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S. F. DAVIS
Copyrighted 1914 by S. F. Davis, lndianola, Miss.
It seems to be customary for every one who write any-
thing for the public, to give some reason, excuse or apol-
ogy for so doing, but in offering this little bunch of literary
efforts to the public, I have no excuse or apology to offer
with them. In the articles herein contained, as well as
everything else I have ever written for the public in the
past, I have endeavored to give the reader both entertain-
ment and information, and if I have succeeded in doing
either, I do not count my labor lost.
Very truly yours,
S. F. DAVIS.
JUL-:! 1314 ©CLA376529
S. F. DAVIS
The Negro in His Lair.
From early childhood I have been a constant observer
and an ardent admirer of the wondrous works of God. In
my early days birds, bees, bugs and flowers were a never-
ending source of pleasure to me; and when I was a lad of
more mature years, I have lain for hours in the shade of
some friendly tree and played with a toad frog or June
bug until the dinner horn blew, when I was erroneously
supposed to have been diligently engaged in hoeing cotton.
In after years, I have sat silently on the seashore and
watched the tide ebb and flow; I have climbed the lofty
mountains and looked down upon the clouds; I have then
descended into the Missisippi Valley and stood on the
banks of the world's greatest river and watched its turbu-
lent waters roll by; I have also looked above into the
starry-decked dome of heaven and gazed upon the far-
away planets and comets performing their stupendous
and harmonious revolutions; and have seen written on the
face of all things the glory and wonder of the supreme
architect of the universe, but I have always regarded the
negro as his masterpiece. The negro stands alone in a
class by himself; and while the Yazoo and Mississippi
delta is peculiarly suited to his needs, yet, he can adjust
himself to any kind of climate or conditions and live and
die happy under the most trying circumstances.
He can lie down beneath the scorching rays of a noon-
day sun and sleep the sleep of the seven sleepers of old
without suffering any evil effects from it whatever; or he
can weather the fiercest winter gale, clad only in a pair of
cotton overalls and a blue jumper. He can also wear an
overcoat to a Fourth of July celebration, or a pair of linen
pants and an alpaca coat to a Christmas tree and be per-
fectly comfortable, and, as strange as it may seem, any-
body's clothes will fit him and look nice on him. King
Solomon, in his declining years, when he had become
thoroughly disgusted with high society and fast living,
said that there was nothing new under the sun; that he
had gone all the gaits and had seen the whole show, from
the free exhibition to the grand concert, and that there
was nothing to it, or words to that effect. But it will be
remembered that King Solomon never had any negroes to
deal with; nor ever tried to make a cotton crop on buck-
shot land after an overflow, or he would have had a new
problem to solve every day of his eventful career.
There is nothing else like the negro anywhere under the
sun. He sees all things, hears all things, believes all things,
and has implicit faith in everything he sees or hears, and
stands ready at all times to step aboard of anything that
comes along, from a young mule to a flying machine.
Wireless telegraphy is nothing new to him. He has
used it for ages; every negro's mouth is a transmitter and
every ear a receiver. If anything of importance happens
on a plantation tonight, every negro for forty miles around
will know all about it by morning, but if you happen to be
a peace officer do not ask him anything about it for that
has a tendency to make him forgetful and causes him to
close up like a clam.
If you ever arrive in a delta town, on the train on Sun-
day, and the whole colored population is not at the depot
to meet you, do not get off, for you may know of a cer-
tainty that some catastrophe has just struck that town.
Saturday is the negro's day by special custom and com-
mon consent, and if you have any business to attend to in a
delta town, on Saturday, attend to it early and get off of
the street before you get hurt. A negro cannot see you
Saturday, unless you owe him something, and if you get in
his way, he is liable to step on you, sit down on you, or
back you up against a brick wall and smother you to
death. He does not usually do these things, or any of
them, through any evil design, as many people sometimes
suppose, but he simply cannot help it if you get in his way,
for he is busy and cannot look out for you. Saturday is his
"Rashions day," and news exchange day, and in addition
to having all of those things on his mind, he has to shake
hands with every other negro in town, and hug every ne-
gro woman he meets, and you had hetter take out an acci-
dent policy or get off of the streets.
The standard "rashions" for a negro is a peck of corn
meal, three pounds of salt meat, two pounds of sugar, one
pound of coffee, one gallon of hlack molasses and one plug
of either "Red Coon," "Blue Mule," "Dixie Land," or
"Wild Goose" chewing tobacco a week, but he can con-
sume all of this at one sitting if necessary, or if he is work-
ing for you and boarding himself, he can live a week on
three soda crackers, a box of sardines and five cents worth
of cheese. In other words, his stomach is built on the
same general plan of an old-fashioned accordian, and
either contracts or expands according to the pressure
brought to bear upon it.
He is also immune to nearly all kinds of poisons, and
can swallow the most deadly drugs with impunity. I re-
member of having a negro working for me one time who
was having chills and who was suffering from severe
backaches. I got him a bottle of chill tonic, to take, and a
bottle of liniment to rub his back with. The liniment
was labeled in box car letters: "Poison. For External
Use Only," and I cautioned him about it when I gave it to
him, but for three days and nights before I found it out, he
had been rubbing his back with the chill tonic and taking
a teaspoonful of the liniment three times a day before
each meal with excellent results. On another occasion I
was sick myself and had a negro to wait upon me, and the
doctor in charge of my case opened a can of antiphlogis-
tine to make a plaster for my side, and left the can on the
kitchen table, and when my negro went in to get his supper
he mistook it for a can of peanut butter and ate the whole
of it without ever discovering his mistake.
The negro does not lay up treasures on earth where
moth and rust would corrode them or where thieves might
break through and steal, but when he has any money or
other valuable thing he immediately puts it in circulation,
and the things in which he usually invests are never of a
very permanent or lasting nature. He spends much money
each year for legal and medical advice, presumably for
the purpose of finding out what he ought to do so that he
may go and do the opposite, for it is a well known fact that
a negro was never known to shut a gate or follow any-
body's advice about anything.
