The Deepest South of All: True Stories from Natchez, Mississippi, by Richard Grant

October 14, 2020 at 3:28 pm (Book review, books)

This is Natchez:

Monmouth Plantation

 

Rosalie Mansion

 

Stanton Hall

Dunleith Historic Inn

So is this:

Author Richard Grant is clearly fascinated by the history of Natchez, its present day existence, and the people who call it home. In addition, Grant, a native of Great Britain, brings a unique perspective to the stories he relates and the individual denizens with whom he engages.

The Deepest South of All brings to life many aspects of this singular place, but what comes through again and again, is the struggle by the city’s people to come to terms with its past.

The town and the surrounding area contain the greatest concentration of antebellum homes in the American South, including some of the most opulent and extravagant. Looking at these Federal, Greek Revival, and Italianate mansions, their beauty seemed inseparable from the horrors of the regime that created them. The soaring white columns, the manacles, the dingy apartment buildings at the Forks of the Road, the tendrils of Spanish moss hanging from the gnarled old trees, the humid fragrant air itself: everything seemed charged with the lingering presence of slavery, in a  way that I’d never experienced anywhere else.

(I should mention that at first glance, The Deepest South of All reminded me of John Berendt’s 1994 bestseller Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. But whereas that book took a somewhat bemused, not to mention highly entertaining look at the city of Savannah and its curious customs – I vividly recollect the ‘Married Women’s Card Parties’ – The Deepest South of All is, in my view, decidedly more somber, both in tone and in content.)

Threading its way throughout this narrative is a story stranger than fiction: that of a prince from the nation of Guinea. He was called Abdulrahman Ibrahim Ibn Sori, also known as Ibrahima.   There is also a documentary on this subject, available on Amazon Prime. Here is a trailer:

As much as I liked this book and in particular appreciated Grant’s terrific writing, I was frustrated by two seemingly inexplicable omissions. First, there were no photographs or illustrations of any kind; second, there was no bibliography save mention of the book pictured above. In my opinion, The Deepest South of All would benefit greatly by being reissued in a larger format with illustrations and a comprehensive bibliography.

Even in its present form, this book would be an excellent choice for a book group discussion.

4 Comments

  1. Rose Johnson said,

    Whew, when I lived in Starkville, Mississippi in 76 to 79, we drove to Natchez for the famous Home Tours one spring. The owners told us about the history and decor we saw and the gardens were in bloom. Dueling garden clubs vied for tourist dollars 💵. When you lose a war in your town and your granny dies and field hands run off and you buried the silver and you were scared of the Yankees the stories are not forgotten, generation after generation. Won’t forget that trip !

    • Roberta Rood said,

      Thanks for this, Rose. I was hoping to hear from someone who’d actually been to Natchez!

  2. Con said,

    I am a big fan of Shirley Seifert’s book about Varina Davis, The Proud Way, and am determined to visit Natchez. Looking at these pictures makes me more eager. I am working on an online graduate degree at the University of Southern Mississippi and figure I will go in person for graduation in 2022, visit Natchez and detour to Birmingham to walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge on my way back north.

    • Roberta Rood said,

      I wish you the very best!

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