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Celebration of Achievement Honors Minorities, People of Color

Posted on: December 9th, 2015 by erabadie

Annual event begins at 5:30 p.m. May 8 in Tad Smith Coliseum


As part of University of Mississippi’s Commencement activities, the Center for Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement is honoring more than 230 minority graduates who have excelled during their tenure as students.

The annual Celebration of Achievement is set for 5:30 p.m. May 8 in Tad Smith Coliseum. The free event is open to the public.

“This event is an opportunity for family, friends and the university community to come together and honor graduating students of color and other underrepresented populations,” said Courtney Pearson, a graduate assistant and program co-coordinator. “Each honoree is invited to have an escort who will have the privilege of presenting them with a medal that honors their achievements here. We would like to increase the number of attendees that come out and support these graduates that are being honored.”

Program participants include Brandi Hephner Labanc, vice-chancellor for student affairs; Valeria Ross, associate dean of students; Charles Ross, associate professor of history and director of the African American Studies program; Donald Cole, special assistant to the chancellor for multicultural affairs and associate professor of mathematics; and Julia Bussade, instructor in Spanish and Portuguese for the Department of Modern Languages.

Chase Moore, former director of the UM Gospel Choir and associate director of the Student Activities Association, will sing the university alma mater. Student reflections will be given by Camila Versaquez, president of the Latin American Student Organization, and Briana O’Neil, president of the Black Student Union.

Begun by Valeria Ross years ago, the Celebration of Achievement program has become very meaningful to students who have been honored.

“To a first-generation college student coming from a family who thought they would never be able to afford to put their child through college, the Celebration of Achievement ceremony means everything,” said Cedric Garron of Winona, a 2014 recipient. “As a minority student, my decision to attend the University of Mississippi was questioned by my community, my classmates and sometimes by my friends. For an extended period of time I began to doubt my own choice, but I entered in the fall of 2009 with very high hopes.”

Garron said his tenure at UM was never a perfect, stress-free journey.

“I struggled academically and socially during my freshman and sophomore year, but with the help of the amazing faculty and staff members I was able to eventually fill out the first of hopefully many degree applications,” he said.

As graduation approached, Garron found himself thinking of how he wasn’t going to be recognized as an honor graduate or be the person wearing multiple cords from those prestigious honor societies so many of his classmates had joined. What he did have to look forward to was the Celebration of Achievement ceremony.

“Seeing how proud my mother was to escort me to the front of hundreds of my fellow minority graduates and place a medal of achievement around my neck created an indescribable amount of emotion,” he said. “We as a family were able to take a minute to reflect on just how large of an accomplishment my graduation was. Celebration of Achievement was not only a chance to celebrate my success, but the success of hundreds of my brothers and sisters in the Ole Miss family. That is a memory I will cherish forever.”

For more information, contact the Center for Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement at 662-915-1689 or

Faculty Profile: Charles K. Ross, Director of African American Studies

Posted on: December 9th, 2015 by erabadie

February 27, 2011 |  By Rachael Walker, The Daily Mississippian 


Charles Ross, director of the African American Studies and associate professor of history | Photo by Rachael Walker

Charles Ross, director of the African American Studies and associate professor of history | Photo by Rachael Walker

Charles Ross, director of the African American Studies department and associate professor history at the University of Mississippi, never dreamed that football would inspire his thesis.

Raised in Columbus, Ohio, Ross studied history at Stillman College in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Following his undergraduate program, Ross returned to Ohio. Unsure of what he wanted to do, he spent almost two years working for the federal government before returning to academics.

He completed a master’s degree in black studies, a second master’s in history in 1992 and completed his doctorate on African Americans in sports in 1996 at Ohio State University.

“My professor asked me who was the first professional football player,” Ross said. “I didn’t know, and I decided I wanted to find out.”

This led him to the story of Charles Follis, the first black professional football player who played for the Shelby Blues in Ohio from 1902 to 1906.

His study inspired Ross to publish two books in this field.

His first book “Outside the Lines: African-Americans and the Integration of the National Football League” was published in 2001. He followed it with “Race and Sport: The Struggle for Equality On and Off the Field” in 2006.

It is clear that sports are one of his genuine passions, both in and out of the lecture hall.

“Franco Harris was one of the players involved in ‘The Immaculate Reception’ play in the 1972 playoff game, a phenomenal play,” Ross said. “I have been a Steelers fan ever since.”

Sports aside, Ross made a name for himself in the world of academia and became the director of the African-American studies department in 2003.

