The area around Baton Rouge, Louisiana, is not far from the River Road, where visitors can find plantation Ceramic sculptures homes in various stages of restoration and display. One part of southern history which hasn't been the focus of River Road plantations is the story of the tens of thousands of slaves who supported the cotton, indigo, and sugar cane industries. Enslaved persons have been part of this picture from the 1780s through the Civil War; many of their descendants continue to live in the same locations even today.
Finally a new museum has opened on the River Road. The Whitney Plantation in Wallace is the home of The Story of Slavery, as described in the New York Times Magazine for 1 March 2015.
We were on the first tour of the day, the least crowded, and listened intently as our guide, who was Tour guide at memorial born and raised not far from the Whitney Plantation, carefully and respectfully described the suffering of those who labored here and on plantations throughout the south.
In 1937, under the auspices of the Works Progress Administration, the Federal Writers Project undertook to record interviews with the few living persons who had been slaves prior to emancipation. Quotations from these interviews are inscribed on the stone memorials erected in the Whitney Plantation, and reveal the truth that slavery was never desired by the enslaved persons themselves, despite the often-told Sugar pots and slave quarters stories of happy slaves living comfortably on plantations. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The names of slaves were recorded on bills of sale, auction records, parish burial records, etc., and scholars are working to restore their lives by discovering as much of their history as possible. The Whitney is building a research facility so that the study can continue right on this location.
Plantation owners were aware of the slave revolts in the Caribbean, and constantly took measures to prevent slaves from gathering together and planning an uprising. It was common to sell slaves -- in the case of the Whitney, one of the owners needed to raise money to pay off gambling debts -- and families were Interior of house normally broken up, no doubt to prevent strong social units from forming. The enslaved persons, in turn, risked their lives by subtle acts of espionage to harm the working of the plantations.
The slave girl who carried the trays of food to the mansion house every day had to whistle all the way, so she could not eat any of the food on the trays.
Slave quarters were in use as residences for some poor black people in Louisiana until the 1960s, so it was not difficult to relocate real slave quarters from nearby locations and show them to visitors to the Whitney, alongside rows of iron kettles and cauldrons where sugar and molasses were stirred. Archaeologists Names and quotations helped to locate the buildings in the positions they had occupied around 1800.
One set of carved stone memorials names enslaved persons from Louisiana, another the 2500 black children who died before age 2 -- mother too young, sick, had to work, beaten, etc. Yet another memorial names those enslaved persons who were sold by the owners of this plantation. Significantly, most of the information about the individuals comes from business records -- they were property, after all.
Far from being a side issue in a war to determine if states could legally secede, slavery was the defining reason for the Civil War from the outset, since it was slavery in the cotton plantations of the Statues of enslaved children United States that enabled the huge boom in the English cotton industry throughout the first half of the nineteenth century, which in turn propelled the emergence of modern industrial capitalism. Southern planters had wagered their entire privileged style of life on the basis of millions of dollars in human capital assets.
We were mightily impressed by the efforts of the folks at the Whitney Plantation and wish them well. Listening to other visitors, we learned that several had come because they had learned about this plantation during a visit to the more well-known plantation houses along the River Road. With luck, this will develop into a historical and cultural journey well worth the time and effort.