Lakeport Legacies to Feature Talk on Politician, Former Slave
LAKE VILLAGE, Ark. — “The Life and Wives of James Worthington Mason” is the featured presentation of Lakeport Legacies, Thursday, April 28, in the dining room of the Lakeport Plantation, 601 Highway 142, in Lake Village. Lakeport Plantation is an Arkansas State University Heritage Site.
Dr. Blake Wintory, assistant director of Lakeport Plantation, will present the talk at 6 p.m. Refreshments and conversation begin at 5:30 p.m. Admission is free. For more information and to RSVP, contact Wintory at (870) 265-6031.
The program centers around James Worthington Mason (1841-74), a former slave turned Reconstruction politician, who emerged as Chicot County’s “political boss” in the 1870s. Few, if any, Chicot County slaves had the advantages of Mason in the antebellum era. He was the son of the county’s wealthiest planter, Elisha Worthington, and he and his sister were educated in the North. Mason continued his studies in France.
In the late 1860s, Mason served as postmaster at Sunnyside and as a delegate to the 1868 Arkansas Constitutional Convention. He spent two terms as state senator. In 1870, President Ulysses S. Grant nominated him to be minister to Liberia. Confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Mason did not report to his post in Monrovia and soon became a power politician.
While historians are aware of Mason’s important political career, little has been made of his personal life. The wives he chose and what became of his two daughters is a fascinating window into four African-American women’s lives. Emerging from slavery and freedom, their lives extended to Abraham Lincoln’s White House, the American West, Liberia, Paris and London.
Historical evidence suggests he married twice—first to a former slave from near Port Gibson, Miss., and later to the daughter of prominent freeborn parents in Washington, D.C. Each union produced one daughter. The first, Fannie Worthington, became a schoolteacher and missionary in West Africa while the second daughter, Josephine Mason, studied painting in Paris at the Académie Julian and became a professional artist in London.
Lakeport Legacies is a monthly history talk held on one of the last Thursday of the month during the spring and summer. Each month a topic from the Delta region is featured. The event is free and open to the public.
Constructed circa 1859, Lakeport Plantation is one of Arkansas's premier historic structures and still retains many of its original finishes and architectural details. Open to the public since 2007, Lakeport researches and interprets the people and cultures that shaped plantation life in the Mississippi River Delta, focusing on the Antebellum, Civil War and Reconstruction periods.
Arkansas Heritage Sites at Arkansas State University develops and operates historic properties of regional and national significance in the Arkansas Delta. A-State's Heritage Sites include the Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum and Educational Center, Southern Tenant Farmers Museum, Lakeport Plantation, the Historic Dyess Colony: Boyhood Home of Johnny Cash and the Arkansas State University Museum.