“I didn’t think that I would end up in an administrative position,” Ross said. “I stumbled into the position, but it has worked out well for me.”

Since his time as director, the African American Studies department has started a B.A. program, recruited new faculty members, and developed new courses. It continues to expand, with ten to twelve students currently majoring in African American Studies.

“As the department grows, there is a strong possibility of a graduate program in the future,” Ross said. “We are the only institution in Mississippi that offers a bachelor’s program in African American Studies, and we hope to expand this.”

Ross said that the South as a region has a lot of potential. While it has a turbulent racial history, Ross feels that people are more open in the South.

“The North is not as honest as the South about racial animosity and problems,” Ross said. “People assume that there are not the same problems as there are in the South.”

While he is aware that it is hard to get away from his identity as a northerner, Ross calls the South his home.

“The positives outweigh the negatives,” Ross said of the adjustments he has made moving from Columbus to Oxford. “There are things I do on a daily basis here, such as leave my car running at the store in the morning, which I would not do in Columbus.”

On a personal level, he hopes to be able to do more teaching and further his research in the future.

“The opportunity to challenge young people and to discuss historical perspectives and issues and how society has evolved — I get a lot of enjoyment from that,” Ross said.

On an institutional level, Ross hopes that the University will continue to makes positive progress in the way it represents itself to black students.

“The University of Mississippi is a state institution,” Ross said. “It has the responsibility to all students, faculty and staff to promote symbols that are not interpreted in a negative way. The University needs to make a positive step because of its past. If it does not, it will restrict potential and growth.”

Faculty, Staff, Students Join MLK Day of Service

Posted on: December 9th, 2015 by erabadie
Marvin King, associate professor of political science and African American Studies

Marvin King, associate professor of political science and African American Studies

University of Mississippi students and staff are leading efforts to improve living conditions in Lafayette County and Oxford during 2015 Martin Luther King Jr. Day observances.

The Lafayette-Oxford-University MLK Day of Service opening ceremony begins at 9:30 a.m. Jan. 19 at the Oxford Activity Center. Program participants include UM Dean of Students Melinda Sutton, Oxford Mayor George “Pat” Patterson and Lafayette County Board of Supervisors President Jeff Busby. Marvin P. King Jr., UM associate professor of political science and African American Studies, will deliver the keynote address.

The senior fellow at UM’s Residential College South, King received his doctorate in political science from the University of North Texas after earning a bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin. He has co-authored or authored publications on racial polarization in the electorate, representation of the black electorate, and the effect of race in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. King teaches undergraduate courses in Introduction to American Politics and African American Politics, and an undergraduate and graduate course in Politics of the American South.

Following King’s speech, three awards will be presented to outstanding LOU volunteers in student and community categories. Honorees include Victoria Burgos of Oxford, a UM student who implemented a pilot composting program on campus; Barbara Wortham of Oxford, GED program instructor at the Oxford School District Learning Center; and Matt Gaw and Mari Susan Massey of Oxford, United Way volunteers.

Other activities scheduled during the day include a service fair featuring representatives from local nonprofits and organizations, a book drive for local correctional facilities, a letter-of-appreciation writing campaign for three area civil rights leaders and activities at five local assisted living facilities.

“It is exciting that University of Mississippi students and staff are choosing to make a difference in the lives of others,” sad Coulter Ward, assistant dean of students for leadership and involvement. “Volunteering builds communities and strengthens relationships. To have our students take opportunities to participate in endeavors like these is awesome.”

UM staff involved in planning of MLK Day of Service events expressed enthusiasm about participating in such a worthy cause.

“Learning the larger history surrounding civil rights and MLK is important, but we see a need to educate our students about living leaders who made great movements right here in Mississippi,” said Haley Kesterson, coordinator of the letter writing campaign. “We hope to give proper gratitude to local leaders. We hope to educate students on the civil rights movement here in Mississippi and give them a local, current perspective about the continuous issue.”
Campus participation is crucial to the success of the observance, said Sarah Ball, director of Volunteer Oxford.

“This national day of service honors Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy and commitment to transforming our nation through service to others,” Ball said. “The LOU MLK Day of Service offers community members a chance to engage in a variety of volunteer opportunities that are designed to give back to the community.”

A recreation administration major, Burgos was awarded a $3,000 grant from the UM Green Fund for the pilot composting project, followed by an additional $5,234 grant to continue and expand it. She has also volunteered at Habitat for Humanity and Camp Lake Stephens, a United Methodist Church facility.

