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The Pursuit of a Dream (Banner Books) Paperback – March 1, 1999

5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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"Historical writing at its best"--David Bradley -- New York Times Book Review

From the Publisher

The story of a utopia created by Mississippi freedmen on a white man's former plantation.
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Product Details

  • Series: Banner Books
  • Paperback: 312 pages
  • Publisher: University Press of Mississippi (March 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1578061296
  • ISBN-13: 978-1578061297
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,771,133 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Joseph Davis, the older brother of Jefferson Davis, sold the Hurricane Plantation south of Vicksburg to Ben Montgomery...his black plantation manager because he was trained and educated by Joseph and he felt he was the best man to make a success of the farm. His choice was good but floods over ran the farm from the Mississippi River. This meant that the Montgomery family could not make payment. This resulted in a long legal battle after Joseph's death by the Davis family...and the courts finally gave the land to Joseph's great grand daughter (born out of wedlock). Once the author accumulated all this information to write this book...she realized what a remarkable person Joseph Davis was and she wrote the book about Joseph Davis...giving us another snapshot of life in Pre-War Mississippi.
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Joins the ranks of books such as Willie Lee Rose's Rehearsal for Reconstruction and Melvin Patrick Ely's superb Israel on the Appomattox as case studies of near-utopian experiments in the midst of the madness of the Civil War and so-called Reconstruction.
I recently read (yeah, really read, cover to cover) the fifth volume of the documentary history of reconstruction ably put together by Ira Berlin and his team and successors, and what struck me the most was the absolute lack of foresight on the part of the "radicals", including Lincoln.
Now Lincoln did not get to "see" or implement Reconstruction, but he appears to have left nothing of his thoughts (to Sumner, to Johnson, to us) about what a slave-free America would look like, as if he could not contemplate such a thing.
The "Redeemers" surely had a thought on what that would be, just a minor variation on slavery itself (and so it played out). What Professor Hermann has done here is shown an alternative, nearly visionary approach, with the visionary himself being the unlikely Joseph Davis, and the agents the remarkable Montgomery's.
How can a document such as The Emancipation Proclamation get written without serious thought to its consequences? Emancipation and the assimilation of freedmen became as a result a pretty chaotic mess--- much more attention paid to the secessionists' future than to the freedmen's--- and this is no slur upon the black reconstructionists, who did their best, but--- much more significantly--- did SOMEthing for which they and all other former slaves were, deliberately and calculatedly but sometimes inadvertantly, completely untrained, a situation never remedied except in noble experiments like Davis Bend and by noble men like the Montgomerys.
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