If you haven’t visited the Whitney Plantation, you should go and I don’t mean that in a tourism kinda way. I mean that you should allow your body to be confronted with slavery. You should stand inside a slave cabin, walk inside the masta’s house, read the accounts of violence and rape from enslaved people.
I’ve heard ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’ read, and I tell you Mrs. Stowe’s pen hasn’t begun to paint what slavery is as I have seen it at the far South. I’ve seen de real thing, and I don’t want to see it on no stage or in no theater.
My anger about slavery is readily available emotion. However, gathering my grief for the mothers, the fathers, the siblings, the children, the babies, the violence, the raping, the lives that were reduced feels overwhelming.
Many of us think we know what slavery was like, but many of the New Orleans and Baton Rouge college students touring the Whitney Plantation with me shook their heads while reading slave narratives. One college student said:
“I would have had to poison the masa’s food or something.”
It’s important to note there is focus on children that were born into slavery at this plantation. They had no concept of freedom, unlike those Africans who were free and suddenly kidnapped.
It’s easy to say what should have been done when you aren’t living an enslaved life.
Our docent was a local African-American high school history teacher and Sengalese historian Dr. Ibrahima Seck. They were knowledge was invaluable to our tour. I appreciated their willingness to answer candid questions about race relations and economics.
I won’t tell you the answers but here’s some of the questions was asked them along the tour:
How is slavery taught in Africa?
How were injuries avoided while cutting sugar cane?
How much indigo was exported from the Whitney Plantation
One of the stand out moments was comparing and contrasting the life of a slave in the field vs in the big house. We were cautioned to not assume life in the big house was better. It is believed that life inside the big house required extreme mental and emotional stamina because of the close proximity to the master, his family and friends.
For those who are not familiar with the Whitney Plantation, check this video:
The visit to the Whitney Plantation has encouraged me to investigate my genealogy. I’ll keep you posted on what I find in my journey.
Kelly Harris is the founder of BrassyBrown.com