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December 8, 2022 / Jim Fenton

Civil Rights Journey Day 3: Whitney Plantation

Thursday, October 20, 2022

Our day began with a briefing in a conference room in our hotel. Our leaders spoke for almost two hours on the history of slavery in the US and specifically in New Orleans as background for our visit to Whitney Plantation, about an hour’s bus ride from town. We made it to the plantation about noon, and had a picnic lunch there.

Whitney Plantation is different from most historical sites because it is presented from the viewpoint of the enslaved people, not the plantation owners. We were very fortunate that Yvonne, one of our tour leaders, had worked for Whitney Plantation until very recently and was able to tailor our tour to the theme of our journey. The tour included not only the Big House of the plantation, but also the areas where many of the enslaved people worked, such as the cooking areas, and their living quarters. We also were introduced to the evolution of the plantation, from early days farming indigo to sugar cane farming. There were memorial walls commemorating the many enslaved people who worked at the plantation, giving us an idea of the scale of the slavery at this one plantation.

While at the Whitney, Konda Mason, an entrepreneur who leads an organization called Jubilee Justice, spoke to us about the work they are doing. Jubilee Justice is working to improve the business climate for Black rice farmers in Louisiana and Arkansas. One of their main initiatives is to establish a cooperative rice mill in order to give the local farmers a more equitable and cost effective way to get their rice to market.

After returning from the Whitney, we took a short break and then had dinner at 9 Roses with several leaders from the local Vietnamese community. New Orleans has a significant Vietnamese community, dating from the 1975 evacuation during the Communist takeover of South Vietnam. Some are engaged in fishing and shrimping, which had been their occupations in Vietnam. Our dinner table included a leader from the real estate industry who was part of that 1975 migration and a Catholic priest who had relatively recently moved to the United States. It was informative to see the similarities and differences between these generations of immigrants. The food was excellent!

This article is part of a series about our recent travels to the US South. To see the introductory article in the series, click here.

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