This April brings the 2013 Historic Natchez Conference, From Civil War to Civil Rights, and we are proud to once again be one of the conference’s sponsors. Our interest and support of the conference stems from our outstanding Southern history resources, which date back to 1914, when George W. Littlefield established a fund for the University to collect archival materials related to the Southern states. One of the most outstanding Southern history resources at the Briscoe Center is the Natchez Trace Collection, a treasure trove of documentation on Natchez and Mississippi history that we acquired in 1985. The Briscoe Center’s involvement with the conference dates back to the early 1990s, when we helped originate the conference with our good friends at the Historic Natchez Foundation.
In January 1987, I was invited to speak to a gathering of history enthusiasts at the Historic Natchez Eola Hotel. The invitation was really more of a chance to explain why the University of Texas had acquired the Natchez Historical Collection. (As you can imagine, not everyone in the audience could appreciate that Austin was now the home of such a significant piece of Mississippi history.) After my talk, the Foundation’s Director Mimi Miller introduced herself to me, and offered an olive branch of sorts by sharing how pleased she was that the collection was in our care. That talk started a friendship that continues to this day. Not only are Mimi and her husband Ron two of the most wonderful people you could hope to know, their tireless work on behalf of the historic legacy of Natchez is remarkable. I have the utmost respect for what they’ve accomplished.
The conference is always a special event and this year is no exception – we’ve got a fantastic line-up of speakers and plenty of opportunities to explore the unique charm of Natchez. I’d like to thank Brenda Gunn, the center’s associate director for research and collections and the Janey Slaughter Briscoe archivist, for her help on the program details, including the coordination of session speakers. Stephanie Malmros, our head of archives, will moderate a session, and I will present a screening of the Briscoe Center’s documentary film When I Rise with Alison Beck, our associate director for special projects and one of the film’s co-producers.
For those of you unable to join us this year, I hope we will see you at future conferences. In the meantime, you can learn more about our Natchez Trace Collections on our site, including a slideshow with highlights from the collection.
Don Carleton, Ph.D.
J. R. Parten Chair in the Archives of American History