He is also an ardent admirer of the work turned out by
the dental surgeon, and down deep in every negro's heart
there is a secret longing to some day have a gold tooth in
front, one on a plate so that he can take it out and look at
it and put it back in place at will.
He is likewise a great admirer of art and in nearly every
negro's home, be it ever so humble, there hangs a life-size
crayon portrait of himself on the wall right opposite the
front door where you will be sure to see it as you enter.
The rest of his surplus money he usually spends for enter-
tainment, preferably an excursion, but anything else in
motion will do. I have frequently stood on the street cor-
ner, on a cold cloudy winter day, and watched as many as
fifty negroes who did not have, on an average, fifty cents
each; and none of whom had on enough clothes to flag a
hand car, clinging to a merry-go-round as it went round-
and-round grinding out that well known and much be-
loved melody, "Oh, Bill Bailey, Why Don't You Come
Home?" and their front teeth shining like the keys of a
piano, while hundreds of others, who did not have the
price of a ride, were standing in the half frozen mud shoe
mouth deep, cheering them as they came round.
All things are pleasing to him. A circus or a funeral is
equally enjoyable, but a protracted meeting followed by
a big baptizing or a term of the circuit court followed by
a public hanging is his chiefest delight.
The negro was once the white man's slave, but that was
only for a short time, and was a part of the great scheme
which God had in mind to better prepare him for the en-
joyment of the things which he meant to bestow upon him
in the future. By long and close association with the white
man, the negro has learned all of his ways, and can read
at a glance his innermost thoughts, and can now size him
up and classify him just as accurate as a cotton buyer
does the different grades of cotton, and can do it much
He is no longer a slave to man or mammon, and verily
that scripture which says, "The first shall be last and the
last shall be first," has already come to pass and the negro
now has a reserve seat in the front row. If any good
things are to be had he is sure to get his share. One day a
negro asked me if I thought a negro had a soul. I told
him that I most assuredly did, and if he did not have one,
it was the only thing I had ever heard of a white man
having that a negro did not get it if he stayed with him
The negro has no great problems to solve. There is no
race question so far as he is concerned. He enjoys the
society of all races, ages and nationalities, and will mingle
with any of them. He enjoys with equal pleasure the
companionship of a five-year-old white boy or an aged
Chinaman who can neither speak or understand a single
word of English, for in either of those cases he gets to do
nearly all of the talking.
The tariff question or the currency question does not in-
terest him in the least. Silver is his standard and he does
not want any other kind of money. Neither does the Mex-
ican situation worry him. All of those things are the
white man's troubles. But if the white folks want to whip
Mexico or anybody else for any cause, or without any
cause for that matter, and will furnish him the arms and
ammunition, and will back him up in it, he will be glad to
do it for them.
The road question was the only question that ever gave
the negro any real trouble, but that was when he was sub-
ject to road duty ten days out of every year, but happily
for him the roads of the delta are now being worked by
taxation, and all he has to do is to pack them down after
they have been constructed.
Neither does the levees or the want of levees bother him
any. That is some more of the white folks' trouble. If we
have an overflow or do not have one it is all right with
him. If we do have one, he is the first to have a boat and
get out into it and paddle around from morning until night
with the blessed assurance that there will be no work done
while it lasts, and that he will draw his rations from his
landlord or from the government, and sometimes both,
until the water subsides.
Whenever a negro tires of country life, he moves to
town, acquires a charcoal bucket and a tailor's goose;
forms an alliance with some white man's cook, and with
his living thus assured, he opens a cleaning and pressing
establishment. He then gets out Monday morning and
gathers in the Sunday clothes of all the white clerks in
town, and after wearing them himself every night during
the week, he gets up early Saturday morning and treats
them to a gasoline bath, and flattens them out with a red
hot iron and rushes them home to their owner so that he
may wear them Sunday, collects $1.50 for his services in
that behalf and goes on his way rejoicing. But should
there be any special function in town Saturday night
which he wishes to attend, he holds back the best suit of
clothes which he happens to have on hand and wears them
to that, and carries them home Sunday morning, if he
should wake up in time, otherwise its owner can lay in bed
over Sunday, and he will bring the clothes back the fol-
If perchance his fancy does not run to cleaning clothes,
he gets himself a gasoline stove and other paraphernalia
wherewith to defeat the vagrant statute, and sets up a
lunch counter where he serves all such as care to come his
way, irrespective of race, color or previous condition of
servitude, with hamburgers, hot cat-fish, and beef sausage,
and sometimes sweet spirits of fermenti on the side.
But should neither of these vocations appeal to him, he
usually opens a colored barber shop with a pool room and
a "crap table" in the rear, and proceeds to enjoy life until
the city officials become obnoxious to him and he then
goes back to the quiet country life, which is usually right
after the Christmas holidays, and joins himself to a cotton
planter for a period of twelve months or more and by his
certain written contract duly executed in duplicate, obli-
gates and binds himself, heirs and assigns, to cultivate and
gather a crop of cotton on the land therein described, and
on the strength thereof, proceeds to eat up anywhere from
$5.00 to $300.00 worth of grub while he is waiting for the
ground to get dry enough to plow, and it very frequently
happens that when the trees begin to bud; and when the
birds begin to whistle; and the grasshopper begins to sing;
Mr. Negro is seized with wanderlust, and he suddenly dis-
appears and the people who once knew him know him no
Every delta town also has its full quota of negro women,
who like the lily, toil not, neither do they spin, yet the
Queen of Sheba in all of her glory was never clad like unto
one of them.
Surely the negro is fearfully and wonderfully made and
his ways are past finding out.
The Reason Why a Negro is
Called a "Coon."
