The Whitney Plantation is all about the cruelty and horror of slavery, and puts the lie to the story told at the Evergreen Plantation just down the road (see my previous post). Statues of slave children, each named, who later in life told their stories to the Federal Writers Project, populate the plantation. Other poignant displays include a memorial to 107,000 Louisiana slaves, and another telling the story of Charles Deslondes and other slaves executed after an 1811 slave revolt. The scale of the exploitation, contempt, inhumanity, and brutality suffered by antebellum slaves defies imagination.
We arrived early without tickets, but luckily met at the door by the plantation’s owner, John J Cummings III, who welcomed us in. A successful and well-off lawyer, he thought he had bought some prestige real estate. But as he poured over the rich legal and historical documentation of the plantation, he realized he had purchased far more than a piece of property: he had bought a piece of history, a story of slavery he felt he had to tell. As told by our young guide, a knowledgeable, articulate black man, it’s a story of how the wealth of America was based on a monumental injustice: the exploitation of slave labour, without any compensation except a life of unspeakable pain and sorrow. The plantation’s museum also tells the story of the slaves’ descendants, who, like at the Evergreen Plantation, stayed and worked the sugar and rice fields, and suffered, from generation to generation, the horrors of rabid racism and Jim Crow segregation.
Whitney isn’t as pretty a plantation as Evergreen, but a far more honest telling of history.