Behind the Big House

Behind the Big House

March 23 and 24 • Free

Required registration at PreserveArkansas.org or by calling 501-372-4757. Registration ends March 9.


Preserve Arkansas
, the Black History Commission and Historic Arkansas Museum, a museum of the Department of Arkansas Heritage, invite you to Behind the Big House, a program made possible in part by the Arkansas Humanities Council, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Historic Arkansas Museum Foundation.

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. This workshop will include live historical interpretations and lectures to highlight the important contributions African Americans made to Arkansas’s history and provide a broad understanding of the importance of slave dwellings and their role in heritage tourism. This year’s program will focus on the differences between slavery in rural and urban areas, foodways, and objects made by enslaved Arkansans.


Friday, March 23, 5:30 – 7:30 pm

Historic Arkansas Museum grounds

50 person limit

Foodways scholar Jerome Bias of Stagville State Historic Site in North Carolina will prepare a sampling of foods based on enslaved diets in Historic Arkansas Museum’s 1840s Brownlee House kitchen; the museum’s living history staff will portray enslaved people who once lived and worked on or near the museum property; and Joseph McGill, founder of the South Carolina-based Slave Dwelling Project, will prepare to sleep in the Brownlee Kitchen and Slave Quarters. Registration for Friday night is limited to 50 people. Those who would like to spend the night on the grounds to gain a better understanding of life behind the “big house” will need to bring their own camping supplies. 


Saturday, March 24, 9:30 am – 4:30 pm

Historic Arkansas Museum’s Ottenheimer Theater

120 person limit

Registrants may choose to pre-order a boxed lunch for $15

A full day of programming will take place on Saturday, March 24, with additional presentations by Bias and McGill, along with Dr. Jodi Skipper of the University of Mississippi, Dr. Jodi Barnes of the University of Arkansas at Monticello, and Hattie Felton, Victoria Garrett, Caroline Millar, and Felicia Richardson of Historic Arkansas Museum. Topics will include a look at objects from the museum’s collection that were crafted by enslaved people, researching and writing for living history performances, and how urban archeology informed the reconstruction of the Brownlee House kitchen and slave quarters.