The Whitney Plantation Tells the Story of Our Enslaved Ancestors

Story & Photos by Kichea S. Burt
Data News Weekly Contributor

They came to bless the grounds and the rest of us came to observe and participate.

Located on the West Bank of the Mississippi River in Wallace, Louisiana, the Whitney Plantation, historically known as “Habitation Haydel” was a sugar plantation and home to the German Immigrant Haydel Family one of the largest slaveholders in the state. The Whitney Plantation comprises of 250 acres of land.

Now, thanks to John Cummings, Atty. and Realtor, the Whitney Plantation is a museum tasked to tell a story. The story told is the Life of Slaves in Louisiana on this and surrounding plantations from the perspective of the slaves. Hundreds of first-person narratives of those who lived as slaves on the plantations are part of the exhibit. The museum opened in December 2014, becoming the first of its kind in the United States.

On the grounds of the museum there are statues depicting young slave children in various places and other memorial artwork. There are monument walls listing names of 107,000 Louisiana Slaves and a separate space titled ‘Field of Angels’ listing 2200 infants who died before the age of 2 years. There is an open slave cabin showing the bare existence of slave lives.

There is also an exhibit of the 1811 German Coast Uprising and the Massacre of the Revolutionaries, many of whom were decapitated, and their heads displayed on poles along the Mississippi River levees in front of the plantations on which they were enslaved. Through tours of the Whitney Plantation, which are conducted daily, except Tuesdays, visitors gain a unique perspective on the lives of Louisiana’s enslaved people. This is a history lesson no Louisianian should miss.

The research for this project was/is the work of Dr. Ibrahima Seck, Senegalese Historian and Director of Research at the Whitney Plantation. He also conducts some of the museum tours.

An entourage of people, many from New Orleans were present at the plantation on Sunday, February 23, 2019 for the Whitney Plantation Ancestor Blessing Ceremony which is held yearly in the month of February. This included Nana Sula Spirit pouring libations and offering up prayers, along with a host of drummers, as well as a tour and history lesson led Dr. Seck. This annual blessing does not require joining a tour group. This was an amazing and emotional experience. The images tell the story of that day.

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