Sketch of the Emancipation of Jefferson Davis's Slaves

Jefferson Davis, the first and last President of the Confederate States of America, advocated a paternalistic approach to slaveholding. He believed that white rule over black slaves was beneficial and benevolent toward blacks. Davis claimed that this was how he managed his own plantation.

This lie was exposed to the world when US troops raided his plantation in Mississippi in 1863. Davis's slaves happily embraced their freedom. This sketch by Frederick B. Schell, an illustrator for Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, captured the scene:

Because of this very public point of view, a sketch of Davis’ slaves arriving in the Union camp was doubly significant: it was proof that the Union soldiers’ enforcement of the Emancipation Proclamation had reached even to Davis’ domain, and it was evidence that his slaves wanted nothing to do with him.

The Illustrated’s editors, in the text that accompanied the published engraving made from this sketch, mused that the scene “seemed in itself the doom of slavery.”


(Photo: New York Historical Society)

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The Library of Congress has some audio recordings of interviews with former slaves. Based on some of what was said by George Johnson, one of Jefferson Davis' former slaves, I can understand why Davis thought himself beneficial and benevolent toward blacks.

George Johnson's interview gives an interesting perspective, and I wonder why it is not better known. Perhaps because there has never been anything to authenticate his statements? I don't know.
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