African American Experience Before the Civil War

With the growth of trade along the Mississippi River in the 1830s, Vicksburg became a prosperous city and by the 1850s saw a substantial population increase and the creation of new homes for the merchant class elites within the city. By 1860 the population of Vicksburg had swelled to nearly 4,600 residents, larger the state capital of Jackson. With the growth of Vicksburg, a sizeable number of slaves lived within the city. By 1860 there were 1,402 slaves in Vicksburg and only thirty-one free blacks. With this sizeable slave population, anxiety of slave uprisings increased overtime as it did in other Southern cities and counties.

When Union forces began to advance into Mississippi during 1862, slave owners would attempt to hide their slaves from approaching Union forces or scare the slaves from escaping with threats of physical abuse. Many slaves within Vicksburg and the rest of the south talked optimistically about the future liberated by the Union forces. Many of the White citizens within the city originally supported the Unionist positions when secession was being debated after the election of Lincoln. However, the city of Vicksburg eventually supported the southern cause and the new Confederacy once Mississippi voted on secession.

Within Vicksburg an interesting dichotomy existed between the white citizens and the black slaves on news of the war as it progressed. White citizens would hold balls and celebrations of Union setbacks, but in secret slaves would share the joyous news of Union victories with their peers.

Last updated: January 27, 2018

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Vicksburg, MS 39183


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