A few weeks ago, I was invited to visit Whitney Plantation in Louisiana by its owner John J. Cummings III. As most of you know that have been following my blog/posts/pics, I really love plantations. This was a huge deal because as of right now, Whitney is not open to the public and it is very hard to see from the road. The main house is one of the only plantations left (if not THE only) with frescoes painted on the exterior walls. I had also heard about the amazing things that Mr. Cummings has in the works for Whitney and I really wanted to see the house and hear about his plans. So I booked my trip and went down to Louisiana which was HOT HOT HOT!
I also met up with two other gentleman for this mini-tour, Jacques and Mark. Jacques' family used to own (and still lives on the land) of a plantation across the river and Mark is a historian that has wrote a few books on plantations so I was in very good company. I am still quite glad to have met them!
Mr. Cummings showed up and took us over to the church which he recently had moved and rebuilt on Whitney's land and told us the backstory on how he came to own Whitney. He is another history buff and when he heard about Whitney's possible demise at the hands of yet another chemical plant, he decided to buy her. After reading books upon books about plantation life, Whitney and all things he could possibly find he decided that what was missing on River Road was the gods-honest-truth about slavery. So he decided to change that – and changing that he is!
One of the first things we saw when coming into the church were these amazing statues of slave children scattered about the church. With their glass eyes, they are almost frighteningly real. They are being created and placed in random places about the plantation site to constantly remind people that it wasn't just adults that lived, worked and died on plantations – children also died here as well. His viewpoint is that children are innocent and seeing slavery from the eyes of a child may help people get drawn into the horrors that slaves suffered easier than an adult's story would.
Mr. Cummings has amazing plans for Whitney and how to bring slavery to life for people of today to understand and learn from the past. He is planning to have an area for college students to stay and live on the plantation and have access to all sorts of resources to be able to write papers about plantation life and slavery. He is currently in the process of trying to find the names for every single slave that was brought into the south and is having the names engraved onto granite and will have them displayed in an area behind the church. These granite slabs will also have quotes from the slaves about their lives on the plantations. Finally he is also planning a "Field of Angels" in memory of the slave children that didn't live past the age of two. This is no small undertaking!
There is no firm date of when he hopes to open Whitney's doors to the public but I hope it is soon because I think the tales that Whitney wants to tell are ones that need to be heard. When it is open, it will be one of the stops along the Louisiana African American Heritage Trail. Enjoy the pictures below of a plantation that is rarely photographed. Thank you Mr. Cummings for allowing me to hear the tales you are about to tell and letting me capture some images of Whitney on film. I hope to be permitted to come down again and capture more images of the grounds. I was far too interested in hearing the stories to take pictures as well!