A two-time recipient of the Learning Center Teacher of the Year award, Wortham is the Lafayette County Adult Basic Literacy Education program coordinator. Through her work with the GED Prep course at Burns United Methodist Church, she has helped an estimated 100 people obtain their GEDs.

Working together, Gaw and Massey were the first to assist local non-profits with fundraising, donating equipment and countless hours of volunteer time. Their work has been essential in the building of Lafayette County’s first Born Learning Trail in Avent Park.

For more information about LOU MLK Day of Service, contact Coulter Ward at or Sarah Ball at

VIDEOS: Inaugural TedxUM Talks

Posted on: December 8th, 2015 by erabadie

TedXUM logoThe University of Mississippi hosted its inaugural TEDx talks October 31, 2015 at the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts. The 9 a.m. event featured 10 brief lectures from university faculty members to showcase ideas worth spreading.

TEDxUM 2015 used the TED Talks conference format to bring together lecturers and other participants in a globally popular set of conferences run by the Sapling Foundation under the slogan “Ideas worth spreading.” Under the rules set by TED for the event, it will be open to only about 100 audience members this year, but organizers plan a much larger TEDxUM event for 2016.

“We believe it critical that Mississippi and the University of Mississippi, in particular, showcase the many ideas we have that are worth spreading,” said Marvin King, UM associate professor of political science and African American Studies. “We have incredible researchers and activists in our community, and the TED platform is among the best ways to make sure that Mississippi is a part of engaging discussions leading to real, positive change.”

“The event theme is In Plain Sight,” said TEDxUM organizer Elizabeth Wicks, a senior international studies and French major from Ocean Springs.

“It highlights the great minds that we have here on our campus and shows the world the amazing work being done in the Oxford area,” Wicks said. “In Plain Sight notes those aspects of life which are right before our eyes, yet must be illuminated in order to receive recognition.”

She said audience members were engaged by a diverse group of speakers and participated in interactive breakout sessions.

“The importance of an event such as TEDxUM on our campus cannot be understated,” Wicks said. “This will be the first event of its kind to occur at any university within the state of Mississippi and will be the second of its kind within the state as a whole. I believe that it will be an event that will better our community tremendously as well as show the world the talent and promise that we have here at Ole Miss.”

About 60 prospective faculty and staff lecturers were nominated to speak. A nine-member committee of five students and four faculty-staff members selected 10 speakers for TEDxUM 2015. Watch their presentations here:

Randy Wadkins
, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry, discusses nanotechnology

Matthew Wilson, assistant professor of theatre arts, lectures on humor

Gregory Heyworth, associate professor of English, lectures on digital humanities

Laura Johnson, associate professor of psychology, lectures on cross-cultural engagement

David Rock, dean of the UM School of Education, discusses classroom technology

Marc Slattery, professor of pharmacognosy, talks about drug research from the ocean

Mitchell Robinson, of Strawberry Plains Audubon Center, discusses diversity and environmental activism

Cathy Janasie, research counsel for the National Sea Grant Law Center, lectures on water scarcity

Michèle Alexandre, professor of law and Leonard B. Melvin Lecturer in Law, talks about “The B Word”

Chris McCurdy, professor of medicinal chemistry and pharmacology, lectures on natural products used to diagnose neural damage

VIDEO: University Commemorates 50 Years of Integration with Concert

Posted on: December 8th, 2015 by erabadie

It’s as much fun listening to George Dor talk about the upcoming 2012 Black History Month concert as it is hearing him perform, and that’s saying a lot.

On Feb. 23, audiences will have a chance to do both when Dor, associate professor of music at the University of Mississippi, joins several UM student ensembles to present a musical commemoration called “Celebrating 50 Years of Integration.”

The free public event is set for 7:30 p.m. in Nutt Auditorium. The program features performances by the African Drum and Dance Ensemble directed by Dor, the UM Steel Band directed Ricky Burkhead, associate professor of music, and the UM Jazz Ensemble directed by Michael Worthy, associate professor of music. The evening also features special performances by music graduate students Caline Waugh (soprano) of Jamaica and Fred Dunlap (percussionist) of North Carolina. Oxford resident Guelel Kumba, on vocals and guitar, rounds out the performers.

Dor, a native of Ghana, said he wanted to do something “truly special to mark the university’s 50th year of integration.”

“This is more than a celebration of black history; it’s a celebration of history, period,” he said. “When the University of Mississippi opened its doors (to minorities) in 1962, it offered hope for the entire state. I simply want to celebrate that hope and this university’s growth with song and music.”

