Davis Bend, Mississippi

Davis Bend, Mississippi was originally founded by planter Joseph E. Davis as a model plantation slave community. He and his younger brother Jefferson Davis, future President of the Confederate States of America, had large plantations about 20 miles south of Vicksburg.

History

Davis was influenced by the utopian ideas of Robert Owen, whom he met in the 1820s during Owen's tour in the United States. When he established his plantation Hurricane at Davis Bend, Davis worked to create a model slave community there. He hoped to show that a higher functioning community could be achieved within slavery. He allowed a high degree of self-government for his 350 slaves, provided better nutrition and health and dental care, and created a communal environment. He worked closely with Benjamin T. Montgomery, a literate African slave, whom he allowed to establish a store on the property.

In the aftermath of the American Civil War, Davis Bend developed into an autonomous free community when Davis sold the property in 1867 to his former slave Benjamin T. Montgomery. The community continued as a cooperative until the 1880s, but continually falling cotton prices, an economic depression, and hostility from the white community finally caused it to fail.

Isaiah Montgomery, Benjamin's son, led many of the residents to a new black community, founding Mound Bayou in northwest Mississippi. It expanded and thrived through the 1920s.

References

  • Janet Sharp Hermann, The Pursuit of a Dream, NY: OUP, 1981

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