University of Mississippi Slavery Research Group

The University of Mississippi


Harrison was an enslaved man owned by University of Mississippi law professor William Forbes Stearns. It is not clear what if any work he for the University specifically, or whether he resided on campus.

When Professor Stearns left the University of Mississippi at the start of the Civil War, he entrusted Harrison with the maintenance of his property. In 1865, after it became clear that Stearns would not return to Oxford, he promised to convey at least some of this land to Harrison. Two years later, upon Stearns’ suicide, Harrison wrote to Stearns’ widow to ensure the property would be legally transferred to him. At least a portion of that land was deeded to the Methodist Episcopal Church of Oxford in 1869, and became home to one of the city’s first black churches. The building that was constructed on this land in 1910 is today the Burns-Belfry Museum & Multicultural Center dedicated to African American history.

See Harrison Stearns to Mary Jane Ferris Stearns, 16 November 1867, The Gilder Lehrman Collection, 1860-1945, GLC08945.01; Harrison Stearns to Mary Jane Ferris Stearns, 14 January 1868, The Gilder Lehrman Collection, 1860-1945, GLC08945.02.