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Released Februrary 4, 2004


HATTIESBURG - Civil 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.

The author 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.

Also lecturing 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.

"The Nabobs 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."

Scarborough 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.

"They 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."

Sponsored in 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


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April 20, 2004 4:09 PM