The Barber of Natchez (paperback) Edwin Adams Davis, William Ransom Hogan
In The Barber of Natchez, Edwin Adams Davis and William Ransom Hogan tell the remarkable story of William Johnson, a slave who rose to freedom, business success, and high community standing in the heart of the South―all before 1850. Emancipated as a young boy in 1820, Johnson became a barber’s apprentice and later opened several profitable barber shops of his own. As his wealth grew, he expanded into real estate and acquired large tracts of nearby farm and timber land. The authors explore in detail Johnson’s family, work, and social life, including his friendships with people of both races. They also examine his wanton murder and the resulting trial of the man accused of shooting him. More than the story of one individual, the narrative also offers compelling insight into the southern code of honor, the apprentice system, and the ownership of slaves by free blacks. Based on Johnson’s two-thousand-page diary, letters, and business records, this extraordinary biography reveals the complicated life of a freedman in Mississippi and a new perspective on antebellum Natchez.