Local History

Published on March 26th, 2019 | by TLV News


Go “Behind the Big House” in Holly Springs with a Popular Living History Program

Preserve Marshall County & Holly Springs, Inc.’s (PMCHS) preservation initiative: the “Behind the Big House” Program, now in its eighth year, continues its educational outreach efforts towards interpreting the legacy of slavery. With much thanks for the continued grant-assistance funding from the Mississippi Humanities Council, PMCHS has made plans for an in-depth look at two program sites this year: the slave quarters, kitchen, and adjacent domestic areas for both the Hugh Craft House, located at 184 S. Memphis Street and Burton Place, located at 248 S. Memphis in Holly Springs, Mississippi. This year the program will have additional funding from the Mississippi Hills National Heritage Area Alliance, and welcomes their interest and support!

The site will be quite active site this year, as Culinary Historian Michael W. Twitty will be returning for his fifth year to conduct antebellum cooking demonstrations, following his recent publication: The Cooking Gene, Michael’s well-received work, earning the 2018 James Beard Awards’ Book Of The Year. Michael will be set up in the side lawn of the Hugh Craft House, conducting his antebellum cooking demonstrations from Thursday through Saturday (April 4–6) . . . and if you are lucky enough to time your visit well, he will be pleased to share with you some of the delicious samplings from his cooking pot!

Mr. Twitty is at the forefront of reviving traditional African American foodways through seed-keeping, growing heirlooms and heritage crops, raising heritage breeds, and sustainably gathering and maintaining wild flora and fauna that our ancestors relied upon. Responsible exploration of Southern food heritage demands that the enslaved people charged with cooking for antebellum America be honored for their unique role in giving the Southland her mother cuisine. This is honoring food’s history—all while serving up, as Michael calls it “culinary justice.”

From Thursday through Saturday, Dr. Carolyn Freiwald, from the University of Mississippi’s Department of Sociology & Anthropology will be on site with her student volunteers conducting an active excavation in the slave quarters and kitchen areas and will have table exhibits of past excavation finds at this site, helping to interpret the lives of the enslaved people who lived and toiled here with no end in sight.

Joseph McGill, founder of The Slave Dwelling Project, Inc., is returning for his eighth year with the Behind the Big House program and will be stationed within the slave quarters and kitchen of the Hugh Craft House and Burton Place from Thursday through Saturday. He will be on hand to discuss the lives of the enslaved people who lived and toiled on these sites, like countless other slave-related sites across the United States his project has brought attention to. In a 2010 interview with NPR’s Michele Norris, McGill conveyed his realization that, “For so long folks have been visiting the plantation and going into the big house, and without these structures, the big house could not have existed.”

Joseph McGill – Slave Dwelling Project at McLeod Plantaion

Local artisan Dale DeBerry will be on site with his colleague Wayne Jones, giving talks about 19th century brick making and will have on hand some of his own artworks in clay for your purchase. They will be on site from Thursday through Saturday.

Historic interpreter Tammy Gibson is joining the program once again to demonstrate and discuss the role of an enslaved laundress during the antebellum era, from Thursday through Saturday.

On Thursday night (April 4) from 5:30–7:30 pm, PMCHS hosts its Welcome Reception at historic Chalmers Institute, (no cost) at 151 S. West Boundary Street; this is an annual and quite popular social event!

Got a question? Or need for clarification? Contact PMCHS at:

Can’t make it to this year’s Behind the Big House program? Please consider a donation to PMCHS to help support this and other preservation initiatives:

and visit them on Facebook:

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About the Author

The Local Voice is a bimonthly entertainment guide and newspaper based in Oxford, Mississippi, covering and distributed in North Central Mississippi, including Oxford, Ole Miss, Taylor, Abbeville, Water Valley, Lafayette County, Yalobusha County, and parts of Panola County, Marshall County, and Tupelo . The Local Voice is distributed free to over 255 locations in North Mississippi and also available as a full color PDF download worldwide on the internet.

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