Janet Sharp Hermann

The Pursuit of a Dream


Janet Sharp Hermann received the 1982 RFK Book Award for The Pursuit of a Dream.

The Pursuit of a Dream is a fascinating history set in the Reconstruction South is a testament to African-American resilience, fortitude, and independence. It tells of three attempts to create an ideal community on the river bottom lands at Davis Bend south of Vicksburg. There Joseph Davis's effort to establish a cooperative community among the slaves on his plantation was doomed to fail as long as they remained in bondage. During the Civil War, the Yankees tried with limited success to organize the freedmen into a model community without trusting them to manage their own affairs.

After the war, the intrepid Benjamin Montgomery and his family bought the land from Davis and established a very prosperous colony of their fellow freedmen. Their success at Davis Bend occurred when blacks were accorded the opportunity to pursue the American dream relatively free from the discrimination that prevailed in most of society. It is a story worthy of celebration.

Janet Hermann writes here of two men--Joseph Davis, the slaveholder and brother of the president of the Confederacy, and Benjamin Montgomery, an educated freedman. In 1866, Montgomery began the experiment at Davis Bend.