John Patterson

John Patterson was an enslaved person who moved to Arkansas during the Civil War because his enslaver wanted to keep John and other enslaved people from being taken by Union soldiers.  In this excerpt he briefly shares this experience, as well as telling of some of the songs they used to sing while being enslaved.
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I was born near Paducah, Kentucky. Mother was never sold. She belonged to Master Arthur Patterson. Mother was what folks called black folks. I’ve never seen a father to know. I never heard mother say a thing about my father, if I had one. He never was no use to me nor her neither. 

Mother brought me here in time of the Civil War. I was four years old. We came here to be kept from the Yankee soldiers. We were sent with some of the Pattersons.

. . . I forgot our plough songs:  ‘I Wonder Where my Darling is.’  ‘N***** Makes the Cotton and the White Man Gets the Money.’  Everybody used to sing. We worked from sun to sun; we courted and were happy. People are not happy now. They are craving now. About four o’clock we all start up singing. Sing till dark. 

Formerly enslaved person
Birth Year (Age)Interviewer
WPA Volunteer
Enslaver’s Name
John Patterson[Year (age at interview)]Irene RobertsonArthur Patterson
Interview LocationResidence StateBirth Location
Helena, ARArkansasPaducah, KY
Themes & KeywordsAdditional Tags:
Civil War, FamilyFirst person, dialect, Union Soldiers