Ex-Slaves Dream Of A Model Negro Colony Comes True

The 13th amendment ended slavery in the United States when it was ratified in 1865. In 1887, Isaiah Montgomery founded Mound Bayou as an independent black community of freed slaves. Slightly smaller than one square mile, Mound Bayou today has a population of just over 2,000 people, 98.43% of whom are African American (as of the 2000 census), which is one of the largest black populations by percentage in the U.S.

The article is a fascinating look at race relations in 1910. I found the article’s account of what happens when white visitors come to Mound Bayou to be especially interesting:

It might be supposed that the white visitor to a community composed entirely of blacks would be expected to put himself on a plane with them, and if he sought their hospitality he must break bread with them on terms of perfect equality. But such is far from the case.

If a white man desires to spend the night in Mound Bayou he finds that certain rooms in the hotel are reserved exclusively for white visitors. They are neat and cleanly to a degree of nicety, far in advance of what is found in the average country hotel, and instead of being asked to eat at the table, or even in the same dining room with the colored boarders, the white sojourner’s meals are served in his own room in a most appetizing manner.

For more distinguished white visitors a pretty, cheerful room is set aside in the home of Isaiah Montgomery, the hospitality accorded being probably best expressed in the language of a Memphis newspaper writer, who was one of the first white men to spend a night in the colony.

“When I realized,” he said, “that we would be compelled to remain over night in Mound Bayou I began to wonder what treatment we, the only two white people in the place, would receive. I asked Montgomery about some place to eat and sleep, and he replied that there was a room at his home that had never been occupied excepting by white people. To his house my companion and myself were taken. We were met in the hall by Montgomery’s wife and two daughters, neatly dressed and with a manner and refinement that were a revelation. They had prepared for us a savory supper, which we ate with much relish in the regular dining room all by ourselves.

“Our bedroom was neat, clean, and as nicely furnished as you will find in the average hotel. After some conversation with Montgomery concerning his colony and the general condition of the negro farmers of Mississippi we retired to our room. The thought occurred to us, while the storm was raging outside, what a difference between our position and the position of two negroes who might have strayed into a town populated entirely by whites, and in which negroes were not permitted to live. Here we were at Mount Bayou — two white men — among 7,000 negroes, and our treatment had been irreproachable.”

The whole article is very thought provoking.

EX-SLAVES DREAM OF A MODEL NEGRO COLONY COMES TRUE: Mound Bayou, Mississippi, in the Heart of the Fertile “Delta” Is a Community of 8,000 Where No White Man Can Own a Square Foot of Property (PDF)

From June 12, 1910

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