heared word of it. "
"I got married and come to Dallas. I told my husband I wanted to see the fancy women. We went down in the red light district where the Waco Taps and the sporting houses were. I was mighty s'prised when I see the fancy womens look just like anybody else only lots prettier. I talked to a lady owned one of the best houses and she said she would get me some washing to do. I got to know all the fancy womens and did they laundry and I got a speaking requaintance to all the best men in the town. I made all the ruffle dresses look so pretty. I had fluting irons and I was a good laundry woman. I made plenty of money. The fancy womens was the nicest folks I ever know 'cause they was so good and kind and nice to me. After while they wasn't no red light district and I couldn't make no money.
I had twelve chilluns, but they is all dead and no help coming from dead chilluns."
"I moved out on a little farm on the edge of the town. My second husband went away and I married George Perkins. He was 'nother no-good. They ain't no good in men; I found it out but was too old to learn better to do me any good. I took to raising hogs and did better. But some folks gave me slop with fish brine in it and all my hogs died."
"Now I have a hard time. I can't do no better 'cause I ain't got any shoes to get out of the house. I hates to go about looking like a hacky. I jest set here and hope the preacher will do something for me. The Lord comes and talks to me and shows me the things going on and sometimes I get the real sperrit and I can read out of books and see into the days to come. Then I'm glad I ain't going to be living so long. Sometimes I'm plumb glad."
Lu Perkins died a few weeks after this interview.