Behind the Big House Program, April 20th- 22nd

Preserve Marshall County & Holly Springs, Inc.’s preservation initiative: the “Behind the Big House” Program, now in its seventh year, continues its educational outreach efforts towards interpreting the legacy of slavery through this pilot program. With much thanks for the continued grant-assistance funding from the Mississippi Humanities Council, we have made plans for an in-depth look at a single site this year at the historic Hugh Craft House, its slave quarters & kitchen and adjacent domestic areas., located at 184 S. Memphis Street – Holly Springs, Mississippi.


We will have a quite an active site this year, as Culinary Historian Michael W. Twitty  (left) will be returning for his fourth year to conduct antebellum cooking demonstrations, following his recent publication: The Cooking Gene.


Michael will be set up in the side lawn of the Hugh Craft House, conducting his antebellum cooking demonstrations on Friday and Saturday (April 20/21)…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.  The responsible exploration of the Southern food heritage demands that the enslaved people charge with cooking for antebellum America be honored for their unique role in giving the Southland her mother cuisine. To honor the food past and provide for the food future is what Michael calls, “culinary justice.”

From Thursday through Saturday, Dr. Carolyn Freiwald will be on site with her student volunteers (right) from the University of Mississippi’s Department of Sociology and Anthropology, 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.


Joseph McGill (below), founder of The Slave Dwelling Project, Inc. (below), is returning for his seventh year to the Behind the Big House program and will be stationed within the slave quarters & kitchen from Thursday through Saturday. He will be on hand to discuss the lives of the enslaved people who lived and toiled on this site, 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 those structures, the big house could not have existed.”


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 Lois Harris is joining our program on Saturday, demonstrating the role of an enslaved laundress during the antebellum era.


On Friday night  (April 20th) from 5:30 – 7:30 PM, Preserve Marshall County & Holly Springs, Inc. will be hosting its annual Welcome Reception at historic Chalmers Institute, located at 151 S. West Boundary Street. This year’s now popular local social event will double as a book signing for Michael W. Twitty’s The Cooking Gene. If you have not yet purchased a copy, you may do so at the reception.


Got a question? Or need for clarification? Contact us 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:


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Preserve Marshall County & Holly Springs, Inc.

Chelius H. Carter, President

P.O. Box #787

Holly Springs, MS 38635


Preserve Marshall County & Holly Springs, Inc. (501c3) formed in 2005 with the hope of bringing historic preservation advocacy and educational outreach to the community. As one of our inaugural undertakings we acquired Chalmers Institute and are currently working to not only pay off the bank note on the property but to stabilize and eventually rehabilitate Chalmers Institute into regional resource once more. Constructed in 1837, Chalmers Institute, was Mississippi’s first legislatively recognized University. Within these walls countless leaders, writers, educators, and citizens received the educational foundations that would help to shape their lives, careers, and region’s history. Its enrollment actively continued until 1879 when it became another casualty of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1878. This proud structure entered its second life as residence until the 1980s. It now awaits its third life as a contributing member of the community with your help.