William Johnson

Among the small number of free black people living in antebellum Mississippi was William Johnson of Natchez. He was born enslaved in 1809 but was freed at age 11. As was true of most free blacks in Mississippi, Johnson was bi-racial—his father was white, and his mother was black. A barber by trade, he was a very successful man. He owned some 3,000 acres of land, a small number of slaves, and several business interests, including a bathhouse and a toyshop. From 1835 until his death in 1851, he kept a diary describing life in Natchez. He built a house on State Street, where the family lived upstairs and rented the downstairs to merchants. He and his wife had ten children. Johnson was murdered in a dispute over land. Today the William Johnson House, renovated by the National Park Service, is part of the Natchez National Historical Park.

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