Map of Mississippi (Courtesy of Ancestry.com)
Article copied from http://www.afrigeneas.com/states/ms/
History & Background of Mississippi Slavery
When the government of the United States established the Mississippi Territory in 1798, the region around Natchez, which held the bulk of the population, contained about 5,000 whites and 3,500 slaves. Upon entering the union in 1817, Mississippi received slavery as a fully established economic and agricultural system. With the exception of the interior of the Delta region, which remained largely isolated and unsettled until after the Civil War, Mississippi by 1850 had been formed as illustrated by this county map.
In 1817 Mississippi had a population of about 40,000 whites and 30,000 African Americans. By 1860 African Americans made up 50% of Mississippi's total population of approximately 791,000 people. The African American's place was solidly established, regulated by legal codes and fueled by the institution of slavery.
At the time of its admission only the southern quarter and a narrow strip up the Mississippi to the Yazoo were open to legal settlement. The rest of the state was held by the Chickasaw and Choctow nations. By 1835 these Indian nations had lost all claims to their territory. An increasing flow of newcomers to the southern and eastern sections of the territory, mainly from Kentucky, Tennessee, South Carolina, Georgia, and the region above Mobile began to arrive. Those who arrived with sufficient capital quickly took possession of the better dark-soil lands and established plantations, leaving the cheaper uplands for those of lesser means. The French first introduced slavery into the Mississippi territory in the early 1700 and the English, who later settled into the territory, were eager purchasers of slaves.
The African American population was concentrated in the sections where the agricultural plantation was most prominent. The general feeling in the state was that their labor was essential to maintaining the plantation economy, and the African American would work only as a slave.*
Large numbers of slaves lived permanently in town, serving in a wide variety of occupations. In addition to the house servants, there were mechanics, draymen, hostlers, laborers, and washwomen. Some served as apprentices or helpers to white mechanics and builders, or worked in small factories catering to the local market.
Free African Americans living in Mississippi reached their greatest number around 1840, when the census listed 1,336, and they declined steadily, numbering only 775 in 1860. A majority were in the southwestern counties, with 255 in Adams County alone.
In 1860, during the last years of institutionalized slavery, African Americans in Mississippi numbered 437,303, compared with 353,901 whites. They were owned by 30,943 slaveholders, who possessed an average of 14.1 slaves each. The great mass who were of working age were field hands. Relatively small numbers had received special training as artisans or house servants.
Although slavery was abolished in 1865, African Americans living in Mississippi and throughout the south continued to be ruled by codes, institutionalized segregation. and the torment of the Ku Klux Klan. The negative attitude and hatred whites displayed toward blacks drove many southern blacks to migrate north to cities like Chicago, New York City and Detroit in search of employment opportunties and a better way of life.
*Click here to explore Mississippi plantation life. Indepth archealogical studies were conducted by the University of Southern Mississippi on six plantations throughout the state. Including the McCallum farm located in Forrest county and Saragossa plantation located Natchez district
see http://www.afrigeneas.com/states/ms/ for more information
©1999 Joyce Ann Huston - All Rights Reserved.