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Prospect Hill: Enslavement and Freedom from Mississippi to Africa

Presented by:

  • Dr. Shawn Lambert, Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Mississippi State University
  • Jessica Fleming Crawford, Southeast Regional Director for The Archaeological Conservancy
  • Dr. James Andrew Whitaker, Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Troy University, Adjunct Faculty, Mississippi State University, and Honorary Research Fellow, University of St Andrews

More about the lecture

On Thursday, September 14, 2023 we held our second Virtual Lecture of 2023. Our presenters spoke about our Prospect Hill Plantation and a recent project that connects this southern Mississippi plantation with the African country of Liberia.

In 2011, The Archaeological Conservancy purchased the Prospect Hill Plantation preserve in south Mississippi. The plantation was established in the early 1800’s and at its height, as many as 300 people were enslaved there. Isaac Ross, the plantation owner, was a member of the American Colonization Society which raised money to establish settlements of formerly enslaved people in what is now the country of Liberia.

During the 1840s, a group of at least 300 previously enslaved African-Americans were sent as settlers from Prospect Hill to Sinoe County, Liberia. The Sinoe settlement, referred to as Mississippi in Africa, was founded by the Mississippi State Colonization Society. This history links Mississippi and Liberia and is the context for a research project at both Prospect Hill and Liberia. This project will use archaeological surveys and excavations to uncover material culture to better understand the lives of the people at Prospect Hill who became settlers to Liberia. The objective is to collect data concerning their material culture and to analyze this data to ascertain cultural, economic, political, and social patterns that will later be compared in a separate study using surveys and excavations at settlement sites in Sinoe County, Liberia. The project began in June 2023 with a week of public outreach and public participation in archaeological excavations at the site.

Photo of woman standing in front of a bule building with a screened-in porch, flat roof, and sign above the door that reads "Mississippi Blues".

About the presenter

Dr. Shawn Lambert is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Mississippi State University with a specialization in southeastern archaeology. Specifically, Lambert studies late pre-European contact and historic periods with an emphasis in remote sensing technologies, ceramic analysis, and public archaeology. One of his primary passions is being an advocate for developing and maintaining collaborative and intellectual partnerships with descendant communities to help inform the histories and cultural heritage at sites across Mississippi and beyond.

Jessica Fleming Crawford is Southeast Regional Director for The Archaeological Conservancy, a nationwide, non-profit organization dedicated to identifying and preserving the country’s most significant archaeological sites. The Conservancy preserves these sites by acquiring title to them through purchase, owner donation, and occasionally holding easements. The Conservancy has five regional offices and owns over 500 archaeological preserves throughout the country. From her office in Marks, Mississippi, she is responsible for managing The Conservancy’s properties in eight Southeastern states, overseeing research on those sites, and acquiring additional sites. She develops land management plans and works with various government agencies on the incorporation of selected Conservancy properties into State and National parks. She also plans and guides a week-long educational tour of Southeastern archaeological sites. She attended the University of Mississippi where she obtained a bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s degree in anthropology with an emphasis in archaeology.

Dr. James Andrew Whitaker is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Troy University and serves as Adjunct Faculty at Mississippi State University and as an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of St Andrews. He is a sociocultural anthropologist whose work centers around ethnohistory, history ecology, and ontology. He has conducted fieldwork in Amazonia and West Africa. He is currently examining historical memory and identity in relation to the settlement of Sinoe County in Liberia, which was known as Mississippi in Africa during the nineteenth century. In conjunction with this ethnographic fieldwork, he is collaborating with colleagues on a broader interdisciplinary project that aims to trace the movement of African American settlers from Prospect Hill to Liberia during the nineteenth century.

Free For Everyone

Our virtual lectures are a part of our Outreach and Education efforts. They are free to our Members and the General Public.  Recorded lectures are posted on YouTube and on the event page after the event occurs.

For questions about the event or how to register, please contact Susan Bowdoin (tac.connect@gmail.com) or Sarah Webber (saraht.tac@gmail.com).

This lecture series is sponsored by The Archaeological Conservancy and is made possible in part with grant support from the New Mexico Humanities Council.

*Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this (publication/program) do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities or the New Mexico Humanities Council.