Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Emma's Song " A Tale fo Victory of a Modern Day Slave

Emma Marie Clark
Emma Song
By Marion Pattillo, as told by Emma Marie Clark


I was born in Clayroot in 1904. That's a big tree that a storm has blown over and pulled the roots out. It makes a hole in the ground with clay and dirt that fills up with trash and leaves. Hogs hounds trapped Momma and me in the clay root. Momma fought the dogs until the hunter called them off. That's how they discovered us. Momma's name was Mary Elizabeth (Lizzie) Clark. She named me Emma Marie Clark. She was Choctaw/Comanche Indian. She left daddy  (William M. Clark, a Negro) and her ten other children to return to life in the woods. She said that daddy beat her and the children. The hunters tried to talk her into leaving the woods, but she refused, saying that had christened me and would raise me in that pine thicket. We lived in the woods for several years. 

Life with the Livingston's

When I was a young child I worked at  the Louisiana Long Leaf Lumber Company, that owned the pine thickets, contacted George Livingston, a neighbor, to see if he could get Momma to move out because of their concerns for forest fires. He and his wife Liza followed Momma out into the woods. They convinced her to go home with them, promising to build a log cabin on their farm nearby in Many, La. She said that she would be happy with a bush arbor like that they made for revivals, but Mr. Livingston would not hear of it.

George Livingston was a Yankee who fought to free slaves in the Civil War. He and his family build a log cabin in one day. They let us sleep on a mattress in the kitchen until the cabin was ready. Momma helped with chores around the houses, gardening, milking cows, and cooking. They thought she was crazy because she talked to herself all the time.  But that was the way I learned about my family. She would repeat the conversation with the family and her friends as if she was talking to them right there in the room. Mr. Livingston was always very gentle with Momma. We had a nice life with the Livingston, until one day when it snowed.

Momma Goes Away

Mrs. Livingston called Momma to the window and said, "Lizzie, the old lady is plucking the geese again," Meant it was snowing. She told Momma that Pa (her husband) said it was too cold for her to go out and get firewood. They wanted her shell peas instead that day. Momma had just had an argument in the kitchen with Mr. Jeff, their oldest boys. Mr. Livington told Momma not to cook anything for Jeff. He said he needed to get up and eat with  the rest of the family. To be ready for work on their farm. Mr. Jeff had been out all night and slept in. He demanded a special breakfast. When Momma told him what Pa said, Jeff threatened to kill her. He picked up a fire poker and hit her with it. Momma took it from her and hit the flu out of him.

Then she grabbed my hands, and we ran to out in the snow to our cabin. Momma took off all her clothes and put on her long johns, layers of petticoats, and layers of clothes. She tied up her head with a rag and then put on her bonnet. I asked her where she was going, and she just said, "There many trees between here and Granny Laura's. I begged her to take me with her. She said, No, baby, you can't go." She hugged me and said, "Remember this one thing. This is a mean world to come up in, but make the best out of it. Those were her last words to me. I watched her leave in the snow until I couldn't see her no more going down the road. She looked like an angel.

Then I ran back into the cabin and got between the mattresses so I could cry. I was about nine years old. The Livingston's went looking for Momma. They didn't believe I didn't know where she was. I told them that she said, " There's many  trees between Granny Lars house." We aren't sure what happened to Momma. I've heard stories that she was later taken to jail and to a crazy house in Louisiana. I've been told that they killed. Nobody claimed her body. I was left to face the world without my Momma.

From Freedom to Slavery

I stayed on with  the Livingston's and their children Jeff, James, and Susie. One day Bruce Darby, a neighbor, came over and visit and wanted to buy me. Pa Livingston sent him away and was very angry. He said those days were over. He taught me how to cut trees, farm cotton, and drive the tractor. When I grew older, he gave me four acres where I could grow cotton that would be mine. I worked in the kitchen too. I was sad when he died. Life changed after he was gone.

Early one morning, Miss Suzie came in and demanded that I go get some eggs for her husband's breakfast. I told her I couldn't get those eggs because Ma Livingston had just told me she was going to let the hens set those eggs to hatch some chicks. Suzie picked up a hatchet and cut my forehead over the eyes for not obeying her. I ran out the kitchen door and hid in the water barrel until daylight. I usually fixed breakfast at four in the morning for the farm family. I decided to run away out into the woods. Last night the sounds frightened me without Momma. So, I snuck back into my bed in the cabin.

