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WATCH: Why America Needs A Slavery Museum

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“This isn’t black history, it’s national history.”

I am changed. I see now more clearly than ever, the dots across the timeline of history that led to our current situation of racism and the effect that it has across an entire community and nation. 

—Sydney Lent, visitor to the Whitney Plantation

In December 2014, the Whitney Plantation near Wallace, Louisiana, opened its doors to the public for the first time in its 262-year history. It’s the only plantation museum and memorial in the United States focused on slavery. The museum’s exhibits, memorial artwork, restored buildings and hundreds of first-person slave narratives provide a unique perspective on what it was like to be a slave in Louisiana and throughout the south.

The Whitney Plantation was originally owned by a German immigrant family called the Haydels and run by the slaves they owned, but it now belongs to John Cummings, a successful trial attorney and white southerner in his late 70s who has spent 16 years and more than $8 million of his own fortune on the project. Cummins and Ibrahima Seck, director of research, want to educate people about the realities of slavery, its history and its impact on the country today.

“The history of this country is rooted in slavery,” says Seck. “If you don’t understand the source of the problem, how can you solve it?”

This beautifully filmed video from The Atlantic provides a glimpse into the history of the Whitney Plantation and its mission.

“What people have to realize that it was a bunch of people like me who started this mess, who started slavery and dealt in slaves, so why would  it be a surprise if some white kid came along as a cheerleader and was trying to do something that would  try to correct what his ancestors did?” says Cummings. “So I thought that I personally would no longer be satisfied living in ignorance, and also, that I would try my best to present the facts of slavery to all the people I could find so that everyone would understand how strong the deck was stacked against the Africans here.”

 

Zoe Romanowsky is lifestyle editor and video content producer for Aleteia.

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