On the way home from New Orleans me and Cathy as well as Charlie and Suzi who were riding with us took a bit of a wandering way home down the River Road. The road is a stretch between between New Orleans and Baton Rouge on both sides of the Mississippi river where great homes in the Greek Revival and Creole style demonstrated the wealth and conspicuous consumption of the sugar planters. All this was made possible by slaves who did the hard labor of sugar cane harvest. We stopped by for some photos at the Evergreen Plantation which was closed and toured the Whitney Plantation which is an exhibit focused on the life of the slaves.
I have toured Plantation homes before and been reading some well researched and footnoted books by Ned Sublette that tell much about the life, politics and music of the American South. In fact when I mentioned these books to a Whitney Plantation Staff member he exclaimed "He was here two weeks ago!" I love visiting these places. Here are some photos of the Evergreen.
There is an Oak Ally Plantation with more impressive trees and several of the plantations have these tree lined roads but I chose this one because of the Spanish Moss.
A slave cabin at Evergreen. There are few slave cabins left. One here, a few there they are probably not in original locations. Written accounts by none other than Mark Twain of this stretch of river mention thousands of buildings with a cruise down the river very similar to a drive through the busy street of a city.
Evergreen Plantation. It was closed. Roof looks to need some repair. Many homes remained intact until the 1920s when disease hit the sugar cane. Restoration began in the 1940s.
If you don't know about sugar cane harvest it's the kind of crop that works a man to death. The USA banned importation of people with the Constitution in 1809. While that sounds pretty good it basically set up a slave breeding industry in places where tobacco crops had depleted the soil. Many slaves were shipped and marched down south to the sugar cane and cotton fields as needed. In Cuba where there was a sugar industry but importation of persons went on till the 1870s slaves were worked to death and new ones brought in. One bright spot here is that the slave culture of Cuba was constantly re Africianized with music, customs of the various countries of origin and religions. In America this did not happen and much has been lost.
The tour guide for the Whitney Plantation touched on many things I already knew about these times so it was great to be refreshed on this history in the place that it happened.
Southern rot, mildew and decay. It's where I do my best work.
An overseer's house. Made from cypress it is in original condition and location and is unrestored.
Slave house with iron pots for sugar cane in the foreground. These cabins were moved here from other places. The original ones that still stood on this site were knocked down in the 1970s to make room to move move in equipment for the cane fields.
In the distance 300 year old cane fields still make people rich.
Figures in Antioch Baptist Church on the plantation grounds.
There was a wall with slave names gathered from church birth records. Only one with a last name was the same last name as the plantation owner of that time.
As I say I have researched in this area some. I'll make my own wall here on this blog by listing the humans that two my ancestors owned:
Abram, Milford, Sara, "the mulatto girl Lucy", Hercules, Moll, James, Abraham, Cato, Daniel, and Annaca.
There are others. These are just the names I have. I am lucky enough to have the last names that help me look up the wills that divided these humans as property while also allowing the future inheritance of what was known as their "increase." The ancestors of these folks probably don't know as much as I do from where they came.
With living, a lot can be learned. I hope it's that way for you also.
Labels: New Orleans