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NKU faculty, students resume work at Parker Academy archaeological site


HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. – Northern Kentucky University faculty and students, in collaboration with the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, will resume work at the Parker Academy in New Richmond, Ohio on Wednesday.

The Parker Academy is believed to be the first school of its kind in the United States to offer fully integrated classrooms open to all races, religions, and genders. Founded by James and Priscilla Parker in 1839, the small college preparatory academy was a beacon of light and tolerance during one of America’s darkest hours.

“Parker Academy was one of the first schools in the nation that was open to students of all races, religions, and genders,” said Dr. Brian Hackett, director of NKU's Public History Master’s Program in the Department of History and Geography. “We are just beginning to scratch the surface of telling its remarkable story.”

On Wednesday morning, NKU faculty and students will excavate the historical site from 8:30 a.m. to noon. NKU and Freedom Center leaders will participate in the dig, including NKU President Geoffrey S. Mearns and Freedom Center President Dr. Clarence G. Newsome.

The dig is a continuation of work that began in May, when NKU faculty and students first began to excavate the site and study the Parker family papers.

Hackett’s public history archives class is now using the Parker family papers and the artifacts unearthed in the first dig to piece together a history of how the school came to be. Eventually, that story will be part of an exhibit at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati.

A visiting international scholar, Dr. Peggy Brunache, will assist with Wednesday’s dig and help interpret the results. Brunache is a senior collaborator on the Parker Academy project and an international expert in historical archaeology and slavery. Brunache will also speak at NKU during her visit and lead a private roundtable discussion about the Parker Academy at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.

The project is led by faculty experts in NKU’s College of Arts and Sciences: Hackett, Dr. William Landon, chair of the History and Geography Department; and Dr. Sharyn Jones, chair of the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Philosophy.