And because Dor had a song in his heart, he decided to write an original composition about James Meredith, the man who opened doors at UM.

“Imaginative Reflections and Celebration” touts Meredith’s sacrifice and bravery, Dor said.

“Mr. Meredith was instrumental in making Ole Miss what it is today, an outstanding university opened to anyone who wants the best in higher education,” he said. “My composition is an acknowledgment of his sacrifice and is a small way to thank him for his dedication.”

Dunlap said he is proud to have been recruited to spotlight an African-American artist for this year’s Black History Month celebration.

“I was floored when Dr. Dor called and said he wanted to highlight a work by James H. Latimer and that he wanted me to perform,” said Dunlap, a native of Sanford, N.C. “Latimer’s ‘Variations on the Westminster Clock Theme’ is an outstanding composition. Its music and melody can truly be heard on pitch drums.”

Jeff Jackson, 2012 UM Humanities Teacher of the Year

Posted on: December 8th, 2015 by erabadie

Sociology professor to lecture on Mississippi poverty

Jeff Jackson. UM photo by Kevin Bain

Jeff Jackson. UM photo by Kevin Bain

An interest in the globalization of the developing world has earned a University of Mississippi professor a statewide honor.

Jeff Jackson, associate professor of sociology, has been named the 2012 Humanities Teacher of the Year at the University of Mississippi, and will give a lecture at 7 p.m. Thursday Nov. 8 in the Tupelo Room of Barnard Observatory. The event is free and open to the public.

His lecture, “Mississippi and the Global South: The Contemporary Paradox of Poverty Amid Plenty,” is an exploration of how inequality in Mississippi compares to other parts of the world and how the theoretical concept of the global South can help people overcome scholarly divides in the effort to understand the world-wide disparities that connect all of us.

The event is sponsored by the College of Liberal Arts and the Mississippi Humanities Council.

“The Humanities Teacher of the Year award recognizes Dr. Jackson’s outstanding work and his significant contributions to teaching,” said Glenn Hopkins, dean of the College of Liberal Arts.

Each year, 30 awards are given, along with a check for $500, to a scholar in the humanities at every institution of higher learning in the state.

“The MHC believes that this is an important way to support humanities teachers, encouraging excellence in teaching while at the same time recognizing their research and other interests and bringing these myriad, often fascinating topics to public audiences; in other words, we want to promote interaction among professional humanists and a wide audience of Mississippians who can enjoy the fruits of their scholarship,” said Barbara Carpenter, executive director of the Mississippi Humanities Council in Jackson.

Lecture posterJackson grew up in Wisconsin but considers Mississippi his home. He earned a bachelor’s degree  in sociology from the University of Wisconsin at Madison and a Ph.D. from the University of Texas.

While living in Cuernavaca, Mexico for a year, he worked as an intern for the Center for Global Education at Augsburg College and developed a greater interest in teaching and in conducting research on the relationship between the United States and the developing world. He was a Mellon Fellow in Latin American Sociology and spent a year conducting fieldwork on the international development profession in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.

Jackson moved to Oxford in 1999 and teaches courses at UM on race and ethnicity, globalization and international development.

In 2007, he published “The Globalizers: Development Workers in Action” (Johns Hopkins Studies in Globalization), which examines how development assistance promotes globalization in the developing world.

His research projects include a study of new donors of development aid such as China and Brazil, a study of the history of mascots at UM and a project on the concept of “the global South” as it relates to Mississippi, which is the topic for his lecture on Thursday and is based on collaborative work with the UM Interdisciplinary Faculty Working Group on the Global South. The group was formed in 2005 and is made up of faculty in English, Southern studies, history and sociology.

“The university has been very supportive of our Global South Working Group,” Jackson said. “I’m really looking forward to sharing some of our work with the larger university community.”

Jackson said he was very surprised and honored to have been chosen for the award.

“I was completely shocked; it’s really such a tremendous honor,” he said.  “The Mississippi Humanities Council does such important work to promote the humanities and the humanistic social sciences throughout the state and to be recognized for this award is very humbling. I just want to thank all of my UM students and colleagues with whom I’ve collaborated over the years. I owe them a lot for providing such a supportive environment in which to teach and conduct research.”

Sociology Professors Launch Racial Climate Study

Posted on: December 8th, 2015 by erabadie


A monument honoring James Meredith, the first black student at the University of Mississippi. | Photo by UM Communications.

A monument honoring James Meredith, the first black student at the University of Mississippi. | Photo by UM Communications.

