Biennial history conference begins Feb. 11

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 17, 2004

With its lavish smorgasbord of programs, the 2004 Historic Natchez Conference will present &uot;South by Southwest: Exploring the History of the Old Natchez District&uot; Feb. 11-14 at the Natchez Eola Hotel.

The conference, held every two years, is free and open to the public, offering in its presentations, insight into historical events researched by scholars from throughout the United States.

One highlight will be &uot;Camp Van Dorn, Natchez and the 99th Infantry Division in World War II&uot; by the renowned author and scholar Charles P. Roland, now retired and a professor emeritus at the University of Kentucky.

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&uot;He was at Camp Van Dorn during World War II and knew many people in Natchez,&uot; said Mimi Miller, preservation director at the Historic Natchez Foundation, one of the institutions sponsoring the conference. &uot;He could have talked about many other subjects, but he wanted to talk about Camp Van Dorn. It’s going to be wonderful.&uot;

The history conference was inspired by the Adams County Courthouse Records Project, undertaken more than 10 years ago by students of Dr. Ronald Davis at California State University, Northridge and the Historic Natchez Foundation.

Students rescued many thousands of public records from the basement of the courthouse in 1992 and began to sort, clean and index them, all the while gleaning information that spawned extraordinary research projects, Miller said.

&uot;Having the conference stimulates students to do even more research on Natchez,&uot; she said. &uot;We know so much more about Natchez as a result of the courthouse records project.&uot;

Along with the Historic Natchez Foundation and California State University, Northridge, conference sponsors include the Center for American History at the University of Texas at Austin, the Louisiana and Lower Mississippi Valley Collection at Louisiana State University, the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, the Natchez National Historical Park, the Southern Historical and Folklife Collections at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Southern Mississippi.

&uot;Every year, we question whether we want to spend the usual $30,000 we budget for the conference, and our co-sponsors always say yes,&uot; Miller said. &uot;Because of the funding, we are able to invite everyone in the community to come free, even to the party at Stanton Hall.&uot;

New York Life, a new conference sponsor, will host the Stanton Hall event as a thank-you to Natchez for assistance in educational documentaries and Web sites based on Natchez’s African-American history.

Many conference presentations will center on African-American history. One of those, with Dr. Jim Coy and his wife, Ruthie Coy, as lecturers, will explore the life of one of the city’s most famous free black men, Robert Smith. The Coys own Smith’s home on Broadway, now known as Bontura.

&uot;They have traveled to all the places they knew Smith had been to get information on his life,&uot; Miller said. &uot;They have found out many things we never would have known about Robert Smith.&uot;

The schedule of events is as follows, with all programs at the hotel except for the 6 p.m. program on Feb. 12, which will be at St. Mary Basilica.

Feb. 11:

11 a.m.: Registration

1 p.m. &uot;Early Settlers Make Their Mark,&uot; moderated by Ralph Vicero, California State University

&uot;From Jersey to the Wilderness: Revolutionary era Migration from New England to the Natchez Area,&uot; Johanna Lee Smith, Louisiana State University

&uot;Andrew Marshalk and the Fighting Press of the Old Natchez District,&uot; Anthony Seybert, California State University, Northridge

&uot;Fair Daughters of Charity: Women and the Ordering of Benevolence in Natchez and the Early American Republic,&uot; Nancy Zey, University of Texas, Austin

2:30 p.m. &uot;African-American Passages: All Over the Map,&uot; moderated by Charles Macune, California State University, Northridge

&uot;The Journey Home: Natchez and the African-American Colonization Movement, 1828-1855,&uot; Dawn Dennis, California State University, Northridge

&uot;The Natchez ‘Over-Ground Road to Emancipation: Sending the Enslaved to Ohio, 1830 to 1861,&uot; Roseanne Welch, California State University, Northridge

&uot;Telling the Monmouth Story from the Perspective of the Enslaved,&uot; Cynthiana Parker, California State University, Northridge

&uot;Making the Most of Freedom: Female Black Teachers in Post-Bellum Natchez,&uot; Darcy Bieber, California State University, Northridge

7:15 p.m. &uot;The Compass Always Points North,&uot; moderated by Faye Phillips, Louisiana and Lower Mississippi Valley Collection, Louisiana State University

&uot;Not Quite Southern: The Precarious Allegiance of the Natchez Nabobs in the Sectional Crisis,&uot; William K. Scarborough, University of Southern Mississippi

Feb. 12

9 a.m. &uot;Crossroads and Cross Currents: Converging Cultures in Early Natchez,&uot; moderated by Charles Bolton, University of Southern Mississippi

