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Lakeport Plantation descendants return for
Heritage Reunion Celebration
July 6, 2009 --
Descendants of the
slaves who lived and worked at pre-Civil War Lakeport Plantation came
together at the “Big House” during the July 4 weekend to share food,
fellowship, and stories from the past at the Lakeport Plantation
Reunion Celebration, July 3-5, near Lake Village, Ark.
The reunion, with the theme “Memories of Lakeport,” was sponsored by the
Lakeport Cemetery Preservation Project and Arkansas State University.
Attendees, including visitors from as far away as Chicago and New
Zealand, came to relay the history of life at the plantation for the
slave population, which numbered around 155 in 1860.
“The history and heritage of the African Americans of Lakeport are more
than just a matter of material remains,” said Alice Rogers-Johnson,
president of the Lakeport Cemetery Committee. “The history is central to
how we see ourselves and to our identity as individuals, communities and
as citizens. The reunion is designed to celebrate our African American
history and heritage and lifestyles on Lakeport.”
The reunion kicked off with a reception July 3 at the Mt. Pleasant
Missionary Baptist Church followed by a full day of activities on July
4. Following an old-time breakfast, presentation topics included
“African American Food Folkways, a history of Lakeport Plantation (known
in its day as the “Big House”), restoration, research, and African
American research projects, and a presentation on the importance of
African history and heritage.
Presentations on African American quilting and old-time health remedies
preceded the Craig Lacy 4th of July picnic and tours of three
local cemeteries. Quilts of the Civil War era often were sewn with
certain patterns which, when hung outside, served as guidelines to
directions to Underground Railroad locations.
The day was capped with “Story Telling from the Elders” and African
American music and celebrations.
“The Lakeport Plantation is part of the physical survival of our past, but
it was also a home. It was where our ancestors lived and worked and
died,” said Rogers-Johnson.
The Lakeport Plantation house, built in 1859 for Lycurgus and Lydia
Johnson, is the only remaining Arkansas antebellum plantation home on
the Mississippi River and has been on the National Register of Historic
Places since 1974.
In 2001, the home was gifted to Arkansas State University by the Sam
Epstein Angel family. In 2002, it was designated as an official project
of the Save America's Treasures Program by the National Park Service and
the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The Lakeport restoration
project followed the standards of the Secretary of the Interior and in
September 2007, after five years of work, the home opened to the public.
Dr. Ruth Hawkins is director of Arkansas Heritage SITES at Arkansas
overall responsibilities for policies and programs at the Southern
Tenant Farmers Museum, Lakeport Plantation in Lake Village, and the
Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum and Educational Center at Piggott. She is also
executive director of Arkansas Delta Byways, a 15-county tourism
promotion association that promotes Eastern Arkansas and its two
national scenic byways: Crowley's Ridge Parkway and the Arkansas Great
Wintory serves at the assistant director and facilities manager of
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