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Lakeport Legacies Speaker to Discuss “Absentee Masters of the Mississippi River”


LAKE VILLAGE, Ark. — Dr. Kelly Houston Jones, a visiting assistant professor of African and African-American Studies at the University of Central Arkansas, is the featured speaker for Lakeport Legacies on Thursday, June 25.

Lakeport Plantation with cotton
Lakeport Plantation

Dr. Jones, who recently accepted a position as assistant professor of history at Austin Peay State University, will discuss “Absentee Masters of the Mississippi River,” about Rice C. Ballard and other area plantation owners who resided away from their holdings, and what those arrangements would have meant for enslaved people living on those plantations.

Jones, whose dissertation focused on slavery in Arkansas, examined Ballard's letters at the University of North Carolina. Ballard, a former slave trader, invested his profits in human trafficking into plantations in Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas. 
By 1860, Ballard and his firm owned more than 500 slaves. His Wagram Plantation in Chicot County included 915 acres and 80 enslaved laborers. 
"Absentee holdings operated even more like factories of cotton production than plantations with the planter family present," said Jones. 
The Johnson family at Lakeport operated their plantation differently. While they did reside in Kentucky during the summer, they constructed a big house as their residence in 1859 and likely felt paternalistic obligations to their 155 enslaved laborers. 
Jones continued, "With masters like Ballard absent, slaves were even more often subject to the whims of an overseer. Sources like the Ballard letters show the overseers' desires to extract as much labor as possible while spending as little money as possible in order to secure the next year's contract and also reveal some about how slaves coped with those conditions."
Refreshments and conversation begin at 5:30 p.m., and the Lakeport Legacies program begins at 6 p.m. in the Lakeport Plantation house, 601 Hwy 142, Lake Village. Guests are asked to RSVP to this free event. For more information and to RSVP, contact Blake Wintory (870) 265-6031. Additional information may also be obtained here.
Lakeport Legacies is a monthly history talk held on one of the last Thursdays at the Lakeport Plantation during the spring and summer. The Lakeport Plantation is an Arkansas State University Heritage Site. Constructed ca. 1859, it is one of Arkansas's premier historic structures and is the state's only remaining antebellum plantation home along the Mississippi River. 
The Sam Epstein Angel family gifted the plantation to Arkansas State University in 2001. Restored between 2002 and 2008, the home is open to the public and interprets the history of the house, its preservation and the lives of the people who lived and worked there.
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