The story of a utopia created by Mississippi freedmen on a white man's former plantation
This fascinating history set in the Reconstruction
South is a testament to African-American resilience, fortitude, and independence.
It tells of three attempts to create an ideal community on the river bottom
lands at Davis Bend south of Vicksburg. There Joseph Davis's effort to
establish a cooperative community among the slaves on his plantation was
doomed to fail as long as they remained in bondage. During the Civil War
the Yankees tried with limited success to organize the freedmen into a
model community without trusting them to manage their own affairs.
After the war the intrepid Benjamin Montgomery
and his family bought the land from Davis and established a very prosperous
colony of their fellow freedmen. Their success at Davis Bend occurred when
blacks were accorded the opportunity to pursue the American dream relatively
free from the discrimination that prevailed in most of society. It is a
story worthy of celebration.
Janet Hermann writes here of two men--Joseph
Davis, the slaveholder and brother of the president of the Confederacy,
and Benjamin Montgomery, an educated freedman. In 1866 Montgomery
began the experiment at Davis Bend.
The Pursuit of a Dream, published
in 1981, received the Robert F. Kennedy Award, the McLemore Prize of the
Mississippi Historical Society, and the Silver Medal of the Commonwealth
Club of California.
"Historical writing at its best . . . her
research is impressive and is presented in balanced, ironic prose." --David
Bradley, New York Times Book Review
"A marvelous story for all readers with
a taste for the ironies, the ambiguities, and the surprises of history."
--C. Vann Woodward
Janet Sharp Hermann, a freelance writer and historian, is the author
of Joseph E. Davis: Pioneer Patriarch (University Press of Mississippi).