Priceless National Heritage–The Taking of Fazendeville: GCC History Professor Alyssa Arnell's 2024 Dovi Afesi Lecture

April 5, 2024

On Thursday, March 28, Greenfield Community College history professor Alyssa Arnell gave the 2024 Dovi Afesi Lecture, part of the college's series presenting emergent scholarship related to BIPOC history. Arnell's lecture can be viewed on the GCC YouTube channel at

The chair of the GCC History Department, Arnell holds master's degrees in history from Florida Gulf Coast University and legal studies from Kaplan University, and she is currently a Ph.D. candidate at the University of New Hampshire. From 2016 to 2017, Arnell worked for the National Park Service in New Orleans and at the Chalmette National Park, also known as The Battle of New Orleans site, where she focused on racial healing projects and community building. Additionally, she taught history at Dillard University in New Orleans from 2013 to 2016.

In her lecture, titled "Priceless National Heritage: the Taking of Fazendeville," Arnell told the story of New Orleans' thriving Fazendeville community and its eventual destruction to make way for a Battle of New Orleans memorial.

Downriver of New Orleans, Fazendeville was settled by newly freed enslaved people and other people of color in 1865. At its peak, the community boasted over 100 families, two grocery stores, and a school that doubled as a dance hall where Fats Domino was known to perform.

Fazendeville had been built on the site of 1815's Battle of New Orleans, the last engagement of the War of 1812, in which Andrew Jackson led a diverse army to victory against British forces. In 1962, the U.S. Congress passed legislation creating a national military park in celebration of the 150th anniversary of the battle and allowed the Secretary of the Interior to demolish Fazendeville in the process.

In her lecture, Arnell argued that Fazendeville's razing was the result of a calculated and well-organized effort by governmental agents and a powerful local leader within the women's heritage movement to legitimize the history of the Confederacy by connecting the Lost Cause mythology to the War of 1812 and the last battle that solidified U.S. Independence. In contextualizing Fazendeville's removal, Arnell paid tribute to the fearless resilience of a politically and socially organized Black community displaced at the height of the Civil Rights Movement.

The Dovi Afesi Lecture series was created in memory of a beloved GCC history faculty member who passed away in 2016. Afesi was born in Ghana in western Africa and studied at Clark University and Michigan State University. He taught at UMass Amherst for several years before he began teaching at GCC in 2000. Passionate about promoting racial justice, Afesi made a lasting impact on the GCC community.

"Dovi had a way of speaking with his students, his colleagues at the college, and his friends and family, that emphasized and respected our common humanity" said Professor Stephen Poulin of the GCC English department, "Professor Arnell's lecture carries forward the spirit of Dovi, taking an event from the past and framing it in the context of its impact on us today, searching for those threads of past and present that bring us together. Sharing the story of ‘The Taking of Fazendeville' with GCC and the larger community is exactly the sort of scholarship that Dovi embraced and celebrated during his many years here, and we are fortunate to have Professor Arnell bring her expertise to the return of the Dovi Afesi Lecture Series."