December 2-3, 2022

Taylor House on Hollywood / Valley Plantation

The physical address of the house is 184 Plantation Lane, Tillar, AR.

Behind the Big House moves beyond the “Big Houses,” or stately historic homes, to explore extant slave dwellings and interpret the experiences of the enslaved people who inhabited them.

UAM’s Taylor House served as one such big house on the Hollywood Plantation, later known as the Valley Plantation, which once spanned more than 10,000 acres across Desha, Drew, and Lincoln counties. Behind the Big House includes live historical interpretations and lectures to highlight the important contributions African Americans made to Arkansas’s history and provides a broad understanding of the importance of the living spaces of enslaved people and their role in heritage tourism. This year’s program will focus on best practices for interpreting slavery at historic sites as well as researching the lifeways of African American farmers after emancipation.

On Friday, December 2, at 5:00 p.m., participants will sample cuisine prepared by Chef Jarita Frazier-King of the Natchez Heritage School of Cooking based on Black food traditions while rotating through interactive stations around the historic property. At 6:30 p.m., people will move to the Visitor Center where Dr. Matthew Rooney will recognize some of the descendants of the Valley Plantation community. A lecture will follow by Dr. Jodi Skipper of the University of Mississippi about reconciling slavery, race, and heritage in the U.S. South. Afterward, guests are invited to join a Fireside Chat with Joseph McGill of the South Carolina-based Slave Dwelling Project. Participants are invited to tent camp in a pecan grove owned by John Hancock, Jr. near the UAM property.

On Saturday, December 3, a half-day of programming will include lectures at the Taylor House Visitor Center about the struggles of enslaved Arkansas women, the challenges of frontier life and use of wild resources among African Americans in Arkansas, and archeological investigations of the postbellum community at the Valley Plantation.

This project is supported in part by a grant from the Arkansas Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

This event is free and open to the public.

Registration is not necessary, but if you plan to camp at the site on Friday, December 2, please RSVP at so we may provide you with additional instructions.

For your convenience, nearby hotel options are below –
Dumas, AR – (this is about 15 minutes from the Taylor House)
Monticello, AR – or (these are about 30 minutes from the Taylor House)

Preliminary program:

Friday, December 2, 2022

5:00 PM              Behind the Big House and Preservation Libations                                     

Participants will enjoy libations provided by Preserve Arkansas and rotate through five stations, sampling and learning about the cuisine of Arkansans enslaved during the antebellum period.


Genealogy and Cemeteries
Carla Coleman of Preservation of African American Cemeteries (PAAC) will lead a discussion about the importance of cemeteries in genealogical research at the African American cemetery associated with the Hollywood / Valley Plantation.
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.
Archeology and Zooarcheology
Dr. Michelle Rathgaber, Dr. Melissa Zabecki, and additional Arkansas Archeological Survey staff 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.
Food Preservation
Dr. Suzzette Goldmon and Ms. Teki Hunt, M.Ed., of the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences will display and demonstrate canning and drying techniques used in previous and modern times to extend the life of fresh foods from their station at the historic smokehouse. Information on Cultural Heritage Tourism will also be shared.
Taylor House Tour
Dr. John Henris and Dr. Kyle Day of the University of Arkansas at Monticello and Joseph McGill of The Slave Dwelling Project will share the history of the 1846 Taylor House and evidence of its enslaved builders.

6:30 PM              Welcome

Rachel Patton, Executive Director, Preserve Arkansas

6:40 PM              Recognition of Hollywood / Valley Plantation Descendants

Dr. Matthew Rooney, Arkansas Archeological Survey

7:00 PM              Behind the Big House: Reconciling Slavery, Race, and Heritage in the U.S. South

Dr. Jodi Skipper, University of Mississippi

8:00 PM              Fireside Chat: Slavery and Race in Arkansas

Joseph McGill, The Slave Dwelling Project

9:00 PM              Sleep Tight

Joseph McGill and interested participants sleep in tents at the site.


Saturday, December 3, 2022

8:30 AM              Coffee and Pastries

9:00 AM              Welcome

Rachel Patton, Preserve Arkansas

9:15 AM              Body Politics: Enslaved Women’s Struggles in Arkansas

Dr. Kelly Houston Jones, Arkansas Tech University

10:15 AM            Break

10:30 AM            Archeology in Service to Community: No Hollywood Story

Dr. Matthew Rooney, Arkansas Archeological Survey

11:30 AM            Off the Grid: A History of Nature, Black Power, and Freedom on the Arkansas Frontier

Dr. Story Matkin-Rawn, Independent scholar

12:30 PM            Dismissal

Thank you to our partners!