The enslaved population of Mississippi lived principally on large plantations along the Mississippi River. In some of these plantation counties, blacks outnumbered whites 9 to 1. Settled early by the French in the 1720s, which brutally squashed a rebellion of Natchez Indians and slaves in 1726, the state functioned as the western terminus of the domestic slave trade in the decades before the Civil War. The second largest slave market in the lower South was located in Natchez. Thousands of slaves were transported to the Natchez market for sale, and blacks in the upper South feared being sold “down river” to Mississippi. Almost all the enslaved of Mississippi worked in the backbreaking production of cotton as field hands. Several thousand enslaved blacks lived in urban places such as Natchez, Jackson, Vicksburg, and Columbus, where they were used as domestic servants or manual laborers. To control the enslaved population, the state passed one of the region’s harshest slave codes, subjecting those accused of serious crimes to special courts and severe punishment. Surprisingly, a few hundred blacks (1,366 in 1830) lived as free men and women in the state, working mostly as skilled tradesmen and small farmers. In the 1830s, at least a dozen free blacks were themselves slaveholders.
Available Information on this Website:
- Black roots: a Lineage of Surprises
Turns out not everyone is descended from African kings and Indian chiefs. Once science gets involved in genealogy, even the proudest African-Americans may turn out to be awash in European blood.
- Slave Narratives
From 1936 to 1938, over 2,300 former slaves from across the American South were interviewed by writers and journalists under the aegis of the Works Progress Administration (WPA). These former slaves, most born in the last years of the slave regime or during the Civil War, provided first-hand accounts of their experiences on plantations, in cities, and on small farms. Their narratives remain a peerless resource for understanding the lives of America’s four million slaves.
Available Resources Offsite:
Access Genealogy: The African American records section provides extensive listings and information of available free resources online for African American ancestral research across the United States.
AfriGeneas is a site devoted to African American genealogy, to researching African Ancestry in the Americas in particular and to genealogical research and resources in general. It is also an African Ancestry research community featuring the AfriGeneas mail list, the AfriGeneas message boards and daily and weekly genealogy chats.
Mississippi African American Griots
West African Griots are historians, storytellers, traditional praise singers and musicians. Their roles are hereditary and their surnames identify them as Griots. For example, Toumani Diabate of Mali comes from 70 generations of Griots. His father, Sidiki Diabate was considered the “King of the Kora” in Guinea, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Mali and The Gambia. When he died, memorials were held in each of these countries, attended by foreign diplomats, government officials and musicians. The most famous Griot in each of these countries was chosen to preside over the memorials and to celebrate the life of Sidiki Diabate by “singing his praises” and recounting his life story.