Three University of Mississippi sociology professors are launching a comprehensive study to understand racial and ethnic issues on campus and are seeking student participants to chronicle their experiences in online diaries.

Professors Kirk A. Johnson, Willa M. Johnson, and James Thomas are seeking volunteers to confidentially journal their experiences with race issues at UM. The identities of the students will be known only to the investigators. For now, the study is expected to last at least until the end of the school year, but the hope is to continue it through coming academic years.

“We’re casting a broad net, so all students are eligible to participate,” Kirk Johnson said. “We want to hear from undergraduate or graduate students, those taking classes on the main campus or satellite campuses and those from all races and ethnic groups as long as they have some sort of racial and ethnic experience to share.”

Kirk Johnson

Kirk Johnson

The professors will collect diary entries and then analyze them to see what sort of factors lead to everyday incidents of racial and ethnic tensions or conversely, racial and ethnic cooperation. The professors are still making arrangements for other universities to join the project, so for the time being, UM is the only school being studied.

Students who wish to enroll in the study can click this link. The link takes students to an online consent form, after which they’ll be directed to the diary website. There’s also a brief tutorial that explains how to write a diary entry.

James Thomas

James Thomas

Deadly riots ensued when James Meredith became the first black person to enroll at the university in 1962. Over the years, other racial incidents have been reported at the university. In response to those incidents, Chancellor Dan Jones recently issued a comprehensive report with recommendations for making the university a more welcoming environment for all. Part of that recommendation is that the university deal head-on with issues of race.

Willa M. Johnson said the university is in a unique position to study the issue.

“We think that the University of Mississippi is well situated to discuss these things,” she said. “We think our history gives us an opportunity. Rather than just look at this as the grave problem that it truly is, we look at it from the perspective of the opportunity that it affords the University of Mississippi to both understand race and also to put scholarship out that explains prejudice, both where it comes from, how it’s expressed in all its iterations.”

Willa Johnson

Willa Johnson

Since the nation elected its first black president in 2008, many wonder if the country is “post-racial,” Willa Johnson said. She doesn’t believe that’s the case, but thinks the study can be a valuable look into how racial and ethnic dynamics work.

“We’re not post-racial, but where are we?” she added. “That’s what we’re trying to figure out.”

Professors who would like their students to participate in the diary project for extra credit should contact Kirk Johnson at

Professor Johnson Receives Lift Every Voice Award at UM Black History Month Kickoff

Posted on: December 8th, 2015 by erabadie


“Lift Every Voice” is traditionally known as the Negro national anthem, but the song title is also the name of an annual award presented at the University of Mississippi.

Kirk Johnson

Kirk Johnson

Four UM employees received the 2015 “Lift Every Voice” award Feb. 3 during UM’s Black History Month kickoff celebration in the Student Union. Honored were Kirk Johnson, associate professor of sociology and anthropology and African-American Studies, Joseph Ward, professor and chair of history; Brandi Hephner LaBanc, vice chancellor for student affairs; and Jennifer Stollman, academic director for the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation.

“The Black Faculty and Staff Organization of the University of Mississippi founded the ‘Lift Every Voice’ award to recognize an individual, group or entity that has contributed to the betterment of human relationships on our campus,” said Shawnboda Mead, director of the UM Center for Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement. “Particular emphasis is given to the areas of diversity, multiculturalism and inclusion. Recipients of this award have worked beyond their normal employment boundaries and performed the ‘extra mile’ of service to their fellow man for the university.”

Previous recipients include Thomas Wallace, former vice chancellor for student affairs; Johnnie Williams, former vice chancellor for administration and finance; Leroy Wadlington, former pastor of Second Baptist Church in Oxford; Glenn Hopkins, dean emeritus of the College of Liberal Arts and professor emeritus of mathematics; Gloria Kellum, vice chancellor emeritus for university relations; Maurice Eftink, associate provost and professor of chemistry and biochemistry; Chancellor Emeritus Robert Khayat; Donald Cole, assistant to the chancellor for multicultural affairs and associate professor of mathematics; Warner Alford, alumni director emeritus and former athletics director; Kirsten Dellinger, professor and chair of sociology and anthropology; Jackie Certion, FASTrack academic adviser; Patrick Perry, director of the LuckyDay Program; Curtis Wilke, associate professor of journalism; Aileen Ajootian, professor of classics; Susan Glisson, director of the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation; Jeff Jackson, associate professor of sociology; Charles Ross, associate professor of history and director of African-American Studies program; Susan Grayzel, professor of history and director of the Sarah Isom Center for Women and Gender Studies; Morris Stocks, provost and professor of accountancy; and former Chancellor Dan Jones.

