Ole Miss History class partners with the Burns Belfry
This past year a group of Oxford citizens and Ole Miss professors came together to form a Burns Belfry Interpretation Team to come up with a list of themes for the new Burns-Belfry Museum and Multicultural Center. The team also included members of the Burns United Methodist Church and members of the Oxford Development Association.
The team was formed in the same manner as the Interpretation Team that formulated the themes of L.Q.C. Lamar’s life for the exhibits in his renovated home on North 14th Street. These themes are what you see when you visit the Lamar’s home and we intend to have these exhibits ready when the Burns-Belfry Museum and Multicultural Center opens later this year.
As you know the center will be dedicated to the African American history of Oxford and Lafayette County. Oxford and Lafayette County has a history of the African American Community that is unlike other places in Mississippi and we endeavored to portray this history not just for the adult population of Oxford and the county but also for school children and visitors to our “little postage stamp of native soil.”
The team came up with eight different themes to be used in the exhibits. They are as follows: Church--The church upheld African American families and communities including their activities, hopes and aspirations; Education--African Americans valued pursuing an education to ensure the rights and privileged of full citizenship; Labor--African Americans strove for greater economic security; Enslavement--Slavery perpetuated, emotional and sexual violence on African Americans while also diminishing the humanity of white people.
Other Themes are: Emancipation--Enslaved African Americans sought to free themselves long before Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, and afterwards they exerted self-determination to realize their full citizenship, despite obstacles and roadblocks; Jim Crow--Custom and law controlled the lives of African Americans during the long era of Jim Crow; Migration--For many African Americans who migrated to other places seeking educational and economic opportunities, family ties often provided a safe haven; and Civil Rights Movement--Through challenging the denial of their freedoms in both active and covert ways during the Civil Rights Movement, African American made gains towards equal rights.
The Mission Statement of the Center is, “The Burns-Belfry Museum and Multicultural Center exists for the purposed of building community by bringing people together to fulfill the dreams and aspirations of unsung heroes who have worked to provide opportunities for advancement to all in the community.”
The Vision of the Center is, “The Center will serve as home for the Oxford Development Association in partnership with The Oxford Lafayette County Heritage Foundation. Through its educational/cultural programming and historical collections, the Center will provided practical opportunities to build community through dialogue and implementation of the Mission. It is committed to fulfilling the dreams and aspirations of many who have worked tirelessly to provides resources for advancement to all in this community.”
In an effort to produced new research on American History through experiences of African Americans in Lafayette County, Ole Miss History Professor Dr. Elizabeth Payne, who was a member of the Interpretation Team, formulated a course, on the 400 level, mainly for History and Southern Culture majors this semester. She asked me if I would meet with the class as a “community mentor” to help direct the students toward topics for their thirty-five page research paper due at the end of the semester.
The course fulfills the research component prescribed by the American Historical Association for a major in History. By producing a piece of original research, students will gain an appreciation for how scholars in history craft the writing of history. The topics will relate to the local history of African Americans in the Oxford and Lafayette County area. Topics include, for example, Freedmen’s Town, The Burns United Methodist Church, the Rosenwald School, the history of an African American cemetery, Second Baptist Church or local African American citizens would were leaders in the community.
Dr. Payne related to me, “This course in local history is designed to create new knowledge through students’ working with the community. I would appreciate help from Oxford and Lafayette County residents should one of our students contact you.”
This course and project will added to the data that the Oxford Development Association, the Burns United Methodist Church, and The Oxford Lafayette County Heritage Foundation will be able to provide to our community when the Burns-Belfry Museum and Multicultural Center opens its doors later this year.