Whitney Plantation: Never Take Freedoms for Granted
Over the weekend, I took a girls trip with my family to tour the Whitney Plantation in Edgard, Louisiana. It was a sugarcane plantation that sits along the Mississippi River and was run by more than 350 enslaved Africans.
Thanks to a Federal Writers' Project (Born in Slavery: Slave Narratives 1936-1938) the interviews of 2,300 former enslaved people and the their offspring narrate the tour. The voices of those who lived at Whitney and other nearby plantations depict the true history of slavery as visitors walk the self-guided tour through the immaculate property. It's dumbfounding that a place so beautiful was the site of so much unsightly misery and pain.
Some people of color don't want to tour things like plantations because they're painful places to be and are a reminder of the unspeakable, inhumane atrocities our people endured. I feel the same way. They aren't places of joy. I too, found myself getting angry, disgusted and sad beyond words. At the same time, plantations like Whitney are places to learn. Hearing the background of those who lived there, I felt a great sense of pride knowing I come from that kind of strength. They were incredibly strong and intelligent. I'm in awe my people survived being kidnapped, stuffed, and shackled by the thousands at the bottom of ships with disease, beatings, hard labor, rape, and everything else that came with the evils of slavery. They made it and because of their intensity and strength, we rise. We are a beautiful, unbreakable people!
As I toured the property of the Whitney Plantation, I felt like I was walking on hallowed ground because I know how much my people suffered. Every building on the plantation was built by slaves. The fact that the Big House (1790), slave cabins, carriage house, church, and more are still standing is a true testament to the carpentry skills my people possess. I believe it's important to know who you come from. When you know where you've been, you where you're going. I wanted my daughter to know what it took for her to live the life she enjoys and to understand how blessed she is. That, during slavery, children her age and younger weren't given any of the opportunities she has. She needed to know the cost of freedom. Below are photos from my family tour. Enjoy.
Special thanks to John Cummings, who bought and restored and renovated the sugar plantation. He used his own money and spent nearly 16 years putting the plantation, a museum, art, and more on offer so others could learn about the impact of slavery in the South. Below, Cummings gives a brief bio of how his involvement with the plantation came about along with a small tour of the grounds shortly after it opened to the public in December 2014.
Touring a place like this humbles you. It makes you grateful for all that you have. It also brings what's important in life back into perspective. The Prophet Hosea said, "My people are destroyed by a lack of knowledge."
Knowledge is power, and understanding the groundwork laid out for the freedoms I have today makes me cherish life and want to be a better person. They had no rights, no choice, and no voice. But I do, and I shall use my rights, my choice, and my voice to vote in every election and never to take my freedoms for granted. I owe my ancestors that much.