Read Mississippi in Africa by Alan Huffman Online


The gripping story of two hundred freed Mississippi slaves who sailed to Liberia to build a new colony where the colonists' repression of the native tribes would beget a tragic cycle of violence When a wealthy Mississippi cotton planter named Isaac Ross died in 1836, his will decreed that his plantation, Prospect Hill, should be liquidated and the proceeds from the sale beThe gripping story of two hundred freed Mississippi slaves who sailed to Liberia to build a new colony where the colonists' repression of the native tribes would beget a tragic cycle of violence When a wealthy Mississippi cotton planter named Isaac Ross died in 1836, his will decreed that his plantation, Prospect Hill, should be liquidated and the proceeds from the sale be used to pay for his slaves' passage to the newly established colony of Liberia in western Africa. Ross�s heirs contested the will for more than a decade in the state courts and legislature, prompting a deadly revolt in which a group of slaves burned Ross' mansion to the ground, but the will was ultimately upheld. The slaves then emigrated to their new home, where they battled the local tribes and built vast plantations with Greek Revival style mansions in a region the Americo- Africans renamed Mississippi in Africa. The seeds of resentment sown over a century of cultural conflict between the colonists and tribal peoples exploded in the late twentieth century, begetting a civil war that rages in Liberia to this day. Tracking down Prospect Hill's living descendants, deciphering a history ruled by rumor, and delivering the complete chronicle in riveting prose, journalist Alan Huffman has rescued a lost chapter of American history whose aftermath is far from over....

Title : Mississippi in Africa
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781592401000
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 352 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Mississippi in Africa Reviews

  • Thom
    2019-05-13 22:49

    I've always been rather curious about the history of Liberia, and this book seemed like a good way to satisfy that curiosity. It was only partially successful in doing so, but I do not think that was the intention of the author, so I cannot really blame the book. I soon began to accept the book for what it was - the story of gathering the story, and only secondarily about the history itself. A controversial decision by a large slave owner in Mississippi to free his slaves by his will, sell the plantation, and then use the proceeds to fund his slaves' emigration to Liberia in the 1840s forms the seed of the book. The will was contested, the plantation house burned under mysterious circumstances, but many finally were able to make the journey to Liberia. Some chose to remain. Huffman's own journey began in an attempt to set straight all the stories he had heard about the uprising by the slaves and his own curiosity about the fate of the families. Having exhausted his leads in America, he decided to take the dangerous trip to Liberia to see what he can learn. The story there is discouraging, and while he lauds the resilience and hospitality of the Liberians he met, it is hard not be remain despondent about the future of that country. In the end, Huffman is able to tie many loose ends together. There were occasional moments in the book when he reflects on the nature of his relationships and on the historical circumstances that brought America and Liberia together, and I wished he had done more of that. I'll go elsewhere for a place to understand the history better, and I'll be grateful for this glimpse into why the story is so compelling.

  • Andrew
    2019-04-22 01:24

    The interesting story of the people from the Prospect Hill Plantation, Mississippi who established themselves in Liberia at the time the country was founded. The detailed research undertaken both in the US and Liberia shows how the legacy of this group has shaped the West African state and how its complex history has lead to the worst of the problems in the latter half of the 20th Century.