&uot;Natchez Bluffs: Once Upon and Now Down Under, Archaeological and Historical Investigations Along the Natchez Riverfront,&uot; Thurston Hahn, Coastal Environments, Baton Rouge

&uot;Choctaws, Chickasaws, Spaniards and Anglos: Trade, Kinship and Politics in the 1790s Lower Mississippi Valley,&uot; Greg O’Brien, University of Southern Mississippi

11 a.m. &uot;Delineating a Decade: The 1940s,&uot; moderated by Anne Lipscomb Webster, Mississippi Department of Archives and History

&uot;Camp Van Dorn, Natchez and the 99th Infantry Division in World War II,&uot; Charles P. Roland, professor emeritus, University of Kentucky

&uot;Federal Law Against Mississippi Mob Law,&uot; 1940-1947,&uot; Christopher Waldrep, San Francisco State University

2:30 p.m. &uot;Metes and Bounds: The Post-Bellum Era,&uot; moderated by Charles Yarborough, Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science, Columbus

&uot;Lost Cause Versus Lost History: Historical Memory and the Black Troops of Civil War Natchez,&uot; Dan O’Sullivan, California State University, Northridge

&uot;They Came On Like Locusts: Northern Merchants in Post-Bellum Natchez,&uot; Aaron Anderson, California State University, Northridge

&uot;Jim Crow, Louis J. Winston and the Survival of Black Politicos in Post-Bellum Natchez,&uot; Sheryl Nomelli, California State University, Northridge

&uot;The Unknown Soldiers: The Black Troops of World War I Natchez, 1910-1930,&uot; Shane Peterson, California State University, Northridge

6 p.m. &uot;Gender and Ethnic Meanders,&uot; held at St. Mary Basilica and moderated by Don Carleton, Center for American History, University of Texas

&uot;Felicite Girodeau: Racial and Religious Identity in Antebellum Natchez,&uot; Emily Clark, Lewis and Clark College, Oregon

&uot;The Irish in Antebellum Natchez,&uot; David Gleeson, College of Charleston, South Carolina

Feb. 13

9 a.m. &uot;Archival Expeditions: Traveling Well-Worn Paths and Blazing New Trails,&uot; moderated by Ron Miller, Historic Natchez Foundation, with a panel of Don Carleton, Faye Phillips, H.T. Holmes of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History and Tim West and Laura Clark Brown of the Southern Historical and Folklife Collections at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

11 a.m. &uot;Betwixt and Between the Law: Mid-Century Explorations,&uot; moderated by Tim West

&uot;Filibustering and the Failure of American Law in the 1850s,&uot; Robert E. May, Purdue University

&uot;White Christmas: Buy-Ins and Boycotts in Civil Rights-Era Natchez,&uot; Ted Ownby, University of Mississippi

2:30 p.m. &uot;Living Within Boundaries: Free African Americans in Antebellum Natchez,&uot; moderated by Keith Whisenant, Natchez National Historical Park

&uot;Nor Everything is Black or White: Comparing and Contrasting the Lifestyles at Melrose and the William Johnson House,&uot; Carol Petravage, Harper’s Ferry Center, National Park Service

&uot;In Search of Robert Smith: Preserving and Interpreting an African-American Legacy,&uot; Jim Coy and Ruthie Coy, Natchez

4 p.m. Tours of William Johnson House and Bontura, home of Robert Smith

7 p.m. Cocktail buffet at Stanton Hall sponsored by New York Life

Feb. 14

9 a.m. &uot;Downriver and Cross Country: Slave Trading to the Deep South,&uot; moderated by Ralph Jennings, Historic Natchez Foundation

&uot;Andrew Jackson, the Interstate Slave Trade and the Election of 1828,&uot; Robert H. Gudmestad, Southwest Baptist University, Missouri

&uot;Empire for Slavery: Capital, Cotton and slaves in the Lower Mississippi Valley,&uot; Walter Johnson, New York University

11 a.m. &uot;Setting Markers: Staking Out the Sites,&uot; moderated by Ronald Davis, California State University, Northridge

&uot;Driving Out the Traders: The Natchez Uprising of 1833,&uot; Thom Rosenblum, Natchez National Historical Park

&uot;Recognizing and Interpreting the Forks of the Road Slave Market,&uot; Jim Barnett, Mississippi Department of Archives and History

&uot;The New York Life and Natchez Connection: A Partnership Voyage,&uot; with remarks by Kathleen Jenkins, Natchez National Historical Park; Tim Hallinan and Kathy Honda, Hallinan Consulting, Los Angeles, Calif.

4 p.m. Tours of exhibits at Natchez Museum of Afro-American History, Natchez in Historic Photographs and Temple B’Nai Israel

7 p.m. Cocktail buffet at Longwood