Nearly every one knows, in a general way, that there is,
in all of the Southern states, a certain small animal closely
allied to the bear, that is listed in Webster's Dictionary as
"rac-coon," and they also know, or should know, if they
have been south of the Ohio river, that this animal has
long since lost the "rac" and is now known as just plain
simple "coon," which is pronounced "Koon."
They also know, in the same general way, that there are
many negroes in the same locality and that they are often
referred to as "Coons," but not all of them know the
It is argued by some well-known scientists, that all men,
irrespective of race, color or previous condition of servi-
tude, are lineal descendants of a prehistorical bald face
monkey. And while I do not subscribe to that doctrine,
still, I must admit that there are many men, who, from
their facial expressions, mental achievements and muscu-
lar movements, seem to bear out this doctrine, and when-
ever I meet a man who claims to be a grandson of a
baboon or an ourang-outang, I always take it for granted
that he knows, or ought to know, more about his own fam-
ily history and ancestors than I do, and for that reason, I
never argue the question with him and accept his state-
ment as to his individual case as being true.
But be that as it may, the colored brother also bears
many striking resemblances to the "coon," not so much in
facial expressions as the marked similarity of habits and
feet. They each have very dark India-rubber feet built on
the same identical pattern, differing only in size; and they
each have an ungovernable appetite for a certain specie of
Southern fish commonly called a "grunnel" and which is
found in great numbers in all shallow lakes and cypress
Both the negro and the real "coon" each have a great
fancy for all kinds of domestic fowls, and any experienced
negro house-boy, or yard-man, can go into your poultry
house the darkest night that ever descended upon a lost
and sin cursed world, and tell the kind, age, grade and sex
of all fowls therein by deftly running his fingers over the
toes on the roost pole, in the same manner that a musician
tests the tone of a piano by running his fingers over the
keys, and can do it without ever disturbing their lightest
Neither the negro or the "coon" ever suffer from insom-
nia while the sun shines, and can sleep soundly anywhere
during the day wherever they may be, whether that be on
a barren island in the midst of the sea or in a rolling mill.
But when darkness settles down upon the earth, they each
become active and wide-awake, or in the language of the
"The rac-coon is a mighty man,
He rambles in the dark;
He never knows what trouble is,
Till he hears old Rattler bark."
The same beautiful thought so aptly expressed by that
author in reference to the "coon" is also applicable to the
negro, but the words should be revised so as to read :
"The negro is a mighty man,
He rambles in the dark;
He never knows what trouble is,
Till he hears the Capt'n's automatic 44 begin
From time immemorial, the negro and the "coon" have
been closely and intimately associated together, and be it
said to the credit of the former, that they have certainly
led the latter a merry chase, as will readily be seen by the
number of pelts of the latter tacked on to the sunny side
of the cabin of the average plantation negro.
Well do I remember, when I was a small boy, just be-
ginning to study the glorious history of my country, that
the thing that impressed me most of all about the picture
of the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln, the great American
statesman, and the emancipator of the negro, was the
"coon" skin tacked on the outer wall of his humble cot-
tage, and I now know the significance of that picture; and
further know that none other than a master hand of a true
son of the bright and sunny South executed it, because
every Southern man knows that no picture that pertains
O anything connected with the negro in any way — be it
ever so slight or indirect — is ever complete without a
"coon" skin showing up somewhere in the background.
Whenever it becomes necessary to catch a negro, or a
"coon" for any purpose, the same methods are employed
in each case. There are three ways by which either can be
caught, namely: by traps, by still hunting, and with
hounds. If a trapper wants to catch a "coon" in a trap, he
either baits it with sardines, salmon or some other kind of
loud smelling canned fish; or he baits it with some bright
object, say a piece of broken plate about the size of a silver
dollar, or a little piece of new tin, and if a "coon" passes
that way, he will most likely fall a victim of either his ap-
petite, or his curiosity. He simply cannot resist the temp-
If an installment man or a peddler wishes to trap a
negro for his pelt, he goes about it in the same manner.
He first shows him some flashy plated jewelry, lace cur-
tains, hand mirrors or safety razors, and if none of these
things will land him, he goes out to his wagon and gets a
can or bottle of something and opens it up and sticks it
under the negro's nose and lets him smell it for a few
minutes, and his downfall is then assured.
When a negro wants a "coon" for table purposes, he
either locates his den and hangs around and shoots him
when he comes out, or else he goes after him on the
ground, with a pack of blue speckled hounds, and runs
him down, but in either case he gets him just the same.
If a white man wants to catch a negro for the purpose of
lynching him, or sending him to jail, he uses the same
simple "coon" tactics on him. He either locates the house
where the negro's "lady friend" is stopping and waylays
that until he catches the negro slipping in or out some
morning before day, and nabs him; or else he gets the
state's bloodhounds and runs him down.
I do not claim, nor do I believe, the negro is any blood
relation to a "coon," but on account of the similarity of
their habits, and the long and close connection existing
between them, the negro has long since been aptly termed,
A Negro's Version of Heaven
One Sunday night in the month of August, some years
ago, I was passing by Mount Ever Rest Colored Church,
the doors and windows were open and the congregation
"God showed Noah by the rain bow sign,
No more water, but the fire next time,"
and as they finished the last stanza, the Rev. George W.
Flowers, a minister of ebony hue, and who was an ac-
quaintance of mine, arose and began to address them, as
"Bretheren, and sisteren, my discourse dis even am
gwine to be on the beautifulness of heavn, and de horriful-
ness of hell, and one or de other of dem two things ought
to reach every man, 'oman and chile in this vast assembli-
"My text am like de brains of de most of my hearers
here tonight, somewhat scatterin, but de thought dat I
wishes to convey to you am gwine to be more constimated
and to de pint.
"My text am scattered all through dis good old book
from kiver to kiver, like chicken feed in de straw, and if
any of you smart Alecks doubts any thing dat I has to say
here to you here tonight, you can take dis book down and
sarch out des vital thruths for yerselves, after I am
through wid my expostulations.
