Mary Susan Ker papers, 1785-1958.

Creator: Ker, Mary Susan, 1838-1923.
Collection number: 1467
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Abstract: Mary Susan Ker of Natchez, Miss., was the daughter of cotton planter and American Colonization Society vice-president, John Ker (1789-1850) and Mary Baker Ker (d. 1862). Letters received by Mary Susan Ker between 1852 and 1910 from family and friends along the Mississippi River in Louisiana and Mississippi, documenting their lives, family relationships, and financial positions. Among the correspondents is sister Sarah Evelina Ker (1826-1868), who married Richard E. Butler; lawyer and sugar planter David Ker (1825-1884); lawyer John Ker (1826-1870); cotton planter Lewis Ker (1831-1894); and William Henry Ker (1841-1902), teacher and principal of Natchez Institute. There is also material relating to Mary Susan Ker’s work as a governess in Louisiana and Mississippi and as a teacher in public and private schools in Adams County, Miss., New Orleans, and Natchez. Civil War letters appear for William Henry Ker, who served in Virginia and North Carolina with a cavalry troop raised in Adams County, and for civilians in Louisiana and Mississippi. Ker’s diary, 1886-1923, describes a trip to Europe in 1886-1887 and the social life and customs of post-Reconstruction Mississippi, especially around Natchez and Vicksburg. All papers dated before 1852 belong to John Ker (1789-1850), including items relating to his work with the American Colonization Society, or to other Ker family members.

Repository: Southern Historical Collection

Collection Highlights: Correspondence prior to 1852 discusses plantation management, such as the purchase of slaves. Ker’s diary (1886-1923) documents the political and social climate of the period in Vicksburg, Natchez, and surrounding areas, and notes local lynchings; her relationship with black workers she hired; political conflicts centered on race; the naming of a black to the position of postmaster; a prank played on black students by white Tulane students (1895); Ker’s dismay over her niece playing with black children; a black baptism in the Mississippi River (1921); and holiday activities in the black community. The collection also contains John Ker’s letters about colonization (1831-1849); a slave list and a list of clothes purchased for slaves (1858-1861); and several photographs of a black woman and her granddaughter. ┬áThe eight volumes appearing in Series 3 also provide information on expenses and slaves at the Ker family’s Elba Plantation in the early 1860s.Microfilm available.