America’s First Slavery Museum
About time, right? Whereas most refurbished plantations are there to recount the history of the “glory days” of the Antebellum south, the recently opened Whitney Plantation is there to expose and memorialize the open shame of American History — slavery.
According to New York Times, lawyer and long-time activist John Cummings has spent the last 15 years and over $8 million of his own personal money resorting the plantation for the purpose of telling the story of slavery up close and personal:
On Dec. 7, the Whitney Plantation, in the town of Wallace, 35 miles west of New Orleans, celebrated its opening, and it was clear, based on the crowd entering the freshly painted gates, that the plantation intended to provide a different experience from those of its neighbors. Roughly half of the visitors were black, for starters, an anomaly on plantation tours in the Deep South.
Built largely in secret and under decidedly unorthodox circumstances, the Whitney had been turned into a museum dedicated to telling the story of slavery — the first of its kind in the United States.
Located on land where slaves worked for more than a century, in a state where the sight of the Confederate flag is not uncommon, the results are both educational and visceral. An exhibit on the North American slave trade inside the visitors’ center, for instance, is lent particular resonance by its proximity, just a few steps away outside its door, to seven cabins that once housed slaves.
A number of memorials also dot the grounds, including a series of angled granite walls engraved with the names of the 107,000 slaves who spent their lives in Louisiana before 1820. Inspired by Maya Lin’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, the memorial lists the names nonalphabetically to mirror the confusion and chaos that defined a slave’s life.
Interesting, right? Will you be making a trip?