  • Tim Cowley
    2019-04-30 04:34

    I've read a plethora of books from and about Africa, but so far have managed to somehow largely ignore writings about West Africa's Liberia. Alan Huffman brings us the fascinating story of a slaveowner from the southern U.S. states who provided in his will freedom for his slaves and the chance to start a new life in the American colony of Liberia. I certainly was not aware of the history surrounding such events and had no idea that American blacks ended up becoming slaveholders themselves in places named Mississippi and Louisiana complete with southern-style mansions and outerwear fashionable to their white American counterparts.Huffman researches in detail the stories surrounding the fate of the Prospect Hill Plantation slaves and their owners near Red Lick, Mississippi and what happened to their descendents upon their arrival back on African soil. Within Liberia Sinoe is the main area of focus, the the author was regrettably unable to travel their due to the violence of the region in the time leading up to the ousting of President Charles Taylor.The book breaks down into three parts: 1) Mississippi (in the U.S.), 2) Liberia, and 3) Common Ground. In my estimation too much time was spent on American soil and I found myself wanting to simply fast forward to the author's experiences in Liberia. But I understand he needed to set the story up and find out as much information as possible from historical documents (what little there was) as well as what family histories say from the white Ross families, the black Ross families and the in-between, mulatto families as well. He doesn't shy away from the realities that there was a lot of sexual mixing between slave owners and their slaves in the day, though doesn't make that a focus of his work.As a white man living in Africa, I couldn't help but cringe at some of the experiences he had while in Liberia and the connections he made that followed him for many years after he left from his short research tour. The collect-call phone calls, the emails, the constant stream of requests for money and help getting to the U.S. There's a reason he was warned not to give out his phone number. But perhaps he felt obligated upon seeing their decrepit economic state in Liberia, the hopelessness that plagues everyone; the lack of opportunity and fight for survival that is a day-to-day struggle. While I wouldn't want to be in his shoes, perhaps he made the more honorable decision to help support financially those friends he was endeared to in his time overseas and for that, and this fascinating story, I commend him.

  • Michael
    2019-04-27 04:29

    White people horrifically kidnapped black people and brought them to Mississippi. Grandkids of white people felt remorse and shipped grandkids of said black people back to Africa. Nothing good came of either. Modern Liberia, like modern Mississippi, sucks.

