skip to main content
University of Mississippi Slavery Research Group
The University of Mississippi


The Phi Sigma Society Secedes

Driven by the proslavery ideology that the University of Mississippi worked so hard to instill in its students, members of Phi Sigma, one of two antebellum literary societies on campus, embraced secession wholeheartedly. Roughly six weeks after Mississippi became the second state to secede from the Union, at the same February 1861 meeting during which […]

The Phi Sigma Society’s Abolitionist Book Burning

On February 22, 1861, Phi Sigma, one of two antebellum literary societies at the University of Mississippi, held its weekly meeting to facilitate an academic debate and conduct regular society business. During the meeting, however, Francis Fentress, a Phi Sigma member and University of Mississippi student from Bolivar, Tennessee, insisted that there were more pressing […]

Jefferson Davis’s 1852 Address to Students

On July 15, 1852, at the invitation of the University of Mississippi’s two antebellum literary societies, Jefferson Davis delivered an address that challenged students and other attendees to defend slavery and the state of Mississippi against ideological attacks. His remarks took place at an annual event during which the Phi Sigma Society and the Hermean […]

Enslaved Laborers and The Phi Sigma Society

On May 26, 1849, during its fourth recorded meeting, Phi Sigma, one of the antebellum literary societies students at the University of Mississippi were required to join, paid for the hire of a campus slave for the first time. “The acct of the College Servant, for lighting of the room, and other services, was presented,” […]

Antebellum Literary Societies and Proslavery Culture

The proslavery mission of the University of Mississippi touched nearly every aspect of campus life. In this, and subsequent, posts, we examine how student participation in antebellum literary societies on campus not only centered around and advanced proslavery ideology but was facilitated by the labor of enslaved people. On May 5, 1849, near the conclusion […]

Jacob Thompson’s 1848 Vision for the New College

On November 6, 1848, the University of Mississippi held a celebration in honor of the opening of the college. Both Jacob Thompson, on behalf of the Board of Trustees, and George Frederick Holmes, President of the college, delivered addresses. At the time, Thompson served as a democratic congressman for Mississippi’s 1st District in the House […]

The Unnamed Woman and the Bassinet

One day in what was probably the year 1860, Edward C. Boynton, the new Professor of Chemistry, Minerology, and Geology at the University of Mississippi, took a picture of the carriage house behind his faculty residence. Boynton was practicing using his new photography equipment by taking shots of campus buildings as well as his own […]