Unit 7: Post-Reconstruction (1877 – 1935)

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

The Inspiration Behind Mound Bayou, written by Rev. Darryl R. Johnson and the Mound Bayou Movement.

People To Know
Benjamin Montgomery (1819–1877) was an influential African-American inventor, landowner, and freedman in Mississippi. He was taught to read and write, and became manager of supply and shipping for Joseph Emory Davis at Hurricane Plantation at Davis Bend. He was the father of Isaiah Montgomery, founder of Mound Bayou.
Davis Bend: One of the First All-Black Towns Developed After the Civil War.
Founded in 1887 the city of Mound Bayou Mississippi was founded by Isaiah T. Montgomery, and his cousin Benjamin T. Green former slaves of Jefferson Davis, brother Joseph Davis, former President of the Confederacy. These slaves however, were born into a family that ran the business sector of one of the largest and enterprising plantation in that area of the country. Montgomery’s father, Benjamin Montgomery was the contributing factor behind the successful mastermind of the Davis’ notable enterprise.

After the Civil War, Jefferson Davis and his brother Joseph Davis knew and understood quite well the shaky foundation of the existing situation in the South, and knew only too well that Montgomery’s close relationship to Jefferson Davis posed a threat of the confiscation of his lands. Thus when Joseph Davis lands were returned to him in 1866, he had already signed an agreement with Benjamin Montgomery and Sons to act as rent collectors for 1866, and on November 15, 1866 he agreed to sell the lands to Montgomery for $300,000, or $75 per acre. In a period of confusion and animosity, Benjamin Montgomery had played his cards to the fullest, and the first true experiment in Black economic self-determination in Mississippi was about to begin.

The Davis Bend Colony

The Montgomerys quickly prepared for their colonizing ventur by placing several advertisements in the Vicksburg papers such as the following:

"The undersigned (Montgomery) having secured for a term of three years the Hurricane and Brierfield plantations proposes to organize a community composed exclusively of colored people, to occupy and cultivate said plantations, and invites the cooperation of such as are recommended by honesty, industry, sobriety, and intelligence in the enterprise..."

Montgomery had told Davis that he preferred renting the land to tenants, and it was this system that he did, in fact, implement. All the land was titled in his name, and it was his commissary which furnished most of the people with supplies. The Montgomerys enlarged their commissary, constructed a smoke house, a saw mill, a gin, and their own dock. They charged a .50 per acre entrance fee, as well, to help construct levees. A system of self-government was instituted in which the governing body was a community council selected by the community. This council was entrusted with making laws, levying taxes for education, and retained the right to expel any member of the community for breaking the laws of the community. The first year, 1867, was nearly a complete disaster for the colony. A devastating overflow which produced several cases of cholera, combined with the attack of the cut-worm to place many colonists badly in debt. ​

People To Know
Joseph Emory Davis (1784-1870) was a lawyer who became one of the wealthiest planters in Mississippi in the antebellum era; he was among the nine men in Mississippi who owned more than 300 slaves. He was the elder brother (by 23 years) of Jefferson Davis and acted as his surrogate father for several years. Jefferson Davis later became the President of the Confederacy. Joseph Davis was a a proponent of Robert Dale Owen’s ideals concerning communal living and cooperation, Davis established a self-governing slave court for his enslaved laborers, thus sidestepping the usual overseer system for punishment.


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