Day Trip Across Louisiana

Whitney Plantation

My office closes for two weeks every Christmas and New Year’s holiday, and I hate it. I can’t travel anywhere because flights are expensive during the season, and I can’t hang with my friends because they still have to work. I waste the days away by watching Netflix, cleaning my closet, shampooing my carpet, trying not to go stir crazy, and trying not to spend too much money online shopping.

This holiday, I wanted to be alone. A relationship imploded right before my eyes on my first day off, and I was an emotional wreck. Being couped up at home and dwelling on the “whys” and “what ifs” did nothing for my mental health, so it was necessary for me to do something – to get out of the house and live. I picked myself up off the floor on a Wednesday morning and decided to take a road trip. Yes, highway driving would give me a chance to clear my head and organize my thoughts. It would allow me to grieve, but not in the pitiful manner of wrapping myself up in bed all day.

I headed down to Wallace, Louisiana – a place I had never been, but where I had been trying to convince any and every person in my life to experience with me. No one shared my interests, so it was the perfect time to visit solo.

What is in Wallace, Louisiana? Whitney Plantation. The Whitney is the only plantation dedicated to telling the story of slaves, while others tend to focus on the beauty of the plantation – the architecture, interior design, and sprawling acres of trees. Oftentimes, they sell the story of ghosts, and choose not to acknowledge the fact that people that looked like me were tortured for the owner’s self-interests and profits. The Whitney, which was one of the most dangerous sugar plantations at its height, had a different idea in mind.

Whitney Plantation

Our tourguide for the 90-minute tour was Ali. He was well-informed in the history of the property, sugar farming, and slavery, and he had answers to every question the inquisitive guests would ask. We began the tour at Antioch Baptist Church, which was the only church for African Americans in the area. The church was not a part of the original property, but was transfered there from a nearby town. Inside, we watched a short video and proceded to The Wall of Honor. Marie Azelie Haydel, one of the former owners of the Whitney, was a maticulous recordkeeper, and her documentation was used to create this memorial with names of those who were enslaved at the Whitney Plantation. Certainly, it does not list every slave that stepped a foot at the plantation.
DSC_1483.jpgAllées Gwendolyn Midlo Hall
The tour also highlighted a wall of monuments featuring the names of over 107,000 people who were enslaved between in Louisiana between 1719 – 1820. This information comes from the archives of Gwendolyn Midlo Hall, whose database I have used for my own ancestry research.
Whitney Plantation

slave quarters

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slave jail

Whitney Plantation

The Big House

We walked to the slave quarters where Ali explained that the original slave quarters were located about a mile away. No slave quarters would be so close to the big house because they preferred slaves to be out of sight and out of mind. Here, Ali explained why the Whitney was so dangerous. As a sugar plantation, it required year-round work in comparison to cotton and tobacco farming. Whitney was also one of few plantations that had two sugar mills on the property. Not only would slaves plant and harvest the sugar cane, they would process it as well. If my memory serves me correctly, Ali said that for every 100 births, there would be 113 deaths. Slaves were literally worked to death at the Whitney over sugar.

We stopped by the slave jail, where Ali explained his doubts that it would be used as a sugar plantation because there was no time for that type of punishment when there was so much work to be done. Most likely, it was used to hold slaves until they were sold. The slave jail on the property was transported from Philadelphia.

Because our group was not with a tour bus, we had the opportunity to stroll the property after the tour was over. My experience on Whitney Plantation tour was worth the ticket price. Since the tour is mostly outdoors, I would recommend going between October – April. May to September would be miserably hot. I did notice spray stations for the hotter months, but I know that I would have complained the entire time if the weather was above 80 degrees.

I bought a few items at the gift shop, and left the Whitney plantation, driving on the roadway next to the levee which protects the town from flooding by the Mississippi River. I passed a few other plantations along the way to New Orleans, and grabbed lunch at Boswell’s Jamaican Grill when I arrived. It’s my usual spot when I’m in New Orleans alone, since no one else I know likes Jamaican cuisine.

Afterwards, I headed to Studio Be.

I’ve mentioned Studio Be on this blog quite a few times because I really do enjoy the work of Brandan Odoms, the owner of and artist behind Studio Be. He has expanded since my last visit, adding artwork from his first project in the Be series, Project Be. Project Be was illegal artwork in 2013 at the abandoned Florida housing projects in 9th Ward New Orleans, and they literally went in and got the pieces of sheetrock out of the apartment building where Project Be was done. The pieces still had the electrical outlets and lightswitches attached. Odoms has improved since Summer ’13. The photo of Malcolm X could have also passed for Xhibit. Here are a few snaps of more expanded artwork.

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Louisiana residents get free admission on Wednesdays, so I didn’t have to pay to view all of this beauty. I did buy a t-shirt at the gift shop before I headed to the Broad Theater for a presentation of Fences. I don’t venture out to the movies often, so how long has a matinee been $9?​​

I learned August Wilson’s play in theatre class during my freshman year of college, so I can’t say McNeese never taught me anything valuable. Viola and Denzel put their all into the characters of Rose and Troy for the film version. Rose’s monologue resonated with me. I don’t ever want to be THAT woman who puts aside all of her own dreams and puts her all into a man only to get nothing out of it but pain and sorrow. In that moment I found some peace in the fact that I was no longer in a relationship. Love is hard. Love is selfless.

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