From New Lanark to Mound Bayou: Owenism in the Mississippi Delta

Joel Nathan Rosen
From New Lanark to Mound Bayou re-examines the claims that a theoretical and ideological relationship existed between the Scottish manufacturer/reformer Robert Owen and the Mississippi planter Joseph E. Davis, whose former bondsmen later settled the postbellum Mississippi community of Mound Bayou in 1887. Drawing upon existing data as well as new documentation, this work provides an overview of Owenism followed by an outline of Owen's communities in both Scotland and the United States. These examinations of Owen's societies show the influence of his ideas on the Mississippi communities at Davis Bend as well as that of Mound Bayou, the Delta's first entirely African-American town, founded by one of Davis' former slaves. This book examines the many questions left by the adaptations of Owenite thought in Davis' reconfiguration of the slave community at Davis Bend. The book also considers the carryovers from this endeavor at Mound Bayou. Rosen specifically addresses the ways a redefined Owenism, originally designed to reform ruthless labor practices, ultimately enables Davis to construct a more talented and versatile slave workforce that propels him to enviable economic heights. These transformations of Owen's so-called Utopian scheme further inform the accomplishments of the two most immediate beneficiaries of Davis' refined Owenism: the former Davis Bend slave Benjamin T. Montgomery, who took over the Davis holdings in the aftermath of the Civil War; and his son Isaiah T. Montgomery, who co-founded and ultimately presided over Mound Bayou s earliest years. From New Lanark to Mound Bayou has cross-discipline appeal for those with interests in sociology, history, and economics, as well as American- and African-American studies, Southern studies, communitarian studies, and political theory.

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