Civil War and Reconstruction in the Yazoo Mississippi Delta, 1863-1875.
AuthorWilliams, James Levon, Jr.
Committee ChairMering, John V.
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractHaving constructed a plantation economy in the Yazoo Mississippi Delta, white Delta planters struggled to retain control of African-American labor after the start of the Civil War. In their effort, the planters manipulated the Freedmen's Bureau; passed the Black Code; sought out foreign labor; and condoned extralegal intimidation. The Civil War disrupted the plantation economy of the Yazoo Delta, prompting the planters to pursue innovative means to preserve the status quo. To achieve this end, they fought with the Confederate government for control of the militia, attempting to stabilize an economy rocked by military incursions, deserters, and outbreaks of lawlessness. Emancipation, the ultimate disruption to the plantation, precipitated a struggle between these former masters and African-Americans seeking to find the meaning of their freedom. The United States government also attempted to restructure the plantation economy of the Delta after the Civil War, but planters often manipulated federal authority to their advantage. Charged with protecting the interests of the freedmen, the Freedmen's Bureau, for example, frequently accommodated the labor needs of Delta planters, even transporting labor to the plantations when necessary. Similarly, Union military commanders frequently supported the planters in their attempt to control black labor. Delta planters, however, wished themselves entirely free of outside governance. Thus, in 1865, they helped formulate the Black Code, seeking to limit the labor options of the freedmen. When Congress negated this code, the planters sought foreign laborers to force African-Americans into economic desperation. Under congressional patronage, moderate Republicans, led by Delta planter James L. Alcorn, attempted to build a party led by white men and supported by African-American votes. When this moderate "Alcorn Republican" system failed in 1873, the planters aligned themselves with the "straight out" Democratic party, rather than support the pro-black Republicans led by Adelbert Ames. Using a system of fraud and brute violence, the white planters ultimately seized power from the Republican party in 1875. This "Mississippi Plan" allowed the planters to remove labor from politics, free the state from authority inimical to their interests, and ensure continuation of the plantation economy.