Monday, April 24, 2006

Mississippi in Africa (Copy)

“He is eighty-six years old, his eyes appear bewilderingly large behind Coke-bottle lenses, and most of his teeth are gone…He says he remembers the soldiers touching the columned mansions of Mississippi during the civil war, remembers eating crawfish in Louisiana, and collard greens and okra. He remembers crossing the languorous river that flows between Mississippi and Louisiana in a canoe.”

Can you picture a setting, a certain time period, say early nineteen hundreds? The man is definitely in the South, right? Reread the quoted passage and see if your mind’s eye becomes clearer.

This quote is from the book, Mississippi in Africa by Alan Huffman. Author Huffman is interviewing a man in Liberia, Africa in the year 2001. He is just one of many descendants of slaves given their freedom by plantation owner, Isaac Ross, Jr. in 1838.

This 86 year-old man may be optically challenged, but his mind is said to be sharp. He is remembering an easier life before the civil war of 1990: time when Liberia was controlled by his ancestors from America. He remembers the giant plantation homes where coffee and sugar were cash crops. He speaks of a river that separates the Mississippi and Louisiana settlements in the African county of Sinoe.

This book relates the incredible story you may have heard growing up in Mississippi. An 1845 fire engulfs a mansion called Prospect Hill in Jefferson County, MS and takes the life of “little Martha Richardson”. A fire said to have been set by angry slaves. Slaves that were granted freedom in Isaac Ross’ 1838 will, but contested by grandson Isaac Ross Wade.

Huffman is on a quest to find the real story behind this legend; a journey that begins in Mississippi history, and travels through to current day Liberia, and then back to the answer in Mississippi. If you like Southern history or current politics this book is for you. A fine addition to any Mississippian’s bookshelf.

1 comment: