One of the most memorable experiences I’ve ever had — even though it was three years ago because I procrastinate about all the things and time is an illusion — was visiting the Whitney Plantation in Edgard, Louisiana while on a trip to New Orleans in April 2018. Edgard, a tiny parish of less than 3,000 people, is out in the boonies about 40 minutes from New Orleans, but it was 100 percent worth the voyage.
According to its website, Whitney Plantation is a museum of slavery on the grounds of a historical sugar, rice and indigo plantation established in 1752. People were held in bondage on those grounds for more than 100 years. There are original slave cabins, outbuildings, and an owner’s house built in 1790.
I mean, American’s “original sin” is slavery and the fact that within the United States, you can go tour and see firsthand where slaves were kept — slaves! It’s astonishing and gives me chills even typing that out. Because it’s so hard to conceptualize how that happened. How that was normalized. How that was woven into the fabric of America. And yet. It happened. For generations.
One of the most powerful pieces, and forgive me as I forget what they officially call the exhibit, was the slave heads on a spike “garden.” That is, the slaves who planned an insurrection against the slave owners and then were brutally killed and their heads placed on a spike as to “frighten by a terrible example all malefactors who might in the future make an attempt on the public space.” Gah. Such brave people to fight back.
Another great exhibit is the Wall of Honor, a memorial dedicated to all the people enslaved on Whitney Plantation, with names and information related to them (origin, age, skills) retrieved from original archives and engraved on granite slabs. My apologies that some of the photos have me reflected in them.
“Yes, I’m bitter. And the more I think about it, the madder I get. Look at me. They say I could I could pass for white. My bother is bring, too. And why? Because the man who owned and sold my mother was my father. But that’s not all. That man I hate with every fiber in my body. And why? A brute like that, who would sell his own child into unprincipled hands, is a beast. That power–just because he had the power and thirsty for money.” – Mary Harris
If you have a chance to visit the Whitney Plantation when you’re in that area, I highly recommend it.