Girl at Gee's Bend [Artelia Bendolph]

Arthur Rothstein1937

Souls Grown Deep

Souls Grown Deep
Atlanta, United States

Artelia Bendolph in the window of her grandfather Patrick's house on the old Pettway plantation land.

"It was rough growing up in Gee's Bend. I was bom down there August 7th, 1927. My mother was named Daisy Wilcox; my daddy was Izzard Hunter. My mother took ill the night I was born. Didn't walk for three years after. Her father was Old Man Patrick Bendolph, my grandfather, and him and my grandmother Indiana took me and raised me.

"I worked a little in the fields when I was a child. I have hoed and picked cotton, except I was kind of sick and my granddaddy wouldn't let me work much. I took them lunch down to the field, and their breakfast and their dinner. My family would pick a bale of cotton, and my grandfather take it to the gin. They chopped cotton, corn, millet to make syrup, pick peas, peanuts. They put it in the barn during the summer so during the winter we got something to eat. Have our own hogs, cows; kill a cow and pickle it in a barrel. Don't know how they done it but it sure taste good. Kill a hog, salted them down, hang them up in the smokehouse. My grandmother used to can peaches and vegetables. She had this great big old washpot, cut up the okra, tomatoes, onions. Make a big old pot of soup, put it in jars, put it in the smokehouse. In the wintertime we chop wood for the fire and have hot soup. It wasn't easy in the country.

"As I got older, I went to the fields, but the sun got hot, my head start hurting, and I had to knock off. First we lived in a old log cabin. Then they built this project house. My grandfather owned that house. I moved to Mobile about the last of '48 to find me a job to help out my mother. She was sick. Grand­ father died in '57 and left the house to Rubin. Mary Lee [Bendolph] got it now.

"I didn't do no quilting, but I help out. They used to have it on a frame. Spread the blanket on the floor, take the stick and beat the cotton out, take the cotton and whip it into the quilt. Didn't have no electric lights; had to be quilting by lamp. I remember one time the lamp turned over and burned her neck, her bosom, all over her real bad. She was Rubin's mama, Mary Lee's mother-in-law.

"People know about me from that picture."


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