Interviewer Bemice Bowden
Person interviewed_________Jt H* Beckwith_________________________
619 North Spruce Street, Pine Bluff, Arkansas
“No mafm I was not horn in the time of slavery* I was sixty-eight last
Friday* I was born November 18, 1870 in Johnson bounty, North Carolina*
ffl4y mother was horn in Georgia and her name was Gracie Barum. Father was
horn in North Carolina* His name was Rufus Beckwith* He belonged to Doctor
Beckwith tand mother, I think, belonged to Tom Barum* Barum was just an ordi-
nary farmer* He was just a second or third class farmer — just poor white
folks* I think my mother was the only slave he owned*
My father had to walk seven miles every Saturday night to see my mother,
and he back before sunrise Monday*
“My parents had at least three or four children born in slavery* I know
my father said he worked at night and made shoes for his family*
“iiiy father was a mulatto* He had a negro mother and a white father. He
had a mechanical talent. He seemed to be Somewhat of a genius. He had a pro-
ductive mind* He could do blacksmithing, carpenter work, brick work and shoe
“Father was married twice* He raised ten children by each wife. I think
my mother had fifteen children and I was the the thirteenth child. I am the
only hoy among the first set, called to the ministry. Arid there was one in the
second set. Father learned to read and write after freedom.
“After freedom he sent my oldest brother and sister to Hampton, Virginia
and they were graduated from Hampton Institute and later taught school* They
were graduated from the same school Booker T* Washington was* He got his idea
of vocational education there*
“I haven’t had much education, r went as far as the eighth grade. The
biggest education* I have had was in the Conference.
111 joined the Little iiock General Conference at Texarkana in 1914. This
was the Methodist Episcopal, Forth, and I was ordained as a deacon and later
an elder by white bishops. Then in 1930 I joined the African Methodist.
“3y trade I am a carpenter and bricklayer* I served an apprentice under
my father and under a German contractor.
111 used to be called the best negro journeyman carpenter between Monroe,
Louisiana and Little Rock. Arkansas.
“I made quite a success in my trade. I have a couple of United States
Patent Bights. One is a brick mold holding ten bricks and used to make bricks
of concrete. The other is a sliding door. (See attached drawings)
tfI was in the mercantile business two and one-half years in oevier County.
I sold that because it was too confining and returned to the carpenterfs
trade. I still practice my trade some now.
HI have net had to ask help from anyone* I have helped others. I own
my home and I sent, my daughter to Fisk University where she was graduated.
While there she met a young man and they were later married and now live in
Chicago* They own their home and are doing well.
?tIn ray work in the ministry I am trying to teach my people to have higher
ideals. t#e have to bring our race to that high ideal of race integrity. I am
trying to keep the negro from thinking he is hated by the upper class of white
people* «(hat the negro needs is self-consciousness to the extent that he
aspires to the higher principles in order to stand on an equal plane in attain-
ment but not in a social way.
“At present, the negrofs ideals are too low for him to visualize the evils
involved in race mixture* He needs to be lifted in his own estimation and
learn that a race cannot be estimated by other races – by anything else but
their own ideals.
“The younger generation is off on a tangent. They’ll have to hit something
before they stop.
“The salvation of our people – of all people—white and colored, is
leadership. We’ve got to have vision and try to give the people vision.
Not to live for ourselves but for all. The present generation is selfish.
The life should flow out and as it flows out it makes room for more life. If
It does not flow out, it congeals and ferments. Selfishness is just like dam-
ming a stream.
“I think Woodrow Wilson won the World War with his fourteen points of
democracy. If the people of foreign countries had not that old imperialism
sentiment, the Jew would not be where he is today.”
This man is the best informed and most sensible negro I have interviewed.
In the room where I interviewed him, were a piano, a radio, many ferns, a
wool rug, chairs, divan, and a table on which were books including a set of the
Standard History of the World. I asked if he had read the history and he re-
plied, “Not all of it but I have read the volumes pertaining to the neolithic
On the walls were several pictures and two tapestries.
The house was a good frame one and electric current was used.
Interviewer Bemice Bowden