The Southern Plantation
A Slave Past
I’ve visited plenty of plantations in the southern states. Most are beautifully restored homes and the tours focus on the gentility of the antebellum south where the greatest discomfort is owed to corsets and multiple petticoats and no air conditioning.
I was eager to visit Whitney Plantation because its focus is set squarely on the slaves who made the aforementioned gentility possible. Wealth was due to the unpaid forced labor of brutalized men and women toiling in the fields and doing the more skilled labor required to run the home. The corsets and petticoats were laced up and buttoned by slaves. The livestock was tended to by slaves. It was slaves who kept plantation life running and comfortable for the plantation owners and their families.
The Whitney Plantation Tour
The tour begins at the Visitors Center where everyone is given a hangtag with an image of a child born into slavery. Each tour participant got different ones. Mine is a young boy named Hunton Love.
It was brutally hot the day I visited and were all supplied with umbrellas and water. Torrie Jakes, our tour guide, started things off by giving us an overview of the Whitney Plantation project and assuring the group that no question was out of bounds.
The Church Bell Rings
We then walked to the chapel where we were all encouraged to ring the church bell to honor the lives of the slaves and to let John Cummings, the attorney whose vision is responsible for the project, know we were there. Inside were statues of the children pictured on our hangtags. This building is not part of the original plantation. The chapel and several other structures were moved from other sites to be erected here. It is not the objective of Whitney Plantation to recreate life as it was at one plantation, but to drive home the point that the lives of slaves were the same nightmare everywhere.
The tour covered several memorials and resurrected slave quarters, workhouses, the big house, and a slave jail. More structures are being readied and the tour will continue to expand. At the end of the tour we were encouraged to explore on our own. I have to confess, though, that the heat was too much for me and I ended my visit in the gift shop.
The Human Experience
As much as I learned of slavery in history classes when I was in school, it was all just that – history. I knew it was a travesty and a blight on our nation’s story but, after visiting the Whitney Plantation and seeing this lessons come to life, and in context, the reality was brought home to me. http://www.whitneyplantation.com/index.html
Museum Hours of Operation:
Monday – 9:30am – 4:30pm
Tuesday – closed
Wednesday- 9:30am – 4:30pm
Thursday – 9:30am – 4:30pm
Friday – 9:30am – 4:30pm
Saturday – 9:30am – 4:30pm
Sunday – 9:30am – 4:30pm
Closed New Years Day, Mardi Gras Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day.
Address: 5099 Louisiana Highway 18, Wallace LA 70049.
Marsha Lenox is a writer and freelance editor. Her articles and essays on travel, roller derby and homeschooling have been featured in newspapers, magazines and on numerous websites and blogs. Marsha writes and performs creative non-fiction stories for Story Salon, the longest running storytelling venue in Los Angeles. She is also a roller derby referee.
Photo by Z28scrambler usage under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0.