  • Storm Poetry
    2019-05-17 02:41

    Mississippi in Africa: the History of Black America.Byline: The Book Reviewer ( of Book: Mississippi in AfricaAuthor: Alan HuffmanNarrator: Andrew L. BarnesPublisher: University Press AudiobooksDate of Publication: 2014Time: 13 hrs 10 minutes“freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose,and nothing ain’t worth nothing but it's free” Me and Bobby McGee by Janis Joplin/Kris Kristofferson/Fred Foster plays quietly as the ghosts of Old Mississippi are celebrated in this fantastical tome, Mississippi in Africaby Alan Huffman, narrated by Andrew L. Barnes. An epic masterwork of journalism that explores the truth of African American history and emancipation, follows a freed slave colony in Liberia, creating enlightenment from the darkness of political/emotional conflict and violence. Because of varying accounts, the official records “not always infallible, but they were crucial to the telling of this story” (noting a certain inertia of mouldering records in boxes and surreptitious record pilfering in the name of preservation at the Jackson County Archives and the nonexistent records in Monrovia, Liberia due to the Archives being razed by war) and the conflicting oral histories from descendants, the author has a difficult task, to which he does justice.The beautiful intonations of Andrew L. Barnes spin the story of African Americans as he brings history alive in audiobook through the reading of Mississippi in Africa by Alan Huffman. Alan Huffman is a noted journalist and author from Mississippi who has been published in The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Smithsonian, Newsweek, Washington Post Magazine amongst others and written 5 books, Ten Point, Sultana, We’re with Nobody, Here I am: The Story of Tim Hetherington, War Photographer and Mississippi in Africa. This book is a natural for audiobook, as it is a first person narrative that tells the story of the research, personal accounts and Archives records presenting the African American experience in the United States since the Civil War and particularly the story of the emancipation of people at Prospect Hill, Mississippi and the repatriation of most Prospect Hill slaves, to Liberia. The narrator, Andrew L. Barnes is a multitalented performance artist with a deep bass-baritone voice that brings the story to life, I listen to the audiotape as if sitting by the fireside in the long night listening to the rich weave of historical accounts and the living history as told by the descendants of Mississippi plantation owner Isaac Ross.Mississippi in Africa begins with the story of the author, a friend of Gwen, a descendant of the Ross family who gives him the old run down manse Holly Grove, one of the Ross family homes, provided he move it to his own property and restore it. Holly Grove, was an old abandoned manse the author and his friends would camp out in when they were children, with the telling of midnight stories of Prospect Hill, how Isaac Ross freed his slaves in his will, how his grandson, Isaac Ross Wade tied up the will in litigation for 10 years, how one night in April, the coffee was spiked and the fire set, killing a child, and the hanging of 11 or 12 of the African American people and the freedom of the remaining slaves, most to a colony in Liberia. The only furnishings that survived from the Prospect Hill fire was the old ebony and rosewood grand piano and some portrait paintings (this writer can just imagine how the talk of freedom and going to Africa whilst camping out in the old mausoleum, fired the imagination of the author as a child). Eventually, Gwen gave the old grand piano to Author Huffman, who late in the night, would hear it mysteriously play as if haunted by the ghosts of Prospect Hill. Author Huffman presents the history of Isaac Ross, a plantation owner in the early 1800’s, the intrigue of his will that set his slaves free and gave them the option of settling in Liberia. Ross was noted for treating his slaves well, most could read and write, they were not beaten and the families were kept together, the slaves never sold, yet “for the people in the field, it was someone else’s cotton.” The Ross family had met with tragedy and a number of adult members of the family dying from yellow fever including his wife. When Isaac Ross died in 1836, the will was contested by his grandson Isaac Ross Wade who attempted to keep the estate and the slaves, tying up the fates of the slaves in litigation for ten years. Wade had “no intention of stopping until he won or ran out of options.” The slaves were in a quandary and became restive “if the highest court said they were free”, why weren’t they? Talk in the community suggested that when Isaac Ross Wade was dead, they would be free. On April 15th, 1845 at 1:00 a.m. a fire broke out at Prospect Hill, the coffee of the Wade family was laced with a sleeping medicant that night by the cook Gracie Ross or perhaps one of the slaves in the kitchen. Thomas Wade had not had the coffee that night and he woke to find the front door jammed, when he opened the door, the slave Esah stood there with an axe but did not bother to help him. The child, Martha Richardson, Wade’s niece died in the fire. Everyone else escaped yet the vast majority of the finery and furnishings were lost. In the next few days, eleven or twelve of the slave “leaders” were hanged. Disturbingly, there is “not even a footnote in the official written record”, in the Mississippi Historical Society or other Archive material of the fire on Prospect Hill or the murders. When researching the oral history “the prevailing white version of the story of Prospect Hill always includes the slave uprising but the prevailing black version never does.” The history itself is an emotional powderkeg, “you know it was bad, no matter what gloss you put on it, it was a bad thing.” Some of the African Americans at Prospect Hill were spirited away by the American colonization society to Liberia. After the fire the will was probated in 1849, “200 of the 225 