Isaiah Montgomery

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Isaiah T. Montgomery (May 21, 1847 – March 5, 1924) was the son of Ben Montgomery, and the founder of Mound Bayou, Mississippi. Soon elected mayor, he was an active politician, even participating in the 1890 Mississippi constitutional convention which adopted a state constitution that disfranchised black voters for decades, using poll taxes and literacy tests.[1][2] He was seen as promoting an accommodationist position, a position which would soon be shared by another former slave and eventual black leader Booker T. Washington.

Early life and education[edit]

Born into slavery, Isaiah was afforded an education due to his father's relatively influential position on the Davis Bend plantation. Following the end of the American Civil War, he began a business with his father. It lasted until Ben's death in 1877.

Ben Montgomery had long dreamed of establishing an independent black colony.


After his father's death in 1877, Isaiah worked to make that dream come true. With his cousin Benjamin T. Green, he bought property in the northwest frontier of Mississippi Delta bottomlands to found Mound Bayou in 1887. Bolivar County was the largest in the Delta. As farmers cleared land, they started cultivating cotton.

Montgomery worked to procure blacks protection of the law and to keep their work and lives separate from supervision by whites.

In what the Washington Post termed "A Notable Address Delivered by the Colored Statesman," Frederick Douglass gave a speech in October 1890 before the Bethel Literary and Historical Society of Washington, D.C.'s Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church, in which he strongly condemned Montgomery's stance regarding suffrage in Mississippi. Douglass had spoken of Montgomery numerous times before and on the occasion cited his position as an act of "treason, to the cause of the colored people, not only of his own state, but of the United States," referring to the effect Montgomery's act would have in other states. He also lamented having heard in Montgomery "a groan of bitter anguish born of oppression and despair" and a voice of a "soul from which all hope had vanished."[3][4]


  1. ^ Wormser, Richard (October 18, 2002). "Isiah Washington". Jim Crow Stories: The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow. Educational Broadcasting Corporation. Archived from the original on October 18, 2002. Retrieved October 18, 2002.
  2. ^ Educational Broadcasting Corporation (December 28, 2002). "Williams v. Mississippi (1898)". Jim Crow Stories: The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow. Public Broadcasting Service. Archived from the original on April 5, 2003. Retrieved April 5, 2003.
  3. ^ "DOUGLASS TO HIS RACE". Oct 22, 1890. Retrieved 20 March 2017.
  4. ^ Douglass, Frederick (October 21, 1890). The race problem : great speech of Frederick Douglass, delivered before the Bethel Literary and Historical Association, in the Metropolitan A.M.E. Church, Washington, D.C., October 21, 1890.THE RACE PROBLEM. Washington, DC: JOHN H. WILLS School and College Books. Retrieved 20 March 2017.

External links[edit]