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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

StudyGuide

Learning Objectives
After completing this lesson, students 
will be able to:
​​
  • Analyze the reasons Black people sought to build their own towns after enslavement instead of integrate with Whites.
  • Discuss how Black people governed themselves and worked together for mutual assistance after enslavement.

  • Understand the concept of cooperative economics and how it was used to build and sustain Mound Bayou.

  • Discuss the hardships Blacks faced in creating and sustaining Mound Bayou.

Class Overview

Contrary to popular belief, the end of African enslavement after the Civil War did not mean that Black people were in a much better social, economic or political position than slavery. In fact, many Black historians point to the first three decades after the Civil War as the nadir, or worst period of African American history. Under slavery, African Americans were protected to a degree from outright murder because they were someone's property. After slavery was over, this was no longer the case, and thus countless Black men, women and children were mercilessly killed by angry Whites all over the South following the Civil War for charges real or imagined. This is the period of American history referred to as Reconstruction. This is when the Ku Klux Klan first began, lynching began, sharecropping began, and the modern day prison system began, which sought to re-enslave Black men and strip them of their new right to vote. Historian Dorothy Sterling has captured the harsh reality of life for Blacks immediately following the Civil War in her well-researched book, "The Trouble They Seen: The Story of Reconstruction in the Words of African Americans."​​ This book is a must read for any real understanding of the Reconstruction period from an African American perspective.

After the Civil War, even though Black people were declared free and equal under the law, they were not treated as such. White people were not ready to treat people as equals whom they treated as non-human for centuries. It was an absolutely humiliating and unthinkable concept for Southern Whites. They had fought against it and lost, badly. Over 800,000 White men died during the Civil War. Not only did they had to come home and bury hundreds of thousands of their men (fathers, husbands, brothers, sons), they had to face the immediate financial loss as a result of the War, and to add insult to injury they had to now accept their former slaves as equals, and quite possibly as superiors. Their rage manifested itself in all types of unspeakable violence against Black people, and they conspired on every level to reduce Blacks to a second-class position.  

Mound Bayou was a successful attempt on behalf of African Americans to to create a prosperous all-Black town while providing a safe haven away from Whites. The goal of the colonists, who were all formerly enslaved, was to establish from the ground up an all-Black town that would be governed by its members and free of the influence, violence, and intimidation of Whites. Their strategy for Black liberation was separation and withdrawal from Southern politics, and Black/White cooperation in all things of economic interests. They understood through ceaseless violence that White people were not willing to accept them as neighbors, let alone as their equals. And they were certainly not ready to respect them in positions of authority as judges, policemen, and Congressmen. In response, the pioneers of Mound Bayou, led by Isaiah Montgomery, created one of the first successful all-Black towns after slavery based on cooperative economics. What they accomplished is a remarkable tale of unity, resiliency, dedication, perseverance, democracy, hard work, leadership and faith. Mound Bayou became a model community that others sought to emulate, and it inspired individuals such as Booker T. Washington, who would go on to promote Mound Bayou as a viable strategy for self-determination. 

This class is Part 1 of our two part series on Mound Bayou. Part 2 provides an indepth look into the political life of Isaiah Montgomery, the founder of Mound Bayou. Because of his position of leadership and his political beliefs, he was selected by Southern Whites as the only Black person to attend the 1890 Mississippi Constitutional Convention, in which he voted no in regards to the "Negro" voting question. This was seen at the time as a huge betrayal by the Black community and Isaiah Montgomery faced a lifetime of contempt from those he sought to led. Part 2 re-examines this political decision within the context of the reality in which he lived.

Unit 7: Class 1: Mound Bayou: One of the First All-Black Towns Founded by Formerly Enslaved Blacks  PART 1

Study Questions!

Suggested Vocabulary
Randomly ask students the definition of one of the following words. Then ask them to put the word in a sentence. This is a great exercise for the beginning or end of a class, or if you finish a class early.

Reconstruction - closely associated with or suggestive of something.

Negro - is a dated term historically used to refer to persons of African descent. Negro superseded Colored as the most polite word for African Americans at a time when black was considered more offensive. However, during the 1950s and 1960s, some black American leaders, notably Malcolm X, objected to the word Negro because they associated it with the long history of slavery, segregation, and discrimination that treated African Americans as second class citizens, or worse. 

nadir - the lowest point in the fortunes of a person or organization.

sharecropping - Sharecropping is a form of agriculture in which a landowner allows a tenant to use the land in return for a share of the crops produced on their portion of land. This was a corrupt system that often cheated Black people out of their labor and reduced them to basically back to slaves.
  

resiliency - the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.

perseverance - persistence in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.

influx - an arrival or entry of large numbers of people or things.

surplus - an amount of something left over when requirements have been met; an excess of production or supply over demand.

acre - a unit of land area equal to 4,840 square yards (0.405 hectare).

indebtedness - the condition of owing money.

conspicuous - standing out so as to be clearly visible.
   
foreclosure - the action of taking possession of a mortgaged property when the mortgagor fails to keep up their mortgage payments.
   
imminent - about to happen.
   
proprietor - the owner of a business, or a holder of property.
   
capitulation - the action of surrendering or ceasing to resist an opponent or demand.

prophetic - accurately describing or predicting what will happen in the future.
From "A Town Owned By Negroes" 
 
1. True or False? The land that Mound Bayou sits on was already clear. Therefore, it was easy to recruit Blacks to settle in Mound Bayou.
 
2. Who was the founder of Mound Bayou?
 
3. True or False? Even though Mound Bayou was an all-Black town, it was governed by White people.
 
4.  True or False? When the first settlers arrived at Mound Bayou they had plenty of cash to buy tools, seeds and provisions to plant crops.
           
5.  How did the settlers earn money while they were clearing the land at Mound Bayou? How much did they earn?

6. True or False? The Mound Bayou community collectively owned the 30,000 acres that made up the town.

7.   How did the business of the town grow in its first 20 years?

8. Why was the Mound Bayou Loan and Investment Company formed?

9.  How was the social life in Mound Bayou? Was there a lot of crime? What happened to unmarried couples living together?

10. Would you have wanted to live in Mound Bayou had you been born during that time? Why or why not?

11.  Was Mound Bayou a success or failure?

12.  Why did Mound Bayou ultimately fail?

Home

E-Books/Articles


JOURNAL ARTICLE
Booker T. Washington and the Town of Mound Bayou, August Meier
Phylon (1940-1956)
Vol. 15, No. 4 (4th Qtr., 1954), pp. 396-401
(located at Clark Atlanta University)

Up From Slavery, Booker T. Washington


Documentaries/Videos