"I wishes to further say, dat I sees in dis congregation, a
big flock of black sheep without a sheperd; one in which
de bline am 'temptin to lead de bline. De very openin
song dat you has just sung show dat you am followin after
false doctrin. And I mought just as well tell you now as
any other time, by way of introductatory, dat my remarks
to you on dis auspicious occasion am not gwine to be long
de old and well beaten path followed by all of my prepos-
sessors, but am gwine to be entirely new to de most of
"Now hear me people, and give your ears over to under-
standin. De Bible specifies dat all flesh am not de same
flesh; dat dare am one kine of flesh of men; another kine
>f birds; and still another of fish and fowls; and it mought
a ve further said dat all flesh of men am not de same kine
of meat, for we has de flesh of de white folks; de flesh of
de nigger; de flesh of de Injun; and at last de flesh of de
Chinaman, all differin in glory de same as one star differs
from another star in glory.
"Listen now, and hear me people, all heavens, and all
hells, am not de same kine either.
"(I am gwine to ax de brother dat is settin de closest to
dat dawg to please kick him out of dis sanctuary 'fore I
proceeds any further, and I wants to again call de atten-
tion to all of you to dat scripture dat says, 'cast not your
pearls before a hawg, nor feed holy things to er dawg.'
Dat am de third time now dat I has seed that same dawg
trying to lift dat kiver from off dat sacrement beard, and I
am gwine to ax you once more to leave dem dawgs at
home in de future. ***** Thank you my brother, be
"Now hear me people and harken unto my voice, don't
you all know dat de Bible says dat dare am seven heavens;
and don't you all further know dat wid all dat room dat
dey aint gwine to be anways crowded; and dat dare will
be plenty of room for all dat gits dare widout mixin up de
"All you niggers what think you gwine to set down and
eat wid de white people at de feast of de lamb am gwine
to be disappinted. De white folks aint gwine to stand for
nothin like dat, and 'sides dat if you was in dare, de way
dey am gwine to have dare grub cooked would'nt suit you
no how, and you mought just as well git dat off your mine,
for you ain't gwine to be dare.
"De New Jerusalem aint gwine to be no 'coon town,' and
it ain't gwine to have no ile mills, or compresses in it; and
dare ain't gwine to be no fruit stands or lunch counter on
dem golden streets. Dat town am gwine to be strictly for
de white folks, and dey ain't gwine to have no niggers
blockin up dem pearly gates. No nigger is ever gwine to
git any further in dat town dan Paradise Ally.
"De nigger settlement in heaven am gwine to be some
miles out, on de east side of de River of Life, and hear me
people, and give heed to my supplication, de cat-fish in dat
river am gwine to be as big as a whale * * * *'cordin to
de size of de whale, of course * * and the watermelons
and sweet 'taters am gwine to grow wile and spontanious
all up and down dat fertile valley.
"Oh my brethern, me thinks I see dat place now, dimly
in de distance, through de twilight; and I thinks I can see
wid my mine eye, a twelve pound 'possum wid his tail
twined 'round a 'simmon limb and a young Plymouth
Rock rooster roostin on de lot fence. * * * Glory be to
God in the highest . Amen.
"But bretheren, hear me now, and despise not the mes-
senger of de Lord, what am you gwine to do on dat awful
day of judgment; dat day when de Lord of Lords and
King of Kings comes down in all of his glory to judge dis
old world. Dat am not gwine to be any perlice court trial.
False swearin ain't gwine to git you nothin dare. Dat am
gwine to be one time when you am gwine to git all dat is
comin to you, and den some, even to de uttermost farthin
— whatsumever dat mought be.
"Oh my bretheren, it makes me tremble, tremble, when
I thinks of what you gwine to do when dat trial is over;
and when de good Sheperd 'gins to separate de goat from
de sheeps. Oh my brother, I 'magines I can hear him now
sayin, 'Depart from me, you big bobtail billy goat from
Riverside Plantation, git off de exhibition ground alto-
gether, I never knewed you.' Den dare will be weepin,
wailin and mashin of teeth; and de wicked will be cast out
into outer darkness widout so much as a two-bit three
burner headlight on; and on down into dat awful region
where de sun never shines, and where the thermometer
stands fifty degrees below zero on de Fourth of July.
"Oh my bretheren, and sisteren, I beseches you to be-
ware of dat awful place where hell is friz over all de year
round; and where de devil am gwine to roll you in de snow
throughout de countless ages of eternety.
"Oh my brother, think about what you gwine to do when
dem awful icicles go slidin down your back. Oh what am
"on gwine to do in dat awful hour. De north pole what
Dr. Cook has done told so many horrifyin and conflictin
tales about, am a plum tropical climate 'side of dat awful
"Oh, my bretheren, de very words in your mouth am
gwine to freeze hard and drap down on dat icy floor and
rattle like tinklin brass and clashin symbles, when you
tries to cry out in your agony. De very breath of your
nostrils am gwine to freeze and beat you in de face like a
snow storm; and hail and sleet am gwine to blow and beat
on dat old leaky roof of hell continously.
"Oh my bretheren, let me exhaust you to quit your cus-
sin; lyin; stealin; crap shootin; whisky drinkin, and back-
biting one another to de white folks, and prepare your-
selves for dat awful day what am bound to come.
"And now may de good Lord have mercy on your poor
ignited souls 'fore it is everlastinly too late shall ever be
"Now brethern, and sisteren, while de congregation
stands, I am gwine to ax all of you to jine me in singin:
" 'It rains and it hails,
And it is cold and stormy weather;
De people weeps, and dey wails,
And Lord, I flees to Thee for shelter.' "
On the following morning, I saw George, and said :
"George, what sort of a hell was that you were telling
your people about last night?"
"Yes, you. I happened to be passing Mount Ever Rest
last night and stopped outside and listened to you preach
for a while."
