What We Do

Behind the Big House

Taylor House on Hollywood / Valley Plantation

February 9-10, 2024

Behind the Big House looks beyond the “Big Houses,” or stately antebellum homes, to learn about the experiences of enslaved people, with the goals of raising awareness of this often understudied part of our past and improving the quality of interpretation at historic sites and museums. UAM’s Taylor House served as one such “big house” on the Hollywood/Valley Plantation, which once spanned more than 10,000 acres across Desha, Drew, and Lincoln counties. The 2024 program will highlight the importance of involving descendant communities in site interpretation, foodways, and new archeological research from Hollywood and Valley Plantation sites. 

Behind the Big House is free and open to the public. The full schedule is below. Although the site is closer to Winchester, the address is 184 Plantation Lane, Tillar, AR 71670. This project is supported in part by a grant from the Arkansas Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities.


Friday, February 9, 2024

5:00-6:30 PM

Taylor House Grounds and Visitors Center 

Participants will rotate through seven stations, sampling food and learning about the lives of Arkansans enslaved during the antebellum period before moving into the Visitors Center for additional programming. The evening ends with a Fireside Chat facilitated by Joseph McGill and Herb Frazier of the Slave Dwelling Project.


Station 1.

Genealogy and Cemeteries

Carla Coleman and Tamela Tenpenny-Lewis, co-founders of Preservation of African American Cemeteries, Inc. (PAAC), and archeologist Dr. Robert Scott will provide resources and materials related to the preservation of African American cemeteries and share methods of documenting those interred, tying them to family and community histories.

Station 2.

Cooking with Soul

Chef Jarita Frazier-King of the Natchez Heritage School of Cooking will lead a hands-on cooking demonstration that celebrates the history and culture of Black food traditions from Africa to America.

Station 3.

Campfire Cooking

Independent chef Joseph Brajcki will cook over an open fire to prepare dishes using ingredients that were available to enslaved people in the Arkansas Delta.

Station 4.

Archeology and Zooarcheology

Dr. Melissa Zabecki, Dr. Michelle Rathgaber, and Kourtney Lee of the Arkansas Archeological Survey will share artifacts and faunal remains found near the Taylor House and explain what these things can teach us about the way enslaved people lived.

Station 5.

Food Preservation Methods – Salting and Smoking

Dr. Suzzette Shaw Goldmon and Hospitality and Tourism students of the UAPB School of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Human Sciences will display and demonstrate salting and drying techniques used to extend the life of fresh meats from their station at the historic smokehouse.

Station 6.

Food Preservation Methods – Canning

Teki Hunt and Hospitality and Tourism students of the UAPB School of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Human Sciences will display and demonstrate canning techniques used to preserve fresh fruits.

Station 7.

Taylor House Tour

Dr. John Henris of the University of Arkansas at Monticello and Joseph McGill and Herb Frazier of the South Carolina-based Slave Dwelling Project will share the history of the 1846 Taylor House and evidence of its enslaved builders.

Taylor House Visitors Center

6:30 PM


Rachel Patton, Executive Director, Preserve Arkansas

6:35 PM

Recognition of Hollywood / Valley Plantation Descendants

Dr. Matthew Rooney, Arkansas Archeological Survey

7:15 PM

Descendants of the Enslaved and Historic Site Stewardship

James French, Founder, Montpelier Descendants Committee and Brownland Leadership Solutions; Ex-chair, The Montpelier Foundation

8:15 PM

Fireside Chat: Slavery and Race in Arkansas

Joseph McGill and Herb Frazier, The Slave Dwelling Project

9:00 PM

Sleep Tight

Interested participants sleep in tents at the site. For camping details, please contact info@preservearkansas.org or 501-372-4757.

Saturday, February 10, 2024

Taylor House Visitors Center

8:30 AM

Coffee and Pastries

9:00 AM


Rachel Patton, Preserve Arkansas

9:05 AM

Taking Up Arms: Tactics of Defense on and off the Plantation

Dr. Liz Ibarrola, University of Texas at Austin

10:05 AM


10:20 AM

Finding Enslaved People and Sharecroppers on the Valley

Dr. Matthew Rooney, Arkansas Archeological Survey

11:20 AM

Slavery, Memory, and Vulnerability

Dr. Jodi Skipper, University of Mississippi

12:20 PM


Thank you to our partners!