The next day I told Ma Livingston that I had to leave. I went down the road to a neighbor's house. She said I could do some odd jobs for her to earn money to go on. Then she called Ms. Livingston to tell her where I was and she could come to get me. Ms. Livingston decided to see if the Darby's were still interested in me. She told Margaret (Maggie) Darby that she could go get me at the neighbors,  but wanted her to bring me back in the spring to help them put in their cotton crop. She and the neighbors thought the Darby's were taking care of orphans. Ms. Darby fooled them; she made me her slave never brought me back.

When I got to the Darby's Maggie or Olde Miss, they called her, hit me with a pipe, and pulled out her pearl-handled gun. She took me out behind the barn and showed me some ground. She said if  I ever tried to run away from her, she would find me, kill me and bury me there. I was about 20 years old. Maggie was a 375-pound white woman. She wore white linen princess style dresses starched so stiff a fly would break his neck landing on them. Everybody was afraid of her. 

Maggie took me into the den. She picked up the phone like she was talking to somebody. She held up a piece of paper that I couldn't read and said I was her new slave. She said that the piece of paper said she owned me. She had two other girls she held for slaves too--Lillie Mae and Maggie Lee. All of us were forced to run their family dairy, boarding house, and do household chores. Lillie Mae had been a nurse for Ole Miss' niece and came to live there when the child's father died. Her mother reclaimed the child after stories of abuse fo the child reached her. But Lillie Mae, by then, was convinced that she too was a slave. 

Life As A Slave

The Darby' had three children: James, Lilie, and Grace. Ms. Darby built a Methodist church and made her son James the pastor. She was some kind of missionary and traveled all over the States for conferences. I saw Bruce and Maggie put on the black clothes of the big leaders of the local  KKK. Most others wore white when they met out at the farm. Just top folks wore black. They stored the coal oil and container of tar for the activities out in the barn. We stayed in our quarters.

We weren't allowed to go to our church. Ole Miss took us to her church so we wouldn't get the  wrong ideas from other Negroes. She had a special thingo on her big car that held the car door open, but wouldn't let us get out. She could see us in the car parked right in front of the church. She bragged to everybody that she took her Negroes to church. We couldn't hear or see nothing, but it was a break from the farm.

Ole Miss dressed us in mattress ticking striped coveralls with arms cut out and the legs cut above our knees. We had to keep our hair tied up in rags and had flour sack cotton gowns to sleep in; we had no shoes, but had rubber boots to wear in the winter. I would put my feet in the boots and then dip them in a pan of hot water to warm up my fee. By the time I reached the barn, there would be ice between my toes. Maggie said it took to long to comb our hair, so except for one time when she cut four strips across the top of our heads with the clippers, like railroad tracks, e never combed our hair. My long hair got more matted with each passing year. When I was set free, a lady broke three forks, trying to comb out my hair.

I worked hard on the farm. I milked the cows-- I had to get up at 2  in the morning. If I didn't wake up on time, I was whipped. We brought the cows into the stalls, bathed them, and washed their udders before we hooked them up for milking. I mixed the grains and feed, gave each cow one pound of feed for three pounds of milk.

After milking the cows, we separated the milk and bottled. We churned butter and cut it into one pound pieces and wrapped them up. Lillie Mae, Maggie Lee, and I milked the cows twice daily. I had to mark everything on the charts. I never had been to school, and I did the job I didn't know how to. When we finished our daily chores, we were expected in the house to do the cooking, cleaning, and ironing to keep from getting a whipping.  There was no time for meals. I was three biscuits early in the morning. I put those in my pocket to eat while I worked in the dairy. At night we got a can of skim milk, peas, and cornbread.

Torture And Abuse

I had to work until the work was done or face a beating. Ole Miss used outdoor electrical wire-nine strands to beat us. She peeled back one foot of two-foot pieces and left one foot for a handle and nine strands of wire. They called'em cat of nine tails. She made us take off our overalls and cross our arms over our chests. We had to smile while she whipped us or, she would not stop. We had better not cry and had to be smiling when she stopped. Sometimes she made me whip the other two because  I was the oldest. She poured liniment and sprinkled cayenne pepper into the bloody places on our backs. That stung worse than the whipping. She burned Lillie Mae all over her body with an electric iron when she found she was carrying Jame's child. She put iron prints all over her. Honey, it was pitiful. She lost the baby.

Ole Miss forced us to have relations with men, when we came into season, just like her dogs. That's how I got my two half-white sons. Joseph was born after my first year. She wouldn't let me care for him. I had him under a tree outside at two in the morning, when I went to milk the cows.  He stayed with three dogs--Bill, Booger, and Pot Licker. When he was older, Ole Miss made him stay in the calf pen.  Those dogs-was all he had to play with. The only words Joseph could say until he was seven was cuss words,  and "Ole Miss" and "puppies." Ole Miss whipped him daily. I tried to throw him a biscuit outside. and he screamed like a panther and ran away. That got me a whipping for stopping my work to take care of him. Sometimes he got so thirsty he drank his own urine. He was a wild child. Ole Miss dressed him in an old croaker sack dress. He had to go sit out in the cold and the snow. The dogs kept him warm. 

