Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Annie Bell Williams Cheatham, March 21, 1995. Interview Q-0015. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Flour sacks served as dress material for poor black sharecroppers

Annie Cheatham describes being a poor sharecropping mother in North Carolina and using flour sacks to make dresses for her children. She would either try to bleach out the logos on the sack, or try to coordinate them so as to make patterns. When the clothes got old, they did not throw them away but just turned them inside-out and continued to wear them. She talks about those being "sad times."

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Annie Bell Williams Cheatham, March 21, 1995. Interview Q-0015. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

ANNIE BELL CHEATHAM:
Sad times [unclear]
JAMES EDDIE McCOY:
It was?
ANNIE BELL CHEATHAM:
Yeah, Lord Jesus. Used to go to town, and didn't buy much flour and stuff because always raised wheat, and then our bread, and go away to town and got a sack of flour that was a letter, it was a letter on it. . .
JAMES EDDIE McCOY:
I never seen it, but they say it was.
ANNIE BELL CHEATHAM:
It was, I've made a many, me myself, I have my children a many dresses, pretty too, with the letters on it.
JAMES EDDIE McCOY:
Well, what did you do with the letter, tell me about it.
ANNIE BELL CHEATHAM:
See, way I would do, soak it, see you soak the letter out, but it was a pretty letter. . .
JAMES EDDIE McCOY:
Was it like a alphabet a A, B, W, something like that?
ANNIE BELL CHEATHAM:
Sometimes it be a wheat. . .
JAMES EDDIE McCOY:
Okay, I know what you talking about, it be the design of what's in the bag.
ANNIE BELL CHEATHAM:
Yeah, and if he bring, if he go to town if he get, bring one this time I save one, bring next time, I save them, see I take both of them and put them together.
JAMES EDDIE McCOY:
Like making a suit.
ANNIE BELL CHEATHAM:
I got a dress.
JAMES EDDIE McCOY:
And a dress. And then when they get old, you turn the outside in, the outside, and the children didn't notice, when it got old, you didn't throw it way. . .
ANNIE BELL CHEATHAM:
No.
JAMES EDDIE McCOY:
You reversed it. You wore the outside then. . . .
ANNIE BELL CHEATHAM:
Yeah, I would take it, lot of time I take them, if they got that pretty letters on them, I take them and make underclothes of them.
JAMES EDDIE McCOY:
That's right, that what they say.
ANNIE BELL CHEATHAM:
I did, I did that myself.