Slave with his Dog
This is a photograph of Mr. John Barker,
taken in Abilene Texas in 1937. As a child, Mr. Barker was a
slave. The photographer is unknown.
Below we present Mr. Barkers story of being a slave, in his own words.
JOHN BARKER, age 84, was born near
Cincinnati, Ohio, the property of the Barker family, who moved to
Missouri and later to Texas. He and his wife live in a neat cottage in
"I was born a , slave. I'm
a Malagasser (Madagascar) nigger. I member all 'bout dem times, even up
in Ohio, though de Barkers brought me to Texas later on. My mother and
father was call Goodman, but dey diet when I was little and. Missy
Barker raised me on de plantation down near Houston. Dey was plenty of
work and plenty of room.
"I 'member my grandma and grandpa. In dam days de horned toads runs over
de world and my grandpa would gather 'em and lay 'em in de fireplace
till dey dried and roll 'em with bottles till dey like ashes and den rub
it on de shoe bottoms. You see, when dey wants to run away, dat stuff
don't stick all on de shoes, it stick to de track. Den dey carries some
of dat powder and throws it as far as dey could jump and den jump over
it, and do dat again till dey use all de powder. Dat throwed de common
hounds off de trail altogether. But dey have de bloodhounds, hell
hounds, we calls 'em, and dey could pick up dat trail. Dey run my
Grandpa over 100 mile and three or four days and nights and found him
under a bridge. What day put on him was enough! I seen 'em whip runaway
niggers till de blood run down dere backs and den put salt in de places.
"I 'spect dere was 'bout 40 or 50 acres in de plantation. Dey
worked and worked and didn't have no dances or church. Dances
"My massa and missus house was
nice, but it was a log house. They had big fireplaces what took great
big chunks of wood and kep' fire all night. We lives in de back in a
little bitty house like a chicken house. We makes beds out of posts and
slats across 'em and fills tow sacks with shucks in em for mattress and
"I seed slaves sold and they was
yoked like steers and sold by pairs sometimes. Dey wasn't 'lowed to
marry, 'cause they could be sold and it wasn't no use, but you could
live with 'em.
"We used to eat possums and
dese old-fashioned coons and ducks. Sometimes we'd eat goats, too. We
has plenty cornmeal and 'lasses and we gets milk sometimes, but we has
no fine food, 'cept on Christmas, we gits some cake, maybe.
"My grandma says one day dat we all is free, but we stayed with Massa
Barker quite a while. Dey pays us for workin' but it ain't much pay,
'cause de war done took dere money and all. But they was good to us, so
we stayed. de Pattersons, and we been here 23 years now.
"Ghosties? I was takin' care of a white man when he died and I seed
something 'bout three feet high and black. I reckon I must have fainted
'cause they has de doctor for me. And on dark nights I seed ghosties
what has no head. Dey looks like dey wild and dey is all in different
performance. When I goin' down de road and feel a hot steam and look
over my shoulder I can see 'em.