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Steven J. Niven

farm laborer and justice of the peace, was born a slave in Alabama to parents whose names have not been recorded. It is not known when Parker arrived in Rolling Fork in Issaquena County in the Yazoo-Mississippi Delta, or why he left Alabama. It is possible that Parker, like many former slaves after emancipation, embarked on a perilous journey of several hundred miles to rejoin family members who had been sold to southwest Mississippi. Or he could have made that journey in the late 1860s when thousands of black freedmen and their families began flocking to the Delta in search of their own land. More likely he was himself one of thousands of African American slaves brought to the Delta in the decade before the outbreak of the Civil War by owners seeking the vast fortunes to be made from that region's dark, rich, alluvial soil.

Such fortunes could ...