War historian and award-winning author Dr. William K. Scarborough
will be the keynote speaker at the sixth biennial Historic Natchez
Conference, which runs Feb. 11-14.
of five books, Scarborough is a leading authority on the plantation
system of the Old South and a longtime history professor at The
University of Southern Mississippi. Scarborough's lecture, titled
"Not Quite Southern: The Precarious Allegiance of the Natchez
Nabobs in the Sectional Crisis," examines the role of Natchez'
wealthiest landowners in the Civil War era.
at the conference will be Southern Miss history professor Dr. Greg
O'Brien, who will present the topic "Choctaws, Chickasaws,
Spaniards and Anglos: Trade, Kinship, and Politics in the 1790s
Lower Mississippi Valley."
Free and open
to the public, all presentations will be held in the ballroom of
the Eola Hotel in Natchez, except for the Thursday evening session,
which will be held at St. Mary Minor Basilica. Scarborough will
present at 7:15 p.m. Wednesday on the opening night of the conference.
O'Brien will present at 9 a.m. on Thursday.
were the rich elite of Adams County," Scarborough said. "A
lot of the wealthiest from Natchez were originally from the Northeast,
and some of them never broke those ties to the Union."
said that during the era just prior to the outbreak of the Civil
War, many of Natchez' wealthiest opposed secession. Even after war
broke out, he said, many with Northeastern ties still did not support
the South's cause, despite being slaveholders themselves.
believed in keeping the institution of slavery, but they also believed
their best interests would be served by staying in the Union. They
had no qualms with slavery, but they thought secession led to war,
and war led to lost property. And indeed, that's what happened (to
them)," Scarborough said.
After the war
ended and slaves gained their freedom, Natchez lost its status as
one of the wealthiest cities in the nation, Scarborough said. "Before
the war, Natchez was the fifth wealthiest city per capita. After
the war, white slaveholders lost their property and slaves were
then counted as citizens. It was a double-edged sword - Mississippi
lost property and gained people, making it one of the poorest states
in the Union."
Dr. Chuck Bolton,
chair of the History department at Southern Miss, said, "The
conference regularly features some of the most prominent historians
in the United States conducting research on this part of the world.
In addition, conference-goers are treated to tours of important
historical sights in Natchez and the surrounding area."
part by the Historic Natchez Foundation, the Natchez National Historical
Park, California State University - Northridge and Southern Miss,
among others, the conference brings together recognized scholars,
archivists and the public to discuss subjects as diverse as the
planter aristocracy, the slave trade, Irish immigration, the Civil
Rights era and World War II. This year's theme is "South by
Southwest: Exploring the History of the Old Natchez District."
For more information
on the Historic Natchez Conference or the Southern Miss history
program, contact Dr. William K. Scarborough at (601) 266-4336, Dr.
Greg O'Brien at (601) 266-5280, or the Historic Natchez Foundation
at (601) 442-2500, (800) 445-2510 or firstname.lastname@example.org.