Knowing their future would be very dark if they remained, they started North.
by Lisa Y. Henderson
Federal Writers’ Project of the W.P.A., District #6, Marion County
Anna Pritchett, 1200 Kentucky Avenue, Folklore
Mrs. Lizzie Johnson, 706 North Senate Avenue, Apt. 1 [Indianapolis, IN]
Mrs. Johnson’s father, Arthur Locklear, was born in Wilmington, N.C. in 1822. He lived in the South and endured many hardships until 1852. He was very fortunate in having a white man befriend him in many ways. This man taught him to read and write. Many nights after a hard days work, he would lie on the floor in front of the fireplace, trying to study by the light from the blazing wood, so he might improve his reading and writing.
He married very young, and as his family increased, he became ambitious for them, knowing their future would be very dark if they remained South.
He then started a movement to come north. There were about twenty-six or twenty-eight men and women, who had the same thoughts about their children, banded together, and in 1852 they started for somewhere North.
The people selected had to be loyal to the cause of their children’s future lives, morally clean, truthful, and hard-working.
Some had oxen, some had carts. They pooled all of their scant belongings, and started on their long hard journey.
The women and children rode in the ox-carts, the men walked. They would travel a few days, then stop on the roadside to rest. The women would wash their few clothes, cook enough food to last a few days more, then they would start out again. They were six weeks making the trip.
Some settled in Madison, Indiana. Two brothers and their families went on to Ohio, and the rest came to Indianapolis.
John Scott, one of their number was a hod carrier. He earned $2.50 a day, knowing that would not accumulate fast enough, he was strong and thrifty. After he had worked hard all day, he would spend his evenings putting new bottoms in chairs, and knitting gloves for anyone who wanted that kind of work. In the summer he made a garden, sold his vegetables. He worked very hard, day and night, and was able to save some money.
He could not read or write, but he taught his children the value of truthfulness, cleanliness of mind and body, loyalty, and thrift. The father and his sons all worked together and bought some ground, built a little house where the family lived many years.
Before old Mr. Scott died, he had saved enough money to give each son $200.00. His bank was tin cans hidden around in his house.
Will Scott, the artist, is a grandson of this John Scott.
The thing these early settlers wanted most, was for their children to learn to read and write. So many of them had been caught trying to learn to write, and had had their thumbs mashed, so they would not be able to hold a pencil.
Interviewer’s Comment: Mrs. Johnson is a very interesting old woman and remembers so well the things her parents told her. She deplores the “loose living,” as she calls it of this generation.
She is very deliberate, but seems very sure of the story of her early life.
Submitted December 9, 1937
From “Slave Narratives: A Folk History of Slavery in the United States from Interviews with Former Slaves, Indiana Narratives,” Works Projects Administration.