Books by Mississippi Writers 1996-2010
Nonfiction by Winthrop Jordan Louisiana State University Press (Paperback, $16.95, ISBN: 0807120391, 1/1996) (Revised Edition) A compelling reconstruction of a slave-revolt conspiracy in Adams County, Mississippi, during the spring and summer of 186―and of the grisly events that ensued after the plot was exposed. The documentary trail of the "Plan," as the abortive insurrection was called, is reed-thin: No official government report, newspaper article, pamphlet, or speech referred to it, and other contemporary records mentioned it only with tantalizing brevity. The longest extant record, an "examination" (no doubt coerced) of the plotters by local planters, is more helpful but still fragmentary. Nonetheless, from this slim evidence, Jordan presents a coherent narrative about a southern community perched on the lip of a volcano, astonished at proof of the slave unrest it had long dismissed but always feared. Jordan has fleshed out the testimony of the conspirators with the help of census records, diaries and letters, plantation papers, a WPA oral history given by an ex-slave, and even gravestones. Moreover, in ferreting out how the conspiracy formed and then unraveled, he never strains credulity, and he uses the incident to throw light on such matters as the role of religion among slaves, fear of abolitionist agitation, class divisions in white society, the grapevine by which slaves communicated, and male slaveholders' fears that their women would be raped. Jordan's tale evokes the furtive nocturnal whisperings of the conspirators, rumors running wild among slaveholders, and silence masking awful carnage (at least 40 slaves were hanged in the Natchez, Mississippi, region during the year of the plot). A historical jigsaw puzzle assembled with consummate skill by a thoughtful chronicler of the "peculiar institution." Copyright © 1992, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.