slaves had been given their freedom and had emigrated to Mississippi in Africa” later to be “joined by 200 slaves freed by other sympathetic Ross family members.”When the freed slaves arrived in Liberia, they were met with violence from the indigenous peoples and the new colony was enmeshed in difficulties. Historian Mary Jo Sullivan notes, “It’s small size, lack of communication with other settlements, little support from the American colonization society and the Mississippi Society, lack of knowledge of the human and physical environment, and sporadic hostility from African neighbours hampered progress.” The colony thrived for a time, the freed slaves taking in less fortunate indigenous families and J.J. Ross establishing a public school in Monrovia. However, the modern day politics of Liberia has proved unstable and violent, manifesting civil war with prejudice and violence against descendants of the American freed slaves. In December 1999, the Association of Liberian Journalists in the Americas called for a tribunal from the United Nations to investigate war crimes. Opposition leader Samuel Dokie, his family and security people were assassinated; a Monrovia church with hundreds of people inside were murdered; dissidents have disappeared as well as ordinary people in the street, feared murdered; journalists had been harassed by the Charles Taylor regime. Although the Archives in Monrovia was razed, Author Huffman does find and talk to some descendants of the Ross family freed slaves. Benjamin Ross, tells how most of the homes in the community have been razed, “only the vaults in the cemetery, they don’t bother,” he says. “There is nothing left, really. Just vast land. Nothing.” Author Huffman and Benjamin Ross share an ironic moment, as they realize, “his ancestors risked their lives to emigrate from America to Liberia, and now he is struggling to get back.”In Mississippi in Africa, the tumultuous history of the Ross family and their African American slaves creates a living genealogy, is the history of the geography, the social structure, the politics, the economics of Mississippi and the Deep South. “Money transformed a remote wilderness into a region of wealthy fiefdoms anchored by Greek Revival, Federal and Italianate mansions filled with imported furnishings the most elaborate of which were surrounded by landscape gardens sometimes stepping down towards the rivers on terraces while just out of sight were the rude dwellings of the slave quarters with dirt yards.” In the background, the story of the Civil War weaving the history of black emancipation into the present day, the family stories of the oral history of the Ross and black descendants and the history of black and white race relations in the United States. After the Civil War, “for the next 150 years the population and taxbase spiraled downward taking with it much of the infrastructure that had supported the one crop economy; railroads, farms, ports, ferries, bridges, roads and countless communities and more than a few towns since nothing came along to take cottons place as an economic engine the county founded.”When interviewing Dolores Ross, she is of mixed race, a descendant of Isaac Ross, questioned about her understanding of the Ross will and the events of the black uprising, Ms. Ross says “One thing it ain’t is black and white.” There are photographs of her family and everyone is of different degrees of colour. Huffman notes “There are many people of mixed race in this part of the country but they are usually the results of clandestine encounters. Racial mixing is rarely documented for posterity articulated by permanent white families like the Ross’. The average Mississippian would not know what to make of the picture … because Butch and Delores are clearly abused they are aware that such intermingling does not sit well with everyone and is rarely mentioned in most portrayals of the Ross family. This is the Deep South after all known world wide for its troubled racial politics.” “If a person grows up in a black family, they tend to think of themselves as black, regardless of the shade of their skin” and similarly in white mixed race families. The struggle for consciousness by the larger white society is mirrored in the varying terms used to describe mixed race peoples throughout history in the United States census record. Beginning in 1870 with 3 designations, black, white and colored, introducing the term mulatto in 1880, specifying terms such as quadroon and octoroon in 1890, reintroducing the term mulatto in 1920, specifying anyone of a black bloodline as black in 1930 and finally, to the designations of black and white and other racial categories with the option to choose more than one in 2000, showing in the last case that racial designation has lost importance in the present-day United States. Mississippi in Africa is rich with details and stories, well researched, weaving the personal accounts with archival records creating a sweeping panorama of emancipation, and the history and violence of the African American experience in Southern United States juxtaposed with wartorn Liberia. Throughout the work it is good to note the positive, the benevolence of Isaac Ross freeing his slaves, monies sent by Isaac Ross Wade to the Liberian Community, how the Mississippi in Africa community attempted to help the local indigenous peoples, how Nathan Ross emigrated from Liberia to the United States in the 1980’s has a successful business and sends monies to his struggling relatives in Africa and the story of the author, who in return for the gift of the Holly Grove manse researches and writes this detailed history of Gwen’s family. This book is an important presentation of history and African American race relations in the United States and Liberia, making history come alive, not unlike the great non-fiction works of Canadian history written by Pierre Berton.This enlightened truthtelling is a must read, giving roots to black America, Mississippi in Africa by Alan Huffman/narrated by Andrew L. Barnes.

  • Carol
    2019-05-07 04:51

    After intensely traveling through this book from 13 years ago, I wish Alan Huffman would write a sequel. Mississippi, a beloved place to me, is filled with mysteries like these. In 1836, Revolutionary War patriot and planter Isaac Ross Wade died. His will stipulated that his Mississippi plantation should be liquidated and the proceeds used to send his 200 slaves to freedom in the abolitionist country Liberia in Africa. There is actually still a place in Liberia called Mississippi in Africa. Native Mississippian Huffman, who grew up and still lives in the neighborhood of Prospect Hill, the second incarnation of Wade's decaying home, was fascinated by the story and decided to get to the bottom of it. Wade's heirs fought the will, which was eventually upheld in Mississippi's courts. Sadly, there was a 12 year period when the slaves wondered if the will would be honored. An uprising that resulted in the death of one of the Wade children took place, the original Prospect Hill was burned down and lynchings of participants in the uprising followed. Still, most of the slaves were freed and made passage to Liberia, though some chose to stay in slavery. A few wound up in free states north of the Mason Dixon line. Before the War Between the States, the African colonists still held relations with the Wades, their former masters, writing often, usually to ask for financial help. The devastation of war ended the relationship. Still, the Mississippi colonists made American lives for themselves in Liberia, building their own plantations with homes in the Greek Revival style that was fashionable in Mississippi when they left. Sadly, an African divide formed. The Mississippi colonists with their Western skills and Christianity dominated the indigenous Africans. With other circumstances, this divide brought the wars that devastated the Liberia at the end of last century. Huffman, who is the white descendant of small farmers who did not own slaves, begins his research in Mississippi and then travels to war-torn Liberia to see what he can find of the colonists, his fellow Mississippians. I was touched by this passage. Whites and blacks of the South share a culture. Huffman found that deep propinquity in Liberia where he made friends with many natives, who struggled mightily in a country ravaged by war. Huffman returns to Mississippi just in time, right before the war made things impossible for journalists in Liberia. He finds a surprising opening in the story after his return. Though, the stories of these 19th Century people will never be fully understood, Huffman does conclude with some significant insights. And he has done the descendants of the Wades and their former slaves a great service in chronicling this tortured story. Huffman is an interested narrator throughout this trying tale while remaining neutral and open to the facts that emerge. I can't imagine any other way for this story to be revealed. Huffman has a blog and continues to write about Mississippi. The Prospect Hill that was built after the original was built has been acquired by archaeologists, though it may be too decayed for restoration. Abbreviated films of this story featuring Huffman and other Mississippians, are on YouTube. I will read more about Liberia after this.

  • Susan Lindsey
    2019-05-12 23:51

    Alan Huffman tells the story of the slaves from Prospect Hill Plantation in Mississippi, some of whom migrated to Liberia, Africa, after obtaining freedom. Huffman, a former journalist, does a great job of researching the story.

  • Tichaona Chinyelu
    2019-05-16 22:26

    Mississippi in Africa details the extremely fascinating story of enslaved black people who were repatriated back to Africa in the early to mid 19th century and who, eventually, became the "founders" of the country known as Liberia. In 1836, one Isaac Ross, a plantation owner in Mississippi, died. In his will, he specified that the humans he held in bondage should be freed and passage would be paid for their relocation to Africa, if they so chose. By 1849, 200 of the 225 enslaved had emigrated to Liberia. Huffman details the histories of these settlers, as they are known, as they transition into becoming Americo-Liberians.One of the more stunning premises in the book is that a prime cause of the Liberian Civil War was the undemocratic control of Liberia's economic, military and political infrastructure, etc by the the Americo-Liberians. However, as unsettled as I was by that assertion, I could not deny the fact that they were very oriented toward America and American culture. They built houses in Liberia that were replicas of the ones they built their former owners. Their names were (and continue to be) of European origin. Upon declaring themselves free from the American Colonization Society in 1847, the Americo-Liberians did the same thing the fighters of the American Revolution did - declare themselves free from tyranny while holding people in bondage (the ward system). It seems so predictable a behavior that I am left wondering how it is that the family of Fela Kuti, whose ancestors were also repatriated, managed to re-integrate into African society so successfully that they are integral to an understanding of modern Nigeria.

