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The Standing on the Shoulders of Giants "Teach & Learn" Black History Curriculum​​

Specially designed for Parents, Teachers, Homeschool, or Independent Study, grades 5+

Where Black
History Lives!​

Unit 7: Post-Reconstruction (1877 – 1935)

Class 1: Mound Bayou: One of the First All-Black Towns Founded by Formerly Enslaved Blacks PART 1

Insipration Behind Mound Bayou cont.​​

Nevertheless, the colonists did as well as could be expected, and in fact shipped more bales of cotton than any of their white neighbors. By 1869 the colonists were on their "feet, shipping twice as many bales of cotton as in 1867. The census of 1870 listed Montgomery as worth $50,000, though others closer to the experiment claimed his wealth was closer to $200,000. By 1873 one newspaper article claimed Montgomery paid over $2,000 per year in taxes, and at the Cincinnati Exposition that year, Montgomery and Sons, billed as the third largest cotton producer in the South, won all the prizes for cotton. Lerone Bennet, referring to this era, claims the Montgomerys entertained in "Gone with the Wind" style!

The most difficult problem facing the Davis Bend colony was its relation to the larger white society. The reaction to the colony was less than warm in most parts of the state. A Jackson, Mississippi newspaper commented in 1866, "All we have to say on the subject is that we would prefer not to be a planter adjoining or adjacent to one of these colonies." Though there were only 40 whites on Davis Bend in 1870, and the geography of the Bend gave the colonists some degree of isolation, they continually had problems with local whites. In 1865 some mules were stolen from the Montgomery's. They took the ease to court and won the mules back, but they were returned diseased. Whites were now moving to overthrow the Reconstruction governments in the Vicksburg area. Montgomery’s tenants were often stopped and jailed on trumped up charges; their wells poisoned and their ports (docks) burned by fires of mysterious origins.

As the federal influence constantly withdrew, the Montgomery's were placed in a virtually powerless position. Therefore, they concocted a strategy of political non-involvement that went a long way towards soothing relations with whites. Montgomery advertised in the local paper.

“Regarding the suffrage question as of doubtful utility, the discussion of it and other political topics is more likely to produce contention and idleness that harmony in the community, such discussions will be discouraged.” When Benjamin Montgomery was appointed Justice of the Peace on Davis Bend in 1867 (thus becoming the first Black to hold a state office after the Civil War), the event caused such resentment among local whites that he sent Isaiah around to them, assuring that he would not hear cases involving local whites. Despite the apparent submissiveness of Montgomery to local whites, it is quite clear that this was only used as a type of strategy to pacify whites, for he was intimately involved in securing Black control of the Davis plantations. He had locked horns with whites' in securing a Black postmaster at Davis Bend, and he kept himself well informed of all political movements in the state by sending Ben Green as observer to all political meetings. Moreover, the colonists participated in all elections, voting solidly Republican even in the election of 1876. By 1873 the colonists had established quite an empire; however, the next seven years would witness the total demise of this empire. Several factors were involved in this dramatic reversal. The price of cotton continued to fall drastically from the high point in 1863 of $1.00 per lb. to less than .09 per lb. in 1880, The location of the plantations on the river left them vulnerable to continuous overflows, and many of the tenants began to get understandably discouraged migrating to Kansas, Oklahoma and other places in search of better fortunes. The clincher came in 1874 when Jefferson Davis, four years following the death of Joseph Davis, did an abrupt about face, and filed suit for the Brierfield Plantation, or its value in terms of the notes due the Davis estate by the Montgomery's, all of which had been willed to Jefferson’s children. Davis fought the case all the way to the Supreme Court, finally winning in June of 1878 to have title reverted to him.

Though the lawsuit was not against the Montgomery's, Davis’ intentions were less than clear. A newspaper writer of the times claimed Joseph Davis had been sincere in his dealings with the Montgomery's, yet Jefferson Davis had only wanted to “keep his property safe until the storm of indignation against him at the North should blow over, when he hoped to get it back.” In any event, two years later, Davis instituted foreclosure proceedings upon the Montgomery's, and once again Brierfield was his. Benjamin Montgomery passed from this life in 1878.

People To Know
Isaiah Montgomery (1847–1924) was the son of Benjamin Davis and the founder of Mound Bayou. Isaiah was a visionary leader who influenced Booker T. Washington. Washington saw Mound Bayou as a model all-Black community that should be replicated all over America. Both Montgomery and Washington saw separate Black communities as the key to Black liberation. They believed that Whites would never see Blacks as equals until Blacks demonstrated that they are capable of creating and developing their own independent communities.  What do you think?
People To Know
Jefferson Davis (1808-1889) Jefferson Davis was the much younger brother of Joseph Davis. Joseph gave Jefferson, who would later become the President of the Confederacy, a plantation adjoining his called Brierfield Plantation. 

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