The plantation industry is a big business in Louisiana. In the past, the plantations were the breeding grounds for agricultural life in the south, today it is all about tourism. The state of Louisiana has been able to keep and restore many of it’s old plantations. These plantations are all across Louisiana, from the northern parish of Natchitoches to the parishes in the southern swampy part of the state.
There are a number of these plantations that give tours to tourists. I have been on about 4 plantation tours. I love history and as a descendant of Louisiana, I wanted to learn more about the slave life in a former French colony. All be it, there is one problem, some plantations hardly mention the topic, some tour guides can barely give you any facts about slavery in Louisiana.
I believe my statement is best described by Lamar White Jr. in his piece, Why 12 Years A Slave will Always Matter in Louisiana:
“We spend millions of dollars marketing our plantation homes as sleepy, nostalgic, and beautiful destinations for weddings and tour groups, and we spend millions more incentivizing renovations of these homes under the pretense of historic preservation. And maybe that would be okay and understandable, but at the same time, we’re scrubbing all vestiges of slavery from these plantations. With few exceptions, it is almost impossible to find a plantation in Louisiana that preserves its slave quarters with the same diligence and care as it does its main house. And again, with few exceptions, you’ll likely never hear anyone in the Louisiana tourism industry admit that plantations, to quote my cousin Paul White III, are actually “concentration camps.” That thousands of African-American families also lived, worked, and died in these places, that hundreds of African-Americans were brutally murdered in these places, that the majestic oak trees in the brochures were once used for lynchings, that right beyond the immaculately manicured gardens there are long-forgotten cemeteries.”
I cannot help but feel emotional about the way plantation history is handled in Louisiana. As though the story of the plantation owners is more valuable than the thousands of slaves on the plantations. However, thankfully one Louisiana citizen has taken upon himself to change this, I think his quote “Who built this son of a b*tch” sums up why he believes slavery needs to be talked about on the plantations. Mr. John Cummings a successful New Orleans real estate agent, has spent $7 million of his own money, renovating the Whitney Plantation. READ THE STORY HERE.
The best thing about this plantation is, it is 100% dedicated to the lives of the slaves. Yes, the only plantation in Louisiana to do so, you will be able to visit and understand more about slavery on the plantation in depth. Now, I will say there are plantations such as the Laura Creole Plantation that has incorporated slavery on their tours. All be it, the Whitney Plantation will be the first African American based museum dedicated 100% to slavery.
Unique things that will be seen at the Whitney Plantation in the future will be 400,000 names on a plaque to intimately document slavery’s existence in this state (Louisiana) through 1865. I cannot wait to see my ancestor’s names amongst the others.
I only pray that we continue to tell the stories of our enslaved ancestors, they built Louisiana, they built the south, they built this nation. I am honored to see there will be one plantation tour that will discuss the horrible side of slavery. The fancy plantations and their romantic theme, wasn’t romantic for the more than 400,000 slaves during Louisiana’s history. The real truth is many slaves were beaten, worked to death, sold from their families, and endured horrible conditions. In order for us to heal our racial wound in this country, we have to have real discussions about the past, acting as if it didn’t happen, is not the answer, it never will be.
TO visit the Whitney Plantation (Opening December 2014) CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION.
This article is dedicated to my 2x great grandfather, Thomas Roberson of Pointe Coupee Parish, the first in maternal grandmother’s lineage to be born free and not a slave. (Below is my grandmother (left), Orea Hill, the granddaughter of Thomas Roberson)
-Elroy Johnson IV (instagram: @bayoulonestar)
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Photo Credit: Whitney Plantation (Slave Quarters)
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(Looking to visit a plantation? Here is a couple of plantations that incorporate slavery on their tours: Laura Creole Plantation and Evergreen Plantation, we hope in the future to add more to this list)