Cheyney University Geography Students Visit Historic Dennis Farm
October 9, 2014
Cheyney University World Geography students —Wynter Burton, Tyler Trahan, Samantha Hall, Jesse Lucas, and Mickyle Mitchell - with Chief of Staff and Deputy to the President Sheilah Vance, Esquire and Adjunct Assistant Professor Patti Jeppson at the Historic Dennis Farm in Susquehanna County, PA. The Cheyney delegation attended a symposium that took place at Keystone College and then participated in a memorial dedication at the Dennis Farm cemetery.
Cheyney University Chief of Staff and Deputy to the President Sheilah Vance, Adjunct Assistant Professor Patrice L. Jeppson of the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, and five Geography course students who were assigned a cultural landscape study, traveled to the Endless Mountains Region of Pennsylvania on October 8 to participate in the second Dennis Farm Charitable Land Trust Symposium. The students, Mickyle Mitchell, Tyler Trahan, Samantha Hall, Jesse Lucas, and Wynter Burton, were invited by Denise Dennis, the Dennis Farm Trust CEO, to accompany Jeppson, who is researching public outreach and education possibilities for the Trust’s concern, the Dennis Farm.
"The farm has been owned by an African American family for eight generations--for more than 200 years," Jeppson shared, "and is now being developed as an educational and heritage tourism site by the family. The purpose of the trust is to develop the farm into an educational and cultural site for scholars, researchers, cultural heritage tourists, school groups and others interested in free African Americans living between the period of the American Revolution and the Emancipation Proclamation."
"I’m fascinated at the idea of so much history and artifacts on this land that was owned by a black family at a time when this was unheard of. To actually come and experience this is truly unique," marveled Jesse Lucas.
“Denise Dennis, who is a longtime friend of mine, has worked very hard to preserve this nationally significant piece of American history," commented Vance. "When she first told me about the farm about three years ago, I realized its importance to American history, not just African American history. Through Professor Jeppson’s involvement with and passion for the farm, there are many exciting opportunities for Cheyney students to do research and other archeological activities. Ms. Dennis told me how thrilled she was that Cheyney students were involved and able to visit. She very much looks forward to working with our students in the future.”
According to Jeppson, the students, taking an introductory level World/Regional Geography class, are undertaking real world research by using strategies that will help to engage the public with the Dennis Farm’s cultural landscape (both archaeological and historical resources). "Their research conclusions will contribute directly to text currently being written to interpret this historical landscape. When finished, the interpretive text will accompany 3D animations of the farm’s structures that are being developed by Digital Media researchers at Drexel University. The digital assets will be used on the Dennis Farm webpage and will be suitable for cell phone-based walking tours that may be created for the property’s visitors."
"Everything about this experience was beautiful," reflected Wynter Burton. "It opened my eyes up to so many new things. I never knew that farms were left untended for so long. I love how Denise Dennis kept her family history going."
Mirkyle Mitchell agreed. "It’s nice to show the black man in a different light. The history of the Dennis Farm and the Dennis family shows that black people can read, write and were as good as anyone else, back from the Revolutionary War days, but we didn’t have to show it off. We just lived it."
Thanks to a little help from Chief of Staff Vance, artifacts from the Dennis Farm collection will be on display at the Museum of American History in Washington, DC in May 2015 before they move in 2016 to the new Smithsonian Museum of African American History.