February 1, 1938
Western Historical Manuscripts Collection
University of Missouri Columbia, Missouri
(Malinda Discus is seventy-eight years of age, November 4, 1937 and lives in the Sand Mountain district, ten miles northeast of Greenfield, Missouri in Dade County.)
Aunt Malinda, I want to ask you some questions about your life.
All right, I will tell you anything you want to'know.
First: What is your name and where were you born?
My name as a slave was Rowena Malinda Sloan, and I was born November 4, 1859.
Was Sloan the name of your parents?
Itwas my, mother's.name. Shewas Ellen Sloan. You see itwas this way; my mother was a houseservant and belonged to a man named Sloan. But my father belonged to a man named Clopton and lived on another place. His full name was Emanuel Clopton. They were married and had three children when my mother and we three children were sold to a man named Nate McCluer. I was a babe in my mother's arms so I don't know anything about the sale except what I have been told. I have been told though, that my mother, sister and brother and I brought sixteen hundred dollars. Later my brother was resold and sent down south somewhere and I never saw him again until he was almost grown. My mother and I were traded in on land to Ned Discus. The same man that owned Mark, my husband (see separate story "Uncle Mark Discus File 254)
Did you ever see your father again?
Oh yes. He and my mother were still man and wife. His master died and his missus married again to uncle Ned Discus. So that is how we all come to belong to the same man.
How many children were there in your parents family?
There were nine of them in all but part of them were born free children. I remember something interesting that took place after my mother and father had been man and wife for years. They wanted to get married again and so they did. The family was almost all raised by this time but they went and done it. They had a license and done it in white folks style. Yes indeed. One day they dressed up in their best clothes, mounted their horses and rode over to Squire McConnells and had the marriage performed all over again. I now think about how we children played around the cabin door, while they were gone, and sang, "Pappy and mamma have gone to get married".
Do you recall very much of your experience as a slave?
No Sir, not very much. I was not very old when we was made free. My mother was a fine cook and worked indoors mostly, though she did some work in the fields too. I ran errands for her and looked after the younger children.
Then, you spent your childhood much as other children did?
No Sir, we always knew we were slaves and made to feel inferior to the white folks.
Were you ever punished?
I don't recall ever being whipped, but my Missus was hard to please and would box my ears and scold me sometimes.
Did you have any good times playing with the other children?
We played when we could, of course, and I recall a certain time which we all enjoyed. It was the wedding of our Master's son. There was a great deal of cooking done for the marriage feast and we children got to lick all the pots and pans like kids do.
Christmas was always a time we liked. If we could manage to say "Christmas gift" to any of the Master's family on Christmas morning before they spoke to us, they would have to give us a gift of some kind. We always mostly were first. The gift might be some clothes or a stick of candy. Store candy--as we called it--was a real treat.
Did you go to school?
Not until after we were free. The colored people had a school of their own and I went until I could read and write. The rest of my education I picked up fromwhite folks and reading. I use to read a great deal before I lost my sight.
'What did your parents do after they were made free?
They bought a farm and worked it until they got too old. They sold it then and moved to Greenfield where they spent the remaining years of their life. They are both dead now. My father lived until 1918.
Do you recall anything about the war?
I remember that my mother use to gather us children around her and pray that we would not be separated. She was separated from her parents when eleven years old and brought to Missouri from Tennessee. She never saw any of her folks again and the last words her mother said to her was: "Daughter, if I never see you again any more on earth, come to heaven
and I will see you there."
Did you go to church?
Yes, our Master took his slaves to meetin' with him. They had one corner where they sat with the slaves of other people. There was always something about that I couldn't understand. They treated the colored folks like animals and would not hesitate to sell and separate them, yet they seemed to think they had souls and tried to make christians of them.
I was raised up to be a Cumberland Presbyterian.
Do you think Lincoln did right in declaring you free?
Certainly I do!
I understood your husband to say that the Discus family were Southern sympathizers. Did they try to influence you, slaves?
Oh yes, they tried to make us believe that we couldn't take care of ourselves if we were free.
How old were yuo when you were married?
I was nearly twenty-four. Mark courted me the same as white folks do. We went to church and parties together. My wedding dress was made of dove gray woolen goods, made "Polonaise" and trimmed in blue satin. There was a frill of white net at the neck and cuffs and a white satin bow and sash. My shoes were high button shoes of glove kid. I also had a vail two yards long and white gloves.
Well, you both are not very unhappy now, are you?
Oh no! Our life at present is very happy. Sometimes we sing over the old songs together and look forward with hope. Maybe there are
happy times ahead for us. Who knows?
(Mr. Howard Farmer, Route #1 Greenfield, Missouri helped materially in securing this story.)