When I found out I was pregnant again. I tried to kill myself with poison. I had a bad reaction, but I lived, and so did the baby. When the boy was born, Ole Miss told me it was a girl and had been born dead. I knew in my heart that was not right. I drug myself out to the ground, where she threatened to bury us. There was no fresh dug dirt. She found me and ordered me back into the house. I asked God to show me the truth. He did in a vision like a shade coming down, I saw the farmhouse, the family, and then a beautiful blonde haired baby boy in a crib playing with his toes. The Lord told me if I prayed and had faith, I would be reunited with him in time. I couldn't imagine how that would happen, had I had faith.

Lillie Mae and Maggie Lee tried to escape one time. The police brought them back in an old 26 Model T Ford with a rumble seat in the back of it. They put those women in there, and closed the truck, and took them back to the Darby's. And they whipped them and whipped them. We tried other ways to escape. I threw Joseph down on the pavement as hard and far as I could throw him. I thought I could set him free from the whippings that way and stop some of the whipping  I got on account for him. He bounced and didn't even bruise.

We girls decided to drown ourselves. We had to kill kittens and puppies by putting them in bags with stones and throwing them into the stock pond. We took a solemn vow to kill ourselves. We put bricks in our drawers, help our noses, and jumped into the pond. We got mighty wet, lost our drawers, but lived to face another day,

Free At Last, Free At Last!

Ole Miss had a boarding house at the dairy farm. We did the laundry and cooking for her guests. A couple from Dallas came to the farm--Mr. and Mrs. J.M. Sorley. He was a contractor for building the new Many courthouse. Mrs. Sorley tried to pay me for doing her laundry. When I told her I couldn't take the money, that we weren't paid, she started asking questions. She talked to Lillie Mae and Maggie Lee too. She begged us to leave with her. I thought all white people were alike, so we didn't trust her. She went to town and bought apples and bananas and put them in our quarters. She bought clothes for Joseph. When Ole Miss came back from church, Mrs. Sorley had Joseph bathed, dressed and, sitting at the dining table with them. Ole Miss got her gun and ordered her off the property.  She burned all those pretty new clothes,

I can't prove it, but I think it was Mrs. Sorely that must have wrote the authorities about us. One day sometime later a man came to the front door and asked to speak to the lady of the house. He asked  Ole Miss if she had Negro women working there. She invited him in. He asked to speak to each of us privately and showed her a paper. James, her son, tried to get him to leave, but he insisted he would speak with each of hes. privately. He wore a gun in a holster with lots of bullets. He said some had mailed a letter to them from Many that said we had been beaten over the head with iron pipes, knocked down by fours, whipped us with striped electrical wire, tortured with hot irons and worked without pay. It had to be her. She was the only that know, I told the FBI man it was true, but I had to the barn to milk the cows in 10 minutes, I would talk to him then.

When I got to the barn, the FBI has Lillie Mae and Maggie sitting at a table. He gave them a Coke to drink. He was feeding ice cream to Joseph, who was sitting on the tabletop. I told him my story. He made me swear it was true and told me I would go to prison if I perjured myself. We each told our stories, and he wrote everything down. I told him my vision for my second son. He wrote that down too. He told us not to do any more work on the farm. I was afraid we were all going to die. He sent us to our quarters. I told Lillie Mae and Maggie Lee to take Joseph and run if anything happened to me. They sent us a platter of food from the house, but we refused it--sure it poisoned. They were 12 lawmen that came there by the end of the week. Ole Miss and her daughter were crying and carrying on. She bought us some new print dresses, our first shoes-straw ones, and straw hats. They gave us each $5.

On Sunday, August 5, 1934, the lawmen drove us to Pleasant Hill to the farmhouse that I described from my vision. It was just I had been shown. The streets up to there were lined with people like the circus was in town. Everybody was out to see what happened. The family gave my son Clio to me. He as blond curls and wore a red pinafore. He had been well treated by the family, who claimed they didn't know he was stolen. That day, after seven years and seven months with the Darbys. I was set free. We set off walking. My little family and former slave sisters were free at last! We were walking to Natchitoches to start  a new life on our own. But that's a story for another day.

If You Don't Take Us; They Are Going to Kill Us

Sumner Courthouse in Tallahatchie County Courthouse Photo Credit: Walter C. Black, Sr.   On April 8, 1912, Jerry Weekly was seeking hel...