On May 11, 2022, Jodi Skipper discussed her new book Behind the Big House: Reconciling Slavery, Race, and Heritage in the U.S. South as part of the History Is Lunch series.
The work explores Skipper’s eight-year collaboration with the Behind the Big House program in Holly Springs, a community-based model used at local historic sites to address slavery in the collective narrative of U.S. history and culture.
“All too often when people visit sites of slavery, it is the lives of slaveowners that are centered, obscuring the lives of enslaved people,” said Skipper. “My book takes a candid, behind-the-scenes look at what it really takes to interpret the difficult history of slavery in the South.”
Dave Tell, author of Remembering Emmett Till, wrote of the book: “Part memoir, part communal autoethnography, part history, and all activism, Behind the Big House presents historic preservation as a form of memory activism. In Skipper’s telling, a local effort to preserve the legacy of slavery wends through classrooms, national nonprofits, ill-fitting academic benchmarks, and intimate friendships. Historic preservation—and Skipper herself—emerge as models for work in the public humanities.”
Jodi Skipper is associate professor of anthropology and southern studies at the University of Mississippi. She earned her BA in history from Grambling State University, her MA in anthropology from Florida State University, and her PhD in anthropology at the University of Texas. Skipper is coeditor of Navigating Souths: Transdisciplinary Explorations of a U.S. Region. Her book Behind the Big House: Reconciling Slavery, Race, and Heritage in the U.S. South has just been published by the University of Iowa Press.
History Is Lunch is sponsored by the John and Lucy Shackelford Charitable Fund of the Community Foundation for Mississippi. The weekly lecture series of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History explores different aspects of the state's past. The hour-long programs are held in the Craig H. Neilsen Auditorium of the Museum of Mississippi History and Mississippi Civil Rights Museum building at 222 North Street in Jackson, Mississippi.