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History lecture to explore characteristics of absentee plantations

Dr. Kelly Houston Jones, Assistant Professor of History at Arkansas Tech University and former UA Little Rock graduate

The University of Arkansas at Little Rock will host a lecture about life on absentee plantations in the Mississippi River on Nov. 5. 

Dr. Kelly Houston Jones, assistant professor of history at Arkansas Tech University, will give the talk at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 5, at the Historic Arkansas Museum Ottenheimer Auditorium, 200 E. Third St. 

Parking is available at the Historic Arkansas Museum parking lot at Third and Cumberland streets. Refreshments will be served at 7 p.m., followed by the talk at 7:30 p.m. The talk is part of the University History Institute’s Evenings with History lecture series.

Throughout the Mississippi Valley, including Arkansas, the actual owners of many plantations did not live on-site. In this talk, Jones will examine these operations and explore questions about their management and similarity to absentee-owned plantations in the Caribbean. 

“One of the first things people conjure in their mind when they think of a southern plantation is a big, opulent home with beautiful moonlight and magnolias,” Jones said. “But across much of Arkansas and northern Louisiana, many plantation owners lived east of the Mississippi River and hired plantation managers to oversee their investment in what was considered a somewhat uncivilized region west of the river. This reminds us that, first and foremost, plantations were an economic venture. At the end of the day, it’s a factory in a field.”

The lecture offers an opportunity to consider what life was like for enslaved people on absentee plantations.

“Absentee plantations operated free of the domestic politics that otherwise would have been created by owner families living on-site,” Jones said. “This would have influenced the power struggle between between owners and managers, managers and slaves, and between slaves.”