The discovery in 1938 of the diary and personal papers of William Johnson (ca. 1809-1851), a free Negro of Natchez, Mississippi, made possible the publication of this fascinating volume. Johnson's diary offers a firsthand account of a former slave who rose from harsh circumstances to become a successful businessman. It is also an intimate portrait of life and social relations in a southern town in the years leading up to the Civil War.
William Ransom Hogan (1908-1971), a graduate of Trinity University, received his advanced degrees from the Univeristy of Texas. He was formerly head of the Department of Archives at LSU and served during World War II as a captain in military intelligence. He was a professor at Tulane University from 1947 until his death and served for many years as chairman of the history department. In 1946 Hogan published his influential The Texas Republic: A Social and Economic History, an authoritative account of early Texas history and a standard source of information on the republic.
Edwin A. Davis discovered the diary in the attic of the house the diarist built in 1840-41. It is still occupied by Johnson's descendants, who consented to the purchase of the diary and numerous other items by the Louisiana State University Department of Archives, of which Davis was then the head. Davis graduated from Kansas State Teachers College and received his advanced degrees at the State University of Iowa and LSU.