Betty Hill Lyons (b. 1878)
Field Hand and Cook
“This love I have, the world didn’t give it and the world can’t take it away.”
In her one hundred and fifth year, Betty Hill Lyons lived alone in a cabin at the end of dirt road distant from the city of Winston-Salem and close to the past. Her mother, a slave, was twelve years old “when they freed the colored people.” Never having learned to read or write, she depended on oral memory—and dreams—to describe her life on the farm, where her father was a sharecropper and her mother cooked and quilted. She worked on the farm and in a nearby factory and sometimes made a dollar a week. “I believe my fire has gone out,” she said, rising to renew the flames.