"Oh pshaw, Capt'n," said George, with a broad smile on
his face, "I know dat de Bible say dat hell am a lake of
•e and blue stone, but den you knows a nigger well
enough to know dat it don't do not good to try to skeer
him wid hot weather, and dat if you wants to git next to
him. you got to threaten him wid cold."
The Negro Law of /Mississippi.
There has been much written about the common law,
the civil law, the statutory law and the so-called "unwrit-
ten law," but we have another important branch of the
law here in Mississippi, about which I have never seen
anything written, nor do I know of any school in which
this branch of the law is taught. It must be learned by ex-
perience and observation, and it is one of the most com-
plicated branches of the law. I refer to the "negro law."
Any attorney from a foreign state might examine our con-
stitution and statutes and find that this was a common-law
state, and that, except where it was modified by some stat-
ute, the common law was in full force and effect, and
would further find that, if he was a citizen of the United
States, above the age of twenty-one years, of a good moral
character, and could pass a satisfactory examination on
the common law and the statutory laws of this state, he
would be granted a license to practice law in all of her
courts, upon his taking the oath prescribed by the statutes.
He might also believe himself qualified to do so, but that
is where he would make a very great mistake. The law
which he has spent time and money to learn, and about
which he has been interrogated on his examination for his
admittance to the bar, is for the white people of this state;
and the law he is going to be called on to practice more
than any other, and especially in the early years of his
practice, is "negro law," about which (unless he is native
born) he knows absolutely nothing, and about which no
book on earth, so far as I know, sheds the faintest ray of
The "negro law" of Mississippi is a law of many parts,
and is composed partly of the common law, statutory law,
and unwritten law, and to be able to tell just which one of
these several parts of the law applies in any given case is
an art rarely, if ever, possessed by any one, except the
native born attorney of this state. From the letter of our
statutes, a stranger might justifiably infer that they ap-
plied to all persons within this state, without regard to
race, color, or previous condition of servitude, but nothing
? farther from the truth. The judges, lawyers and jurors
^1 know that some of our laws are to be enforced against
everybody, while others are to be enforced against the
white people, and others are to be enforced only against
the negroes, and they are enforced accordingly.
Descent and Distribution.
Under our system of administering the law, a negro
has the same right to acquire, enjoy and dispose of prop-
erty, both real and personal, that a white man has, and
when he dies intestate, leaving any property, it is dis-
tributed according to our statute of descent and distribu-
tion, but beyond that the rule varies and shifts from one
to the other; sometimes in favor of the white man, and
sometimes in favor of the negro.
Whenever a civil controversy arises between two or
more negroes, it takes its regular course, and is either
tried in the justice of the peace court; the circuit court,
or the chancery court, depending altogether which court
has jurisdiction over the parties and the subject matter,
but whenever any minor controversy arises between a
white man and any negro working for him, whether civil
or criminal, he generally gives the negro an ex-parte
hearing in the barn or gin house, at which time and place,
he impresses his theory of the case on the aforesaid negro
with a piece of gin belting, or about three feet of the butt
end of an old buggy trace, which is usually very effective;
and the hearing is then adjourned sine die.
There are some cases, however, that do sometimes arise
between a white man and a negro that cannot be adjusted
in this manner, and when there is enough property in-
volved to justify the employment of counsel to represent
the respective parties, it is always a wise move on the
part of counsel representing the negro to get the case in
the chancery court on one ground or other, for by doing
so he dodges a jury of twelve white men who might feel
embarassed in reaching a proper verdict where the con-
troversy was between a white man and a negro; and he
also avoids any chance of having the negro embarassed
by their verdict. Under our system, if our chancery
court once acquires or assumes jurisdiction over any
matter for any purpose, it retains jurisdiction over it
until it is finally terminated, and adjusts all of the rights
of the parties, although they may be purely legal rights
as well as equitable rights, and it is always much safer to
try your negro's case in that court, if possible.
Divorce and Alimony.
We have, in this state, eleven statutory grounds for di-
vorce, and if in the course of his married career, a white
man is so unfortunate as to get his domestic affairs in such
a tangle that it becomes necessary to sever his matri-
monial bonds to insure his future happiness, he must
allege, and must prove by two or more creditable wit-
nesses, in addition to his own testimony, that his wife has
at least crossed one of the boundary lines fixed by the
statute, and he must pay all cost of the action, including
a reasonable attorney's fee to counsel representing him,
which ranges anywhere from $50.00 to $500.00 according
to the social and financial standing of the parties; and
must also furnish his wife with ample means to procure
counsel of equal, and in many cases better, qualifications
to represent her side of the case; and must pay her ali-
mony pendente lite in such sum as the court thinks is in
keeping with his ability to pay, and his wife's necessities
and social standing demands, before his case can even be
heard on its merits, or demerits, as the case may be; and if
a decree is finally rendered in his favor, he is frequently
required to pay permanent alimony ever afterwards,
which ipso facto robs him of all of the pleasures usually
attending a legal victory, and which renders him in con-
tempt of court at any time should he fail to promptly pay
the alimony on the day it fell due, and which would sub-
ject him to a term in the county jail without further notice.
Or, in other words, the legislature and the courts of this
state have never done much towards encouraging and
facilitating divorces among its white citizens.
Now when it comes to the negroes, the rule is different.
In the first place, a negro does not need a divorce, but a
great many of them want them and are willing to pay for
the privilege of having them; and are always willing to
pay the clerk fifty cents extra for a certified copy of the
decree, if he will put a gilt seal on it instead of the ordi-
nary impress; and seventy-five cents extra where the seal
is attached to a little piece of blue ribbon with a scallop
in the loose end of it.
