Known as the “barber” of Natchez, William Johnson was born into slavery in 1809, was emancipated at the age of 11, kept an extensive diary starting in 1835 and was shot and killed over a land dispute in 1851.
Johnson trained with his brother-in-law as a barber. He bought the downtown Natchez barber shop in 1830 for $300 and taught the trade to free black boys. Starting in 1835 he kept a diary until his death in 1851 which detailed everyday life in pre-Civil War Natchez. The diary filled fourteen leather bound volumes. Johnson's diary was rediscovered in 1938 and published in 1951. It reveals much of the daily life of a 19th-century Mississippi black businessman, including the fact that he was himself later a slaveholder.
Johnson was a very successful entrepreneur. In addition to the barber shop he also owned a bath house, bookstore, and had several land holdings. He loaned money to many people, including the governor of Mississippi who had signed his emancipation papers.
After Johnson’s death his house on State Street continued to be owned by the family until they sold it to the Ellicott Hill Preservation Society in 1976. The house was then donated to the city who in turn donated to the National Park Service in 1990. After an extensive restoration process, the park service opened the house as a museum detailing William Johnson’s life in 2005 as part of Natchez National Historical Park.
Visit the William Johnson House located at 210 State Street to learn about the life of a free man of color and his family by exploring:
- Interactive Exhibits
- William Johnson's Furnished Living Quarters
Visitor Hours, More Information and Location Map
The William Johnson House is open Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of each week (closed on Tuesdays and Saturdays) from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The William Johnson House is closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year's Day.
Admission is free.
For more information, see www.nps.gov/natc/
Below is an interactive map with William Johnson House's location in the middle of the map (brown marker).