My good friend, Joseph McGill sleeps in Slave Dwellings all over America. His Slave Dwelling Project bravely shines a steady light on history that has been largely untold.
He posted a piece by the Smithsonian today about Whitney Plantation which is a museum devoted to slavery in the U.S. South that is preserved in Whitney Plantation Historic District near Wallace, Louisiana, in St. John the Baptist Parish.
The museum opened on the plantation property in December 2014. The following are some excerpts from the Smithsonian piece, written by Jared Keller. “The 15-year restoration effort was backed by John Cummings, the local lawyer and real estate mogul who purchased the land from a petrochemical company and invested $8 million of his own money into restoring the property and developing the museum “When you leave here,” he told the New Orleans Advocate, “you’re not going to be the same person who came in.”
That is the key to how the Whitney Plantation is unlocking the grim story of America’s greatest shame, a tale too often masked by a genteel preservationist approach to plantation history that has pasted romantic Gone With The Wind wallpaper over slavery’s appalling reality.
“Often, plantation exhibits were established for those who lived through the Civil Rights era and yearned for a less complicated time,” says Ashley Rogers, director of museum operations. “And that’s an easy thing to accomplish when you have a ‘chandelier’ tour. Where the previous focus at plantations has been on the house and the culture of Southern gentility, things are changing.””
And the Whitney is taking the lead. “We care about the Big House, but it’s not about that,” says Rogers. “This is a slavery tour.” The Whitney Plantation is explicitly not a rosy exercise in Southern nostalgia. The grounds contain imaginative exhibits and original art works, such as life-size sculptures of children to symbolize the thousands of children who died while in slavery. Here is the amazing Smithsonian article with photographs, about Whitney Plantation called Why @Whitplantation is America’s Auschwitz. It is arresting.