Negro divorces in this state are a staple just the same as
cotton or any other native product, and are to be had by
him, as a matter of course, whenever he wants one, at a
fixed price, to-wit: $25.00 for attorney's fee and $5.00 for
court cost, in the delta, and a little less in some parts of
the hills. When a negro decides to invest some money in
a divorce, he goes to some attorney and makes his wants
known; makes a cash deposit of $15.00 as a guarantee of
good faith, and makes affidavit to the original bill pre-
pared by the aforesaid attorney; and is instructed to be
back at the court-house of his county, on the first Tuesday,
or the second day of the next term of the chancery court,
and to have with him then $15.00 more of the lawful coin
of the realm, and two good substantial witnesses, if he can
get them — and he usually can — but in no case to overlook
that balance of $15.00 which is so essentially necessary to
carry his case through without any hitch. The first Tues-
day of each term of the chancery court is set apart and
specially dedicated to the trial of negro divorce cases; and
in order to expedite matters, it is customary with a great
many chancellors, especially in the black belt, to appoint
the different members of the bar who are not otherwise
engaged, to sit as commissioners, or vice-chancellors on
these cases, and if, after ascertaining whether or not ser-
vice has been had on the defendant, and after having
heard the evidence, or some of it, he should recommend a
divorce, the chancellor signs the decree; and the clerk fur-
nishes the negro with a copy of same, under the seal of his
office, and that is the end of it.
There are many things declared by the statutes of this
state to be a crime that a negro may do with impunity and
never be molested, while a white man for the same act,
would get not less than ten years in the penitentiary. For
instance, as above stated, divorces are not compulsive with
a negro, and he may have two or more wives at one and
the same time, with or without being married to any of
them and no one care; and it is not uncommon for the pre-
siding judge to instruct the grand jury not to take any no-
tice of it in case it is called to their attention by any wit-
ness who might be before them on other business. On the
other hand, if any white man should be guilty of the same
offense, he would be promptly indicted, and if convicted,
he could safely count on getting anywhere from three to
ten years in the penitentiary.
Under our criminal statute it is a misdemeanor for any
person to wager any money or other valuable thing on
ny game of chance, or to play for money at any game of
cards or dice, etc.; but it is the unwritten law — and the un-
written law applies in this case — that all negroes may
play a game of chance with dice, commonly called "craps"
for money or any other valuable thing, on Saturday nights
or any time during the first day of the week commonly
called Sunday; provided, however, that said game is con-
ducted in a quiet, orderly manner in a vacant cabin or cot-
ton house on the back side of the plantation. But it is also
the unwritten law of this state, that a white man must not,
't any time or place, for either love or money or any other
valuable thing, play a game of "craps," that being recog-
nized as a negro game exclusively.
It is also the unwritten law of this state, that all white
persons above the age of twenty-one years, may play a
game of chance with cards, commonly called "poker," for
money and other valuable things; provided, however, that
said game is conducted in a quiet, orderly manner in some
private place, after business hours, but a negro must not,
under any circumstances, play a game of "poker," for love,
money or anything else, that being recognized as strictly a
white man's game.
If a white man be guilty of petit larceny in this state, he
is either lynched, deported or sent to the county convict
farm for a long term, but if a negro be guilty of petit lar-
ceny, he is either cursed, whipped or made to pay the value
of the thing stolen, or is sent to jail, all depending on what
he has stolen and from whom he has stolen it. If he steal
anything from another negro, he is arrested, tried before a
justice of the peace, and usually sent to the county convict
farm to work out the fine and cost, especially the cost, but
under certain circumstances the fine may be held up dur-
ing good behavior, where satisfactory arrangements can
be made as to the cost. If he steals from a white man, he
is not usually arrested or tried at all, but is given one of
those ex-parte hearings above mentioned, and made to re-
turn the article stolen or pay its value, according to the
circumstances. If he steals tobacco, whisky, chickens or
watermelons from any white man for whom he is work-
ing, or for whom he has ever worked, nothing is ever done
*■ said to him about it at all, for it is well known to all
white people that he cannot help taking those things, and
is not responsible for his acts in the premises, and if any
white man should ever undertake to prosecute him on a
charge of this kind, he would have no more show before
a Mississippi jury than a paper shirt in a bear fight.
If a negro is guilty of selling whisky, cocaine, or carry-
ing a pistol he is severely dealt with, that being absolutely
necessary to protect the lives of both the white people, and
the negroes themselves, for there never was a more dan-
gerous combination than a negro, whisky or cocaine and a
pistol. He is just bound to kill somebody, and he does not
care who, when he has a pistol and is under the influence
of cocaine or mean whisky. On the other hand, all able-
bodied white males above the age of sixteen years, who
live in the black belt, where the negroes outnumber the
whites ten to one, are all supposed to have pistols of stand-
ard make and size, and are supposed to carry them all the
time, either concealed or otherwise, and are supposed to
know how to use them to the best advantage on the short-
est notice — and they usually do — notwithstanding, the
statute says that if any person who carries concealed, in
whole or part, and bowie knife, dirk knife, butcher knife,
pistol, etc., shall, on conviction, be fined not less than
$25.00 and the weapon so carried, shall be forfeited to the
state, and shall be, by the sheriff of the county where the
conviction occurred, publicly destroyed, etc., but this stat-
ute applies only to the negroes and the people who live in
the white belt and has no application to any white person
who lives in the black belt.
The statutes of Mississippi also say, that if any person
shall be convicted of murder, he shall suffer death, unless
the jury rendering the verdict shall fix the punishment at
imprisonment in the penitentiary for the life of the con-
vict. This statute only applies to a white man who kills
another one about something else besides a woman. If
the killing was about a woman, he is tried by the unwrit-
n law, and is either hanged, sent to the penitentiary or
acquitted, all depending on what woman the killing was
about, and what the facts were in that particular case. But
this statute does not apply to a negro at all. If he kills a
white man, and is caught, he suffers death in some form
other, the time, place and manner of his execution de-
ending altogether on who caught him, the sheriff's posse
r the friends of the deceased. If the sheriff's posse are
the first to get to him, he is hanged the fourth Friday after
court adjourns, but if the friends of the deceased are the
rst to get possession of him, he is executed at once, at or
near the place where the homicide occurred; the manner
of his death being always a matter of individual taste of
the parties conducting the ceremonies.
