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College of Liberal Arts
University of Mississippi

Stories of the Enslaved

Donald Guillory (right) talks with Chancellor Glenn Boyce about the history of Barnard Observatory.

Donald Guillory (right) talks with Chancellor Glenn Boyce about the history of Barnard Observatory.

“When people don’t have a narrative, they don’t have value in the eyes of the greater society,” said Donald Guillory, a history doctoral student.

In this time of the pandemic, Guillory gives a voice to the enslaved people who lived in and around Oxford before the Civil War by illuminating their history via video tours of campus, where some iconic structures were built by labor of the enslaved. The tours are an initiative of the UM Slavery Research Group. Created in 2013, the group works across disciplines to learn about the history of slavery and enslaved people in the community.

Tour narratives can be challenging because they present an alternative reality to the stories slave-owning families created about the people they held in bondage and their relationships with them, Guillory said.

In his 2020 TEDx University of Mississippi presentation, “The Importance of a Narrative,” Guillory compares lost stories to “missing threads in the fabric of humanity,” a fabric he hopes to reweave.

“The history department is thrilled to support graduate students engaging in public history projects like this tour because they connect a broad audience of university community members and Oxford residents, such as high school students, to the work of professional historians,” said Noell Wilson, chair of history and Croft associate professor of history and international studies.

“We are grateful for Don’s ingenuity and technical savvy in moving the tours online during the pandemic and are optimistic the tours will reach an even larger audience through this virtual platform.”
Slavery Reseach Tour locations map

 Campus Slavery Tour Locations
  1. Lyceum
  2. Barnard Observatory
  3. Croft Institute
  4. Contextualization plaque dedicated to the university’s enslaved laborers
  5. Ventress Hall
  6. Former site of the Confederate monument on the Circle
  7. Hilgard Cut
  8. Oxford Free Black Community

> VIDEO: Watch the UM History of Slavery tour