  • Anna
    2019-05-09 03:48

    This book explores freed slaves’ “repatriation” to Liberia and the history of Liberia in this context. This was a really interesting look into how repatriation actually functioned, the complicated dynamics of having ex-slaves essentially colonize the area now known as Liberia, and the legacy of that nuanced history on Liberia today. I was fascinated by the actual content of the story and the history, but didn’t think it was all that well written and think the book could have been infinitely more engaging had the narrative been crafted differently. If you’re interested enough in the subject matter to make it through the somewhat redundant portions of this book and its winding narrative path, I’d recommend it. Otherwise, I’d suggest just looking into Liberian history and legacy a bit more on your own because it is incredibly fascinating.

  • Patricia
    2019-04-21 01:44

    The story of the plantation owner who, in the early 1830's, wrote his will so that his slaves would eventually be freed and have transport to Liberia is, I realize, a tiny fragment of the story of the South, but it was fascinating reading, nonetheless. The setting, Jefferson County, Miss., went from one of the richest areas in the US to, now, one of the poorest, if not the poorest, and we learn much about the lives of the slaves there and about the lives of people who live there now. I also learned far more about Liberia than I had ever thought I'd know, and it is a topic I should have been more informed about for years. I liked the author's style--not really history, but more reporting (he IS a journalist, after all)--and I respected him for his involvement in the lives of the people he met in Liberia.

  • Jan
    2019-05-07 23:33

    This was a fascinating history of the founding of the African nation of Liberia when the US wanted to send all the slaves "back to Africa." It tells the story of how some American slaves emigrated to Liberia, battled the "heathen" Africans, and set up huge plantations with big white plantation houses. It really helps you to understand why Liberia has been such a violent place for many years with leaders with very un-African names like Charles Taylor who is on trial for war crimes before the Hague.

  • Rick
    2019-04-21 00:45

    I found this book when I came back from Liberia. When I was there I saw the after effects of the recent Civil War, destroyed buildings, destroyed economy, destroyed people. This book helped me to understand that war and how it resulted from generations of tension dating back to the repatriation of freed Negro slaves from America who settled there, and the natives who had been living there all along. The experience of being in that poor country and the reading of this book had a big impact on me.

  • Barbikat60
    2019-05-10 23:36

    This book really brought up a lot of resentments that I have inside regarding my status as an American Black woman. I have to look within myself and see how I am so assimilated by white culture that I would've been just as ridiculous as the new settlers in Liberia were. I'm still trying to understand how I can have a relationship with my African brothers and sisters considering that some of their ancestors were responsible for my ancestors being in slavery.

  • Andra Watkins
    2019-04-30 04:52

    Alan Huffman does a lot with a tenuous trail in the book Mississippi in Africa. What started with curiosity over how stories evolve became a saga of his own, one he never expected to twist and turn the way it did. I enjoyed learning about this forgotten part of history.

  • Femi Kush
    2019-05-04 22:40

    Story of two worlds miles apart connected by the Atlantic and history. It tells how decision reached on the other side of the Atlantic affected the fate of the other with reverberating consequence after so many decades.

  • Scott
    2019-05-12 05:31

    Agree completely with Shaninun's rating. This is a five star book.

  • Jessica
    2019-05-13 04:39

    Interesting connection, but the detail dragged a bit.

  • Margie Ferguson
    2019-05-14 00:43

    Alan Huffman is a friend of mine from Mississippi. This is an amazing story linked to him by the plantation home he took down, moved and put back up. He is a great story teller.

  • lori
    2019-04-23 21:43

    The book had a lot of interesting information and facts but felt very dry at times (almost like reading a textbook?). Worth reading for the informational aspect but not a good vacation book..

  • R.K. Johnson
    2019-05-16 22:38

    Great book. There is a lot of important history here.

  • Autumn
    2019-04-22 04:28

    Great book; different take on Southern history. I was hooked by the history and the narrative. Recommended.

  • Randy Pierce
    2019-04-30 23:54

    A very well-researched book. I enjoyed this book!

  • Linda W.
    2019-04-30 05:50

    This book covered my family's history. It was fascinating to read about the events that I had grown up hearing about!