Group Brings Discussions of Slavery, Historic Preservation to UM

Several events set for students, faculty, staff and community members

The UM Slavery Research Group is hosting Joseph McGill to talk about the preservation of slave dwellings. McGill will host an overnight stay in the old kitchen behind Rowan Oak for select students and faculty members. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi Slavery Research Group will host several events April 18-22 that explore the stories of enslaved people in north Mississippi.

“Slave Dwellings: Rediscovering the Enslaved in North Mississippi” aims to discuss the narratives of the lives of enslaved people and the houses in which they lived.

“The goal of these events is to bring attention to the issue of slavery as it relates to the history of our campus,” said Jeffrey Jackson, UMSRG co-chair and associate professor of sociology. “We also hope to emphasize the importance of historical preservation and the need to preserve existing slave houses in the area.”

Jobie Hill, historic preservation architect, will deliver a lecture during a brown bag lunch on saving slave houses. Hill has conducted research to examine the homes of American slaves and started a database in 2012 to protect these structures and the information they provide to historians.

Slave Dwelling Project founder Joseph McGill also will deliver a presentation. The project’s mission is to raise awareness of these dwellings and assist with their preservation.

McGill, a descendant of slaves, had traveled to nearly 100 historic sites in more than 18 states to give lectures and spend the night in the slave dwellings.

“Now that I have the attention of the public by sleeping in extant slave dwellings, it is time to wake up and deliver the message that the people who lived in these structures were not a footnote in American history,” he said.

McGill will host an overnight stay for 12 Ole Miss history, sociology and anthropology students and faculty members in the old kitchen behind Rowan Oak.

“We hope that students who will be sleeping over with Joseph McGill will develop a deeper appreciation of what life was like for the enslaved and that this event will help us remember the legacies of slavery for our campus and our nation,” Jackson said.

This will be McGill’s fifth visit to the UM campus.

“He is looking forward to the opportunity to discuss preserving structures where slaves lived,” said Chuck Ross, UMSRG co-chair and director of African American studies. “His visits to these locations are helping to facilitate discussions about the institution of slavery, more importantly and specifically about the lives of the slaves themselves.”

The Slavery Research Group also will conduct a campus tour, detailing the history of slavery on campus.

The UMSRG has also partnered with the city of Holly Springs for this year’s “Behind the Big House” programming. The preservation initiative is aimed at interpreting the legacy of slavery through educational efforts and examination of historic sites.

This year’s focus is the Hugh Craft House, its slave quarters and kitchen on Memphis Street in Holly Springs. McGill will return to the site to spend the night in the structures.

Carolyn Freiwald, assistant professor of anthropology, will take students to the site to conduct an excavation of the slave quarters and kitchen area. A table exhibit of past finds at the site will be on display for the public.

The events are sponsored by the UM Slavery Research Group, Center for the Study of Southern Culture, Preserve Marshall County, Holly Springs Inc. and the Whiting Foundation.

Here is a full schedule of events that are free and open to the public:

Wednesday (April 18)

Saving Slave Houses – Noon, Barnard Observatory Tupelo Room

Slavery on Campus History Tour – 2 p.m., meet at the Department of Archives and Special Collections on the third floor of the J.D. Williams Library

The Slave Dwelling Project – 4 p.m., Barnard Observatory Tupelo Room

Friday (April 20)

Slavery in Antebellum North Mississippi – 4 p.m., Holly Springs Depot, 540 Van Dorn Ave., Holly Springs. Max Grivno, University of Southern Mississippi professor and historian, will deliver a lecture on his research.

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