The Importance of Prospect Hill Plantation Crosses International Borders

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After the welcome, guest were treated to musician William Ross, a student in Jackson State University’s Classical Music Program, playing “Amazing Grace.” (Photo H.P. Lail Photography)
After the welcome, guest were treated to musician William Ross, a student in Jackson State University’s Classical Music Program, playing “Amazing Grace.” (Photo H.P. Lail Photography)

A Recent in-depth article in the Guardian on the Prospect Hill Plantation, preserved & protected by the Archaeological Conservancy and lovingly overseen and cared for by our Southeast Regional Director Jessica Crawford, highlights the significance of this site to descendant families, our country as the U.S. struggles to understand and recognize the long legacy of slavery and African countries across the Atlantic.

Excerpt Courtesy of the Guardian:

‘This is surreal’: descendants of slaves and slaveowners meet on US plantation

At Prospect Hill in Mississippi, people came from as far as Liberia for an unlikely gathering that led to a scene of visible emotion – with ‘a lot to talk about’

“The gathering at Prospect Hill plantation that day could have been a casting call for a period drama set before the American civil war.

The location was remote, along a one-lane gravel road in sparsely populated Jefferson County, Mississippi. A group of about 50 people, black and white, stood in front of an archetypal southern Gothic home, chatting amiably about slave owners and slaves.

At one point, a lone costumed man in a top hat strolled through. Nearby, an elderly white woman held the hand of a black man with whom she was deeply engrossed in conversation. Then a van pulled up and discharged a group of African visitors who were running an hour late, and the crowd broke into applause.

As she surveyed the scene, Prospect Hill’s de facto director, Jessica Crawford, said: “This is all actually a bit surreal.”

She was right: where but in a dream would stand-ins for slave owners and slaves gather in the middle of nowhere, just to chat? Yet these were actual descendants of Prospect Hill’s original slave owners and slaves, gathered for the first of a series of reunion events held between November 2011 and April 2017.

Each attendee existed along a vast network of interconnected circuits, and once they got together, all the circuits lit up.

With the arrival of the van, a missing piece fell into place: the passengers were descendants of slaves who had been emancipated from the plantation before the civil war and immigrated to a freed-slave colony in what is now the west African country of Liberia. The contingent had driven all night to attend the event, completing a trip across a chasm that encompassed 170 years and 5,000 miles.

Their leader, Evangeline Wayne, noted that her ancestors had been taken from Africa during the slave trade. After decades in the US, their descendants had been allowed to immigrate “back” to Africa, though they’d never actually been there before.

At Prospect Hill she found herself being embraced by people she’d never met as if she were a long lost friend. “I didn’t expect this,” she said, smiling and fighting back tears. “I don’t know what I expected, but it wasn’t this.”

Wayne cannot definitively document her connection to Prospect Hill because Liberia’s national archives were destroyed during the civil wars, though she remembers her grandmother mentioning a Mississippi plantation and a “Captain Ross”.

“To be honest, I’m unsure of who, and what, I am, and where I fit in,” Wayne observed, with visible sadness. “I’m considered a foreigner in Liberia, even though I’m from there, and it’s the same in the US.” When she met James Belton, a descendant of Prospect Hill slaves who had chosen not to immigrate, they both encountered someone whose life represented what their own might have been, had their ancestors made a different choice.

Unsure what to say, they simply embraced. ”

Article Continues at https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/nov/16/us-slavery-descendants-plantation-mississippi

Read More about the Reunions at Prospect Hill Plantation from our 2017 Open House:

“The Conservancy’s preserve at Prospect Hill has an important role to play in all of this. I’ve already seen it touch people very deeply. It has touched me very deeply. It’s an example of how as an organization, The Conservancy does much more than just protect archaeology. What we do touches lives and it’s far reaching. In this case, it reaches all the way to Africa. We’ve spent a tremendous amount of time and effort ensuring that Prospect Hill will endure to become a place for research and even reconciliation. It was obvious at this very special Open House Saturday, April 29th, that it is well on its way.” Our Southeastern Regional Director Jessica Crawford

Help support our efforts Saving Prospect Hill

James Belton, a descendant of the enslaved at Prospect Hill discusses his genealogical research and his ancestors. (Photo Duke Beasley)
James Belton, a descendant of the enslaved at Prospect Hill discusses his genealogical research and his ancestors. (Photo Duke Beasley)
Prospect Hill Plantation
Prospect Hill Plantation before the New Roof was installed. Photo by Michael Chapman.

 

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