This fascinating history set in the Reconstruction South is a testament to African-American resilience, fortitude, and independence. It tells of three attempts to create an ideal community on the river bottom lands at Davis Bend south of Vicksburg. There Joseph Davis's effort to establish a cooperative community among the slaves on his plantation was doomed to fail as long as they remained in bondage. During the Civil War the Yankees tried with limited success to organize the freedmen into a model community without trusting them to manage their own affairs.
After the war the intrepid Benjamin Montgomery and his family bought the land from Davis and established a very prosperous colony of their fellow freedmen. Their success at Davis Bend occurred when blacks were accorded the opportunity to pursue the American dream relatively free from the discrimination that prevailed in most of society. It is a story worthy of celebration.
Janet Hermann writes here of two men--Joseph Davis, the slaveholder and brother of the president of the Confederacy, and Benjamin Montgomery, an educated freedman. In 1866 Montgomery began the experiment at Davis Bend.
The Pursuit of a Dream, published in 1981, received the Robert F. Kennedy Award, the McLemore Prize of the Mississippi Historical Society, and the Silver Medal of the Commonwealth Club of California.
"Historical writing at its best . . . her research is impressive and is presented in balanced, ironic prose." --David Bradley, New York Times Book Review
"A marvelous story for all readers with a taste for the ironies, the ambiguities, and the surprises of history." --C. Vann Woodward
Janet Sharp Hermann, a freelance writer and historian, is the author of Joseph E. Davis: Pioneer Patriarch (University Press of Mississippi).