Around the Press in 80 Books: Tumult and Silence at Second Creek

In celebration of LSUP’s 80th anniversary the staff selected 80 of our most memorable titles. Adding to our “Around the Press in 80 Books” blog series, executive editor Rand Dotson writes about Tumult and Silence at Second Creek.

Tumult and Silence at Second Creek

In the early 1970s, an archivist at LSU’s Hill Memorial Library suggested to historian Winthrop Jordon that he examine what appeared to be a partial handwritten transcript of slave testimony from a failed 1861 slave revolt. At the time, the uprising was unheard of. Indeed, no record of the events alluded to in the transcript existed in the historical literature. The slave testimony, however, offered a tantalizing starting point, and it led Jordon on a twenty-year odyssey to understand what had occurred in Adams County, Mississippi, in 1861. His historical detective work uncovered one of the most important planned slave insurrections in American history, a conspiracy that led planters just outside Natchez to hang or whip to death nearly 30 of their slaves and afterwards do all in their power to erase the events from the historical record.

Published in 1993, Tumult and Silence at Second Creek, is not only the story of the failed insurrection and its bloody aftermath, but also of how Jordon came to understand the details of what happened and the life stories of the individuals involved. In essence, he takes readers along as he gathers evidence and interprets it, offering an informal guidebook on how the best professional historians work their craft. The result is a history book like no other: one that places readers over a historian’s shoulder as he solves a perplexing historical mystery using scattered and incomplete sources, eventually turning a fragment of slave testimony into the richest possible rendering of a vanished slave conspiracy and the extralegal trials and executions of those accused that followed. Upon publication, Tumult and Silence won the Bancroft Prize – one of the most prestigious awards in the history profession – and was widely praised by fellow historians as the most remarkable feat of detective work by a modern historian.

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