Natchez, Mississippi, is the oldest continuous settlement on the Mississippi River and birthplace of the Magnolia State. Located in the southwest Mississippi just a short drive from New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Natchez was established in 1716 and is intentionally known as a quaint, Southern town with culture and heritage shaped by people of Native American, African, French, British, and Spanish descent.
Until recently, the reality of Black Mississippi was eclipsed by the illusion of the romantic Old South of white columns and white magnolias portrayed in popular tourist literature. Natchez is much more. Natchez African Americans have a remarkable history that is nationally significant. In Natchez lived Ibrahima, the famous enslaved African prince. America’s first black concert singer, Elizabeth Taylor Greenfield, was born into slavery on a Natchez Plantation. William Johnson, important chronicler of free people of color in Natchez, lived his entire life in Natchez. Hiram R. Revels, the first to sit in either house of the United States Congress, went to Washington from the pulpit of Zion Chapel A.M.E. Church. And Richard Wright, one of the most powerful literary voices of the twentieth century, was the son of Natchez sharecroppers. There are dozens of African American heritage sites in Natchez. The Forks of the Road is the site of the second largest slave market in the south. Along with its churches and other historic landmarks, Natchez is a rare find for those eager to experience Southern history.
To live in Natchez is to live among symbols. Dunleith, Stanton Hall, & Longwood to name a few, aren’t just symbols of the privileged white planters, they are the symbol of strength to the African American spirit and ability. According to historian, Ronald L.F. Davis, author of The Black Experience in Natchez 1720- 1880, to partake of Natchez “is to comprehend the burden of its history… To know Natchez is to understand that it has always been a tragic and magical place—a town filled with people endowed with great charm, dignity, and tremendous sense of the past.”
Abdul-Rahman ibn Ibrahima Sori (Arabic: عبد الرحمن ابن ابراهيم سوري) (1762–1829)
was a West African nobleman and Amir (commander or governor) who was captured in the Fouta Jallon region of Guinea, West Africa and sold to slave traders in the United States in 1788. Upon discovering his noble lineage, his slave master Thomas Foster, began referring to him as "Prince", a title by which Abdul Rahman would remain synonymous until his final days. After spending 40 years in slavery, he was freed in 1828 by order of U.S. President John Quincy Adams and Secretary of State Henry Clay after the Sultan of Morocco requested his release.
Elizabeth Taylor Greenfield
(1820 – March 31, 1876)
was an African American singer considered the best-known black concert artist of her time. She was lauded by James M Trotter for her "remarkably sweet tones and wide vocal compass". In the early 1820s, Greenfield's mistress, Elizabeth H. Greenfield, a former plantation owner who moved to Philadelphia after divorcing her second husband and emancipated her slaves. In about 1851, Greenfield began to sing at private parties, debuting at the Buffalo Music Association From 1851 to 1853 she toured as managed by Colonel J. H. Wood, a P.T. Barnun-style promoter and supporter of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, who would not allow black patrons into her concerts. In 1853, Greenfield debuted at Metropolitan Hall in New York City, which held an audience of 4,000—white patrons only. After the concert, Greenfield apologized to her own people for their exclusion from the performance and gave a concert to benefit the Home of Aged Colored Persons and the Colored Orphan Asylum. Greenfield gave a commanding performance for the queen at Buckingham Palace, on May 10, 1854; she was the first African American performer to perform before British royalty.
Hiram Rhodes Revels
(September 27, 1827 – January 16, 1901)
was a Republican U.S. Senator, minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME), and a college administrator. Born free in North Carolina, he later lived and worked in Ohio, where he voted before the Civil War. He became the first African American to serve in the US Congress when he was elected to the United States Senate as a Republican to represent Mississippi in 1870 and 1871 during the Reconstruction era.
Revels had helped organize two regiments of the United States Colored Troops and served as a chaplain. After serving in the Senate, Revels was appointed as the first president of Alcorn Agricultural and Mechanical College (now Alcorn State University) and served from 1871 to 1873 and 1876 to 1882. Later in his life, he served again as a minister.
John Roy Lynch
(September 10, 1847 – November 2, 1939)
was an African-American Republican politician, writer, attorney and military officer. Born into slavery in Louisiana, he became free in 1863 under the Emancipation Proclamation. His father was an Irish immigrant and his parents had a common-law marriage. After serving for several years in the state legislature, in 1873 Lynch was elected as the first African-American Speaker of the Mississippi House of Representatives; he was the first African American to hold this position in the country. During Reconstruction after the American Civil War, he was among the first generation of African Americans from the South elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, serving from 1873 to 1877 and again in the 1880s. Faced with increasing restrictions in Mississippi, Lynch studied law, passed the bar, and returned to Washington, DC to set up a practice. He is best known for his book, The Facts of Reconstruction (1913).
Richard N. Wright
(September 4, 1908 – November 28, 1960) was an American author of novels, short stories, poems, and non-fiction. Much of his literature concerns racial themes, especially related to the plight of African Americans during the late 19th to mid-20th centuries, who suffered discrimination and violence in the South and the North. Literary critics believe his work helped change race relations in the United States in the mid-20th century. His memoir, Black Boy, covers the interval in his life from 1912 until May 1936.
Native Son, which was published in 1940. After publication, Native Son was selected by the Book of the Month Club as its first book by an African-American author.
He died in Paris on November 28, 1960, of a heart attack at the age of 52. He was interred in Le Père Lachaise Cemetery.
The Forks of the Road Market
had the highest volume of illegal slave sales in Natchez, and Natchez had the most active illegal slave trading market in Mississippi. This also stimulated the city's wealth. The market, at the intersection of two streets, became especially important after the slave traders Isaac Franklin of Tennessee and John Armfield of Virginia purchased the land in 1823. Tens of thousands of mistreated slaves passed through the market, transported from Virginia and the Upper South (many by walking overland), and destined for the plantations in the Deep South. In this forced migration, more than one million enslaved Black American were taken from their families and moved southward. All trading at the market ceased by the summer of 1863, when Union troops occupied Natchez. In the mid-1990's Ser Seshs Ab Heter-CM Boxley took up the cause for preservation of the Forks of The Road Market. With success he has worked endlessly to keep the site preserved and apart of the story of Natchez, Mississippi.
By: Jeremy Houston
From the 1st Africans to be enslaved in Natchez to the 2nd Largest Slave Market in the Deep South to the burning of the Rhythm Night Club. Natchez' history is the make up of what Natchez was, is, and will be for the future. How Well Do Know The Black History Of Natchez Mississippi is a book that explains the trials, tribulations, triumphs of African Americans in Natchez from 1719-present.
20 QUESTION QUIZ & ANSWER INCLUDED
"To know Natchez is to understand that it has always been a tragic and magical place-- a town filled with people endowed with great charm, dignity, and tremendous sense of past."
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Available in print January 2019