Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Ph.D. in Education


Teacher Education

First Advisor

Jodi Skipper

Second Advisor

Simone Delerme

Third Advisor

Kate Centellas

Relational Format



Burton Place is an antebellum home site located in the City of Holly Springs, in Marshall County, northeast Mississippi. The property was built in 1848 and features the main home, or "big house," and one remaining dependent structure recognized as former slave dwellings. Through archival and ancestral research, one African American Burton descendant traced her ancestry to individuals enslaved by the original property owner. This descendant then approached the current property owner with this knowledge who, following this initial meeting, invited her to visit Burton place with her family. The family now holds a portion of their family reunion at this site. This thesis investigates the unique circumstances that exist at Burton place that makes the site accessible and welcoming, providing spaces in both the main house and slave dwelling in which descendants now honor and remember ancestors. This property is unusual in that it has been featured in both the annual Holly Springs pilgrimage and behind the big house program. The Holly Springs pilgrimage has historically presented a more traditional narrative of antebellum history that focuses on the architecture, furnishings, and lifestyles of the elite planter class. Behind the big house focuses on the lives and dwellings of Holly Springs' enslaved population. To better understand the environment at Burton place and how it fits into the broader context of heritage tourism at sites of slavery, the thesis compares the holly springs pilgrimage and the behind the big house program with existing plantation tourism in the surrounding region. To understand how descendants engage with sites of slavery in the present, this study provides comparative analysis of oral history interviews, responses to Burton family reunion questionnaires, and blogs authored by descendants who have engaged in ancestral home sites through the slave dwelling project. Little is known about how African Americans in general and, more specifically, African American descendants engage with sites at which ancestors were enslaved. This research seeks to help fill that gap through investigation of descendant responses, and exploring what circumstances at slavery-related sites necessarily aid in making these connections.

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