Professor Jodi Skipper Receives Award of Merit

Posted on: December 2nd, 2015 by erabadie
Professor Jodi Skipper (left) receives the Mississippi Historical Society award.

Professor Jodi Skipper (left) receives the Mississippi Historical Society award.

Jodi Skipper, assistant professor of anthropology and Southern Studies, received the Award of Merit to Preserve Marshall County & Holly Springs, Inc., from the Mississippi Historical Society at their annual meeting in Corinth on March 7th, 2015.

The award is presented to individuals or organizations for outstanding archival, historical, museum or records management work.

University of Mississippi archaeologists Jodi Skipper and Carolyn Freiwald began excavations at the Hugh Craft house in Holly Springs in November 2014 with a crew of Department of Sociology and Anthropology graduate and undergraduate students and the participation of Rust College students working with Dr. Alisea McLeod. Construction work on foundation of the 1850s mansion and detached kitchen building (that likely also served as the slave quarters) revealed evidence of consumption of whitetail deer, turkey, pig, and cow, as well as antebellum ceramics and other artifacts identified by homeowner and historian Chelius Carter.

Big House logoProfessors Skipper and Freiwald hoped to identify features associated with culinary practices of the time, as well as other household activities. The team identified features including a posthole, old piping, and a burned area in the yard. They returned in April 2015 to continue the investigation in conjunction with the Behind the Big House program (April 7th-12th) of tours of several extant slave dwellings and the Holly Springs Annual Pilgrimage Tour of Historic Homes and Churches.


National Humanities Alliance Recognizes UM Archaeologists

Posted on: December 2nd, 2015 by erabadie

November 19, 2015

NHA graphicWork by Jodi Skipper, assistant professor of anthropology and Southern Studies, and Carolyn Freiwald, assistant professor of anthropology, on the Behind the Big House Project in Holly Springs, Mississippi has been recognized as a model for collaborative, publicly-engaged work by the National Humanities Alliance (NHC).

Their project with Preserve Marshall County & Holly Springs, Mississippi Humanities Council, Visit Mississippi, and The Slave Dwelling Project is featured on an interactive NHC map and described as the following:

Screen Shot 2015-11-19 at 3.26.30 PM

A series of preservation and interpretation programs around historic slave dwellings, designed to encourage local community engagement with the past, present, and future of race relations.

Each year, pilgrimage tours throughout the South immerse visitors in re-creations of the antebellum era, focused largely on historic homes. In the city of Holly Springs, Mississippi historical preservation advocates have created the Behind the Big House program, collaborating with academic researchers to ensure that these re-creations of local history move beyond the city’s large mansions to explore its many extant slave dwellings and interpret the experiences of the enslaved people who inhabited them.

Launched in 2011, Behind the Big House complements the annual Holly Springs Pilgrimage by offering docent-led tours of multiple local slave dwellings and live historical interpretations in cooperation with the South Carolina-based Slave Dwelling Project.

Faculty and students from the University of Mississippi Department of Sociology and Anthropology and Center for the Study of Southern Culture are central to this project, serving as docents as part of their coursework on southern heritage and tourism, and leading archaeological digs to reveal aspects of daily life in and around the slave dwellings.

Behind the Big House creator and primary organizer, Preserve Marshall County & Holly BehindBigHouse-logoSprings, Inc., developed the program in order to underscore the linkage between historic preservation and a fuller understanding and appreciation of local history, and to draw attention to issues of slavery and race relations in discussions of the Holly Springs community’s past, present and future. Since Behind the Big House launched in 2011, organizers have noted a marked diversification of participants in the city’s annual Pilgrimage tours. Concurrently, Behind the Big House has given impetus to a new local program titled Gracing the Table, a local racial reconciliation group, co-founded by Rust College faculty and students, whose motto is “community healing through communication.”

Finally, Behind the Big House reaches growing numbers of students from local public schools each year, and the program’s organizers are developing an approach to year-round school programming and other study groups. This approach is intended to serve as a template for other communities with similar ties to the legacy of slavery that wish to revisit their own historical narratives in the interest of greater accuracy, completeness, and inclusiveness, whether or not they contain extant slave dwellings.

Partners are Preserve Marshall County & Holly Springs, Inc., University of Mississippi Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Mississippi Humanities Council, Mississippi Development Authority/Tourism Division, The Slave Dwelling Project, Inc.