When a negro is indicted for killing another negro, he is
seldom, if ever, tried at all. The usual practice is for the
court to appoint some young inexperienced attorney to
defend him; then partly out of sympathy for the negro,
and partly out of sympathy for the young attorney, the
state's attorney will allow the negro to plead guilty with
the understanding that the jury will fix his punishment at
life imprisonment, and they will be instructed to bring in
a formal verdict to that effect. This plan always works
perfectly satisfactory to all parties concerned — the state
saves the expense of a long drawn out trial, the negro is
saved from being hanged, and the state gets another cotton
producer on the state farm. If he is a young negro — and
in most cases he is — he is good for about twenty years
service at the least, and ought to raise on an average of ten
bales of cotton each year, under the scientific methods
used there, and this cotton, after deducting the customary
shrinkage and graft, ought to net the state as much as
$75.00 per bale, or a sum total of $15,000.00, which from a
business standpoint, is worth a great deal more to the tax
payers than a public hanging.
There are only a few of the unwritten rules of practice
in this jurisdiction, the whole of which would fill a large
volume, and are rarely, if ever, understood by any one,
except the native born attorneys of this commonwealth.
State of /Mississippi vs. Dink
Some years ago, in the early part of June, Dink Cole-
man, a gent of ebony hue, a driver for the Delta Transfer
Company by occupation, and for many years past a resi-
dent of the city of Greenville, the county seat of Washing-
ton County, Mississippi, and which is situated on the east
bank of the "Father of Waters," sat upon the levee and
watched the sun disappear behind the willow fringed
shore of the Arkansas side; he watched the towboat Hen-
rietta drift slowly by with a long raft of logs in tow; he
also watched the steamer Ruth land, discharge her freight
and resume her southward journey. He then arose,
yawned, rubbed his eyes, stretched his arms and walked
across Washington avenue and down Walnut street to the
"Twilight Cafe," a place of refreshment for colored folks
only, and which was presided over by Ephriam Brown,
likewise a gent of color and who was its sole proprietor
and general manager.
Soon after Dink had seated himself on a vacant stool at
the refreshment counter, he and Ephriam had a disagree-
ment about the age, grade and quanity of hot-cat-fish that
had been served to Dink for the amount of money ex-
pended by him, to-wit: two bits, or the fourth part of a
dollar of the lawful money of the realm. Hot words be-
tween them were soon followed by blows; negroes ran
through the open door, and some jumped through the
windows; crockery crashed against the floor; furniture
was reduced to kindling wood; and pandemonium
When the dust of battle had cleared away, Ephriam
Brown lay on the floor in the midst of the wreckage, with
several ugly wounds on different parts of his person, in-
flicted by a certain deadly weapon, to- wit: a razor in the
hands of Dink Coleman, who was promptly arrested and
placed in the county jail to await further developments.
As soon as time, nature and local surgical talent had
made sufficient repairs on Ephriam to enable him to ap-
pear in court as the chief witness for the state, Dink was
given a preliminary hearing before His Honor, Judge
O'Riley, justice of the peace for district No. 3 of Washing-
<m county, on an affidavit charging, that he did, on or
about the 8th day of June, A. D. 19 -, in the county and
state aforesaid, with force and arms, wilfully, maliciously,
feloneously and of his malice aforethought, commit an
assault and battery upon the person of one Ephriam
Brown, with the intent, him the said Ephriam Brown, to
then and there kill and murder, against the peace and
dignity of the state of Mississippi.
When Dink was brought into court, and the charge had
been read to him, he was asked the usual question, "how
do you plead, guilty or not guilty?"
To which he replied : "No siree, jedge, I ain't done none
of them things to dat nigger."
"This is er put up job on me jedge. Dese here good-fer-
nuthin niggers is all got it in fer me jedge, 'cause I's er
nigger what mines my own business jedge and don't both-
er no body."
"No siree, jedge, I'se not guilty sir."
"Never was 'rested 'fore in my life, jedge, for nothin.
All the white folks in dis town will tell you dat 'bout me,
jedge." "And 'sides dat, jedge, dat nigger done hit me
once wid er fryin pan on my jaw 'fore I cut em, jedge."
"Won't some of you gen'emen over dare, please sir
phone Mr. Jimmie Coleman to come over here right quick.
He's my whitefolks and my lawyah."
"Mr. Jimmie" to whom Dink had referred, was the Hon-
orable James B. Coleman, one of the most able criminal
lawyers at the local bar. Before the war, Dink's father
had belonged to Mr. Coleman's father, and the feeling
which existed between him and Dink was similar to the
feelings which usually exist between two first cousins who
have never had any conflicting property rights, and Dink,
as a matter of course, expected "Mr. Jimmie" to fight all
of his legal battles for him.
In due time, Mr. Coleman appeared in court, perspiring
freely, and took charge of Dink's defense, or rather lack of
The state introduced witness after witness who swore,
that Dink had voluntarily entered the "Twilight Cafe"
and without any reason, real or apparent, had proceeded
to provoke a difficulty with the proprietor thereof, and
then carve him up in the most approved style with a razor.
Each of these witnesses was subjected to a grilling cross-
examination by Mr. Coleman, which was greatly enjoyed
by Dink, as well as all of the other negroes present, but
their testimony remained unimpeached. Dink offered no
testimony, and after some wrangling between counsel for
the state, and the defendant, it was agreed that Dink
should be placed under bond in the sum of one hundred
dollars to await the action of the next grand jury, which
bond was accordingly given, and Dink released from cus-
On the second Monday of the following July, the regular
criminal term of the circuit court of Washington county
convened, with Judge Harrison, a true type of the old
school, presiding. The weather was extremely warm and
the court room was filled to overflowing with a squirming
mass of humanity varying in color from the fair skinned,
blue eyed, red headed Anglo-Saxon to the jet black Afro-
The court was duly organized and called to order; the
grand jury was empanelled, sworn and charged; the dock-
et was then sounded; after which court adjourned for
Dink silently followed Mr. Coleman back to his office,
dropped his hat on the floor and himself into an empty
chair. Mr. Coleman also removed his hat, mopped his
brow, seated himself in a chair by an open window over-
looking the Mississippi, and gazed long and earnestly
across its waters. For quite a while neither he or Dink
spoke. Finally Dink said : "Mr. Jimmie, what you think
'bout our case now?" To which he replied, "Dink, I don't
like the looks of your case at all."
Dink's lower jaw dropped, his eyes shone like twin
moons, great beads of perspiration stood out on his ebony
brow, and an expression of utter spread over his face as he
"My Gawd, Mr. Jimmie, don't you think we can beat dis
"I am afraid not," said Mr. Coleman, "with the evidence
the state has against you, Dink."
"It seems to me, from what all of the witnesses say about
; t, that you just simply went down to this joint and 'raised
a rough house' without any provocation whatever, and
with that evidence against you, the jury, under their oaths,
will be bound to convict you."
"Den what?" said Dink.
"Well, in that case, you will be sent to the penitentiary,
that's what," said Mr. Coleman.
"My Gawd, Mr. Jimmie," said Dink, "I was just as drunk
as er biled owl when I done gone down dare and started all
dis trouble, and didn't no more know what I was doin than
er new born merino lamb. Please sir git me out of dis
"Drunkness is no defense to crime, Dink," said Mr.
Coleman, but of course, I am going to get you out of it if I
can, but am doubtful about being able to do it this time."
"Den don't you think I had just better be mozying on off
from 'bout here?" said Dink.
"Well," said Mr. Coleman, "as an attorney, I could not
advise you to do that. You are under bond to be in the
court room when your case is called, and unless you are
there, a forfeiture will be taken on your bond."
"What am dat, Mr. Jimmie?" said Dink.
"Your bondsmen will have to pay the amount of your
bond," said Mr. Coleman.
"Yas sir, yas sir, I see," said Dink.
"But if you are there," said Mr. Coleman, "I think you
will be convicted, and I know that if you are convicted, ^
you will be sent to the penitentiary; there is no doubt
"Thank you, Mr. Jimmie, thank you sir. I think I begins
to understand you now sir, yas sir," said Dink, and taking
up his hat he bowed himself out of the office and down
the stairs and was soon out of sight around the corner.
Before court adjourned for the day, the grand jury re-
turned several true bills, one of which was against Dink
Coleman, charging him with assault and battery with the
intent to kill and murder one Ephriam Brown, against the
peace and dignity of the State of Mississippi.
On the following morning Judge Harrison seemed to be
in a particularly bad frame of mind, due partly to the op-
pressive atmosphere, and partly to his advanced age. His
paint brush whiskers stood straight out; great beads of
perspiration rolled off of his round bald head, and his
eyes gleamed defiantly. It further appeared, that no one
who had been recently indicted was particularly anxious
for that speedy trial guaranteed to them by both State, and
Federal constitutions. First one lawyer and then another
was wrangling for a continuance. Some had sickness in
their families; others had certificates and affidavits from
reputable physicians showing that their client, or witness
was physically unable to attend court at this time, and
were further prepared to show that they could not safely
go to trial without him. Case after case had been called
and passed for the present, when the court called out in
an irritable voice, "State of Mississippi vs. Dink Coleman;
what sayeth the state?"
"Beady, your Honor," answered the district attorney.
"What sayeth the defendant?" said the court.
"State of Mississippi vs. Dink Coleman, charged with as-
sault and battery with the intent to kill and murder,"
called the court again.
Still no answer.
"Does any member of the bar represent the defendant
in this case?" stormed the court, but no one spoke.
"Mr. Sheriff," said the court, "where is the defendant in
"I don't know, your Honor," said the sheriff, "but I think
he is out on bond. He was here yesterday, but I don't
think I have seen him in here this morning."
"Mr. Clerk," said the court, "enter a fine of $50.00 against
this defendant for not being present in the court room
when his name was called, and Mr. Sheriff, I want you to
see that this fine is paid too."
Then an old wrinkled faced negro woman as black as
the proverbial ace of spades, slowly arose in the rear of
the crowded court room, and pointing a withered finger
towards the court, said : "Jedge, may I have a few words
"Sit down," thundered the court, and she automatically
dropped back into her seat.
"Mr. Sheriff," said the court, "I want you to keep order
in this court room. Call the defendant in this case. Go
o the window and call him."
"Dink Coleman, Dink Coleman, Dink Coleman, come
into court," called the sheriff, but no response.
"Mr. Clerk," said the court, "enter another fine of $50.00
against the defendant in this case. And, Mr. Sheriff, you
o out on the street and arrest him and bring him in here
before me, and I will learn him that the court room is the
place for him to be when court is in session, and not out on
some street corner."
For quite a while now everything was quiet in the court
room, save for the regular tick of the wall clock over the
judge's stand, and the gentle purr of a small electric fan
on the mantel at his right.
When the sheriff finally returned, he reported, that after
strict search, and diligent inquiry, Dink Coleman could
not be found.
The same old woman again arose, and looking dubious-
ly around the room, said: "Jedge, may I speak a few
words to you?"
"Yes," said the court, "what is it you want?"
She said: "Ain't dat Dink Coleman you all been axin
"Yas," said the court, "what do you know about him?"
"Well," she said, "as I were comin to town dis morn in,
1 seed Dink, 'bout nine miles south of here, settin on de
'cvee, and he told me, dat if I seed any body up here axin
'bout him, to giv em his regards and tell em dat he's done
gone to Arkansaw."
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