New Orleans borders the Mississippi River; this is a great location for trade. Great trade locations also mean great plantation locations. This is no surprise, and I knew this as soon as I arrived. In fact, I work right next to an abandoned plantation house. When I first heard we were going on a plantation tour, I was pretty uneasy. The obvious reason would be I am a Black person visiting a plantation where people who looked like me were enslaved, tortured, killed, abused, and treated like animals for hundreds of years. The main reason was exactly that AND the disconnect I’ve always felt with the history of Black people in America.
I am a second generation American. My mom is from Trinidad and my dad is from Nigeria. My family’s time in America starts with my parents. For most Black Americans, their family history in America starts with slavery. This contributes to why I felt slightly on edge about touring a plantation. My family and I have experienced the racism, microaggressions, subtle discrimination, and prejudice that comes with being black in America, but we aren’t really rooted in the history that results in our experiences of racism and inequality.
I acknowledge this discomfