Event Date
Sep 22, 2010
Samuel Redman, UC Berkeley
Stephen Small, UC Berkeley

Clementine Hunter - African House Mural at Melrose Plantation, Natchitoches, Louisiana


CRG Thursday Forum Series presents…

Embodiments of Memory: African American Remains & Representations 

Brief History of Collecting, Researching, and Displaying African American Human Remains in the United States
Samuel J. Redman, History

Dozens of museums in the United States possess diverse collections of human remains. Throughout the nineteenth and twentieth century, anthropologists and medical scientists collected, researched, and displayed human bodies in an effort to create and disseminate ideas about race and human history. In North America, the vast majority of human remains collected for natural history museums were American Indians, but a significant number of African American human remains were collected by anthropologists as well as scholars based in medical schools and societies. This paper explores the strange history of gathering, studying, and exhibiting African American human remains in the United States.

Race, Class and Gender in Southern Heritage Tourism: Coin Coin, Cammie, Chopin and Clementine at Melrose Plantation, Natchitoches, Louisiana
Prof. Stephen Small, African American Studies

There are hundreds of 21st century antebellum slave huts, houses and hovels currently incorporated into heritage tourism plantation sites across the US South.  Still juxtaposed physically against the mansions and
“Big Houses” once occupied by master-enslavers and mistress-enslavers, these slave cabins are the physical embodiment of willful social forgetting and collective social remembering.  An analysis of these sites provides insights into the dynamics of public history, and into the racialized, class and gendered struggles such dynamics reflect.  This presentation is based on research I’m conducting at three plantation museum sites (Oakland Plantation, Magnolia Plantation Complex and Melrose Plantation) that collectively incorporate 14 (or so!)  21st century antebellum slave cabins into heritage tourism in Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana.  At Melrose Plantation, the lives of ‘exceptional women’ is one of the most prominent representational themes, where the lives and accomplishments of Marie Therese Coin Coin, Cammie Henry, Kate Chopin and Clementine Hunter take center stage.  I consider how Melrose Plantation thus succeeds in going against the  Southern grain in its representations of white and Black women on Plantations; and yet, I argue that it struggles to undermine more fundamental racialized and gendered conventions in representations of Southern history.  I also propose that examination of the life, and creative visions in the art and paintings, of one of these women – internationally recognized ‘primitive artist’ Clementine Hunter – provides opportunities for ‘reading between the lines’ and recovering alternate sources of data that challenge the symbolic annihilation of Black women in Southern heritage tourism.