In 1865 the Emancipation Proclamation was signed by Abraham Lincoln abolishing legalized slavery. According to history meaningful efforts went were in gear to rehabilitate former slaves. However, the fate of rebuilding former slaves failed when the last federal soldiers left the South in 1877.
Despite the ending of slavery and the energies during the Reconstruction period another form of slavery was created: Black Codes. Some may be familiar with the term ‘Black Codes’. Nevertheless, Black Codes were created in southern states to thoroughly regulate the lives of newly freed black people, granting them certain and limited rights. Black Codes, dictated if and where they could purchase their land, who they could legally marry, their employment, limited their access to the courts and denied their right to vote, testify, serve on juries or state militias. In 1865, Mississippi released its first set of Black Codes for their freedmen to adhere to.
However, Jack Miller, a freedman set a goal to become a landowner in MS for him and his family. In 1877 Jack Miller (and wife Ellen Miller), purchased 40 acres of land in Winston County, better known as Louisville, MS. One year later, Mr. Miller purchased another 40 acres of land creating a legacy for himself and his future generations.
Despite the black Codes, buying and owning property as a black American during the late 1800’s was not an uncommon thread across the deep South. In fact, blacks owned roughly 15,000,000 acres of land across the southern region.
Unfortunately, a great deal of property was taken unjustly and unrightfully during the early 20th century due to Jim Crow. Yet, some managed to maintain what was rightfully their homestead. This is the case for Mr. Miller. His original land, plus additional land purchased by other family members is thriving today.
According to the Deed Book number one (1) pages 190 and 191, which is located in the county clerk’s office in Louisville, MS, records that Jack Miller purchased 40 acres of land in 1877 and another 40 acres of land in 1878. Now, digest what you have just read. Here’s a so-called freedman, in a southern state, abiding by’ MS Black Codes, managed to purchase 80 acres of land in two years. Amazing! As heirs of this property, it is our privilege and duty to maintain his legacy by preserving the natural resources found on the land and celebrate his/their tenacity for seeing the benefit of being a landowner.
Amanda J. Miller To Deed Jack Miller: The State of Mississippi Winston County
This Indenture made and entered into this 12th day of January, 1877, by and between Amanda J. Miller forty of the first four, and Jack Miller forty of the second four all of the state and county aforesaid, witnessed: that for and in consideration of two notes of hand from the forty of the second part, each for the sum of $125, one hundred and twenty five dollars, one due the first day of December, 1877, the other due the 1st day of December, 1878. Working in the aggregate $250. Two Hundred and fifty dollars.