A quick google search of concentration camps will direct you to atrocities of Nazi Germany; however, America has its own dirty history concerning the use of concentration camps. The most notorious of these camps was located in Natchez, Mississippi.

The Encampment

The Devils Punch bowl

Following the conclusion of the Civil War, Natchez Mississippi experienced an enormous influx of former slaves as new inhabitants. In response, the locals constructed an “encampment.” All the former slaves were gathered and forced to enter, the area walled off and they were refused the option to leave. This encampment after the atrocities were revealed would become known as the “Devils Punchbowl”.

American Concentration Camp

The Devils Punch bowl

Re-enslavement

The migration of former slaves was a deeply sensitive issue with former Union soldiers, bitterly dissatisfied with the result of the Civil War, decided to exact their revenge on the newly freed Black inhabitants of Natchez. As the slaves attempted to make their way to freedom, the population of Natchez swelled from 10,000 to 120,000 essentially overnight. Dejected with the freedom of the slaves, the Union army began recapturing the Male slaves and forcing them into hard labor camps. The women and children were locked behind the concrete walls of the encampment only to later succumb to malnutrition and disease. Inside this American concentration camp, 20,000 freed slaves were killed in one year.

The removal of the bodies was not allowed by the Union Army; they simply gave them shovels and instructed them to “bury their dead where they fell”. Fresh food and water was nonexistent, disease and starvation would exact its toll. The camp was located at the bottom of a vast crater with trees located on the bluffs above it, helping to contribute to its devilish name.

Peach Groves

The area today is known for its wild peach groves, of course, the locals refuse the citrus nectar from these groves because they are aware of the source of its fertilization. Skeletal remains are sometimes revealed due to the occasional flooding by the Mississippi River. We must acknowledge what happened here and honor the souls of our slain ancestors. We must never forget or allow America to forget its concentration camps at the Devils Punchbowl.

Ironically, there are very few scholarly articles on this subject. The majority of the accounts are derived from oral sources; however, this is not uncommon as it pertains to atrocities committed against slaves. Detractors would argue, “If the incident was as drastic as the articles suggest, surely there would be more references to it. Either in schools or textbooks, Wikipedia or something”. Professional historians employ this argument all too often. As is the African way, our histories are often passed along orally, told many thousands of times over to ensure the accuracy of minute details. If not for this method, many of our stories would be lost to history (his-story). Thereof course was more of an interest by professional historians to conceal and or diminish certain historical aspects of American Chattel slavery and its aftermath to protect and somehow whitewash its historical context.

We must tell our own stories! The Lion has learned to write!