Ellen Brass Interview
Living in Arkansas at the time of the interview, but was raised
in Catahoula Parish.
(These interviews started in 1929, by the Federal Writer's Project which was part of the WPA)
"I was born in Alabama in Green County. I was about four years old when I came from there; so I don't know much about it. I growed up in Catahoula, Louisiana. My mother's name was Caroline Butler and my father's name was Lee Butler. One of my father's brothers was named Sam Butler. I used to be a Butler myself, but I married. My father and mother were both slaves. They never did any slave work.
"My father was free raised. The white folks raised him. I don't know how he became free. All that I know is that he was raised right in the house with the white folks and was free. His mother and father were both slaves. I was quite small at the time and didn't know much. They bought us like cattle and carried us from place to place.
"The slaves lived in log cabins with one room. I don't know what kind of house the white folks lived in. They, the colored folks, ate corn bread, wheat bread (they raised wheat in those times), pickled pork. They made the flour right on the plantation. George Harris, a white man, was the one who brought me out of Louisiana into this State. We traveled in wagons in those days. George Harris owned us in Louisiana.
"We were sold from George Harris to Ben Hickinbottom. They bought us then like cattle. I don't know whether it was a auction sale or a private sale. I an telling it as near as I know it, and I an telling the truth. Hickinbottom brought us to Catahoula Parish in Louisiana. Did I say Harris brought us? Well, Hickinbottom brought us to Louisiana. I don't know why they went from one place to the other like that. The soldiers were bad about freeing the slaves. From Catahoula Parish, Hickinbottom carried us to Alexandria, Louisiana, and in Alerandria, we was set free.
"According to my remembrance the Yankees come around and told the people they was free. I was in Alerandria, Louisiana. They told the colored folks they was free and to go and take what they wanted from the white folks. They had us all out in the yard dancing and playing. They sang the song: 'They hung Jeff Davis on a sour apple tree While we all go marching on.'
It wasn't the white folks on the plantation that told us we was free. It was the soldiers their selves that came around and told us. We called 'em Yankees.
"Right after the War, my folks farmed---raised cotton and corn. My mother had died before I left Alabama. They claimed I was four years old when my mother died in Alabama. My father died after freedom.
"My first occupation was farming---you know, field work. Sometimes I used to work around the white people too---clean house and like that.