Dr. Timothy Buckner, professor of history at Troy University, has been named the recipient of the Jules and Frances Landry Award for 2024 for his upcoming book on the life of a free man of color in the 19th Century.
“The Barber of Natchez Reconsidered: William Johnson and Black Masculinity in the Antebellum South” follows a free man of color who lived in Natchez, Mississippi during slavery. Johnson was born into slavery and was eventually freed by his white father. He trains as a barber, later becoming a businessman and a slaveowner himself.
After learning about William Johnson in the early 2000s, Buckner developed an interest in his life and later went on to read Johnson’s 2,000-page diary that covers a span of 16 years. Work on “The Barber of Natchez Reconsidered” began around three years ago after reading another book on a similar topic that inspired him to revisit Johnson’s story.
Johnson was ultimately murdered by his neighbor—also a free man of color—who uses the murder to convince the townspeople he was actually white.
The Jules and Francis Landry Award is given annually to the best book on a topic related to southern history or southern studies published by the LSU Press. Through the years, the winners have represented a wide range of fields and methods of inquiry, but all have made notable contributions to the study of the South.
“Any time I’ve ever won anything I just assume that it’s a mistake, and that was my initial reaction here,” Buckner said. “Turns out it was true. I had to read the email a few times before it sank in. It was a surprise, but I was happy to get it.”
“It’s been a good year for this department. This isn’t the only book that’s coming out, we have lots of people working on really important things,” he said. “I hope students recognize the kinds of contributions that the faculty in this department put out. Yes we teach, but there are people here who generate important things that furthers the knowledge of humanity. It’s nice to be able to work with people who are doing this kind of work.”
“The Barber of Natchez Reconsidered: William Johnson and Black Masculinity in the Antebellum South” is available via Amazon and the LSU Press with shipping slated for this fall.