We hope you can join us for the next talk in our Holtzclaw Lecture Series. Dr. Kristi Melancon, professor of English at Mississippi College, will be speaking with us about her work on race, gender and the Black Press on Thursday, October 18th as part of Homecoming Week festivities on campus. Dr. Melancon’s work examines representations of identity in the New Orleans Tribune, the nation’s first Black daily newspaper.
If you’ve been to the campus lately, I’m sure you’ve seen the new bridge that’s being built over White Oak Creek on Highway 18.
The bridge that MDOT is replacing actually has a pretty neat story.
When Holtzclaw first built the school on this site, students would arrive via train on the Little J rail line. This train route connected Jackson to Natchez and went through all the little towns along Highway 18 (you can still see the depot in Carpenter a few miles south of the campus). For Utica students, the train would stop alongside the tracks and drop them off a mile and a half from the campus. You can see the original site where the “Utica Institute Station” was located on Traxler road (there weren’t any buildings though; just a rail siding). If you wanted to get off at the Utica Institute, you’d just let the conductor know and they would stop the train. If you wanted to get on the train, you’d flag them down as they were coming through. In the early days of the institution, students would walk from the rail station over to the campus. In the process, they had to cross White Oak Creek on their own with whatever luggage they were carrying as they made their way to the campus.
In our NEH-funded Introduction to Humanities course, we had some fascinating conversations about genealogy, and the challenges in tracing African American family histories prior to the 19th century due to the legacy of slavery. I’m reminded of a comment Henry Louis Gates made during one episode of Finding Your Roots, where he discussed how his white friends were able to track their descendants back to the Mayflower, or back to Europe, but that his family couldn’t do that. Building on his idea that “knowing one’s ancestry untaps powerful forces for healing the deep wounds of racism in America,” Jean Greene and I (Dan Fuller) have decided to launch a genealogy workshop on campus this semester. We’re envisioning a series of hands-on workshops to help students and interested community members tap into their family histories and then extend their research using census records, military service records, and other archival collections. We are planning to hold two or three sessions with Jean and I leading the group to build their trees with as much information as they can gather (the low-hanging fruit, to play with the metaphor a bit more) and then we’ll bring in an expert on African American genealogy in a later session to help the participants push through any roadblocks they may have encountered. Our first introductory session will be held during Founder’s Week on Thursday, March 22nd at 1:30pm in the future Utica Institute Museum.
January was a whirlwind of historic tours, conversations, and learning. We kicked our semester off with a campus historical tour for all the academic faculty on campus. Most folks knew pieces of the story of our founding, but it had been a while since we brought everyone together to share it all. We were also able to share some of our more recent discoveries, including a visit to the original Utica Institute train stop on the old Little J railroad line, which ran from Jackson to Utica. More recently, we were able to take a group of students to the screening of Tell Them We Are Rising, a new film about the HBCU experience coming out on PBS in a few weeks. Students were able to watch the film and meet with the director for a Q&A, along with a panel on the impact of HBCUs like Utica in Mississippi.
The acting chairman for the National Endowment for the Humanities, Jon Peede, will be visiting Hinds Community College’s Utica Campus for a celebration of the legacy of founder William H. Holtzclaw.
The program is at 9 a.m. Friday Dec. 8 in the Walter Washington amphitheater on the Utica Campus.
The celebration will focus on Holtzclaw’s contributions to African American education. The historic Utica Jubilee Singers will present several selections, and there will also be presentations of research projects and an overview of humanities activities at the Utica Campus.
Peede, who grew up in Brandon and now lives in Virginia, is expected to make brief remarks.
Performance by the Jubilee Singers
Overview of Grant activities
Student research presentations
Faculty research presentations
This semester’s research trip in our Introduction to Humanities was centered around our visit to the Tuskegee archives. Students were able to explore the connections between Booker T. Washington and William H. Holtzclaw that we’ve discussed in class through a hands-on tour of the campus. Tuskegee archivist Dana Chandler and assistant director Cheryl Ferguson rooted students’ museum visits in the archival collection, with a moving presentation of the story of the Carver meteorite, along with a presentation on the importance of the archives in understanding the African American experience. While the students were touring Tuskegee sites, the Humanities faculty met with our counterparts at Tuskegee to discuss future partnerships.
In partnership with the Hinds-Utica leadership class, our humanities students had the opportunity to visit the Whitney Plantation in Wallace, LA. Students were able to learn quite a bit from the only plantation museum in Louisiana focused on the slave experience. Jeffery Fairley, a sophomore majoring in biology/pre-med summed up his experience this way:
Today, I and a few other students had the gracious opportunity to go to the Whitney Plantation in Wallace, Louisiana, and might I say… it was amazing. I have gone to this particular plantation over the summer, but this experience beats the summer’s experience hands down. Today, due to the lax time constraints, I was able to ask more questions, view the property better, and most importantly, digest the mean of this experience. Visiting this place became a heart wrenching experience for me due to the cruelty that took place on such beautiful grounds. Just knowing that I was walking on the land that my fellow brethren use to work in order to keep the masters pocket book happy, saddens me. Just walking through the tour forced me to become teary-eyed a few times, due to the overwhelming emotions that I was experience. The portion of the tour that truly hit home was the Name Wall, the wall were the slaves name were written in print for all to see and speculate forced me to realize that slavery was real and that it was so close to the place I call home. Seeing common names on the board that meant so much to me, like Aaron, Marie, and Baptiste. Knowing president day people who possessed these names deepened my understanding of the unoriginality that existed both today, and back then. I have always heard that there was nothing new under the sun, but that parable never had any effect on me until viewing those names on that wretched wall for all to see and marvel. The institution of slavery sickens me, and I am very thankful for the opportunity that students like me are able to fully understand and visit sites like this to cement the learning of this demeaning practice.
Join us on Wednesday, October 25th for our annual Holtzclaw Lecture, featuring photojournalist and journalism professor Alysia Burton Steele. Steele, a journalism professor at the University of Mississippi, will be discussing her oral history project and book, Delta Jewels: In Search of My Grandmother’s Wisdom. Hear the story behind the making of the book featuring stories from African American elder women, who share poignant highlights of their lives during the Jim Crow-era Mississippi. The talk begins at 1pm in the Amphitheater on the Utica Campus.
We kicked off our first Holtzclaw Summer Teacher’s Institute this week by bringing together educators from around the country (and world!) for a week of discussion centered around our shared reading list. In July, the participants will visit the campus for a week of face-to-face study culminating in the creation of a teaching unit the participants will be able to use in their own contexts.
The Holtzclaw Institute is a new initiative from the Humanities Department at Hinds Community College-Utica designed to increase public awareness of the life and legacy of William H. Holtzclaw, an important Black educator in the Jim Crow south. As part of a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) grant, we aim to develop new teaching modules related to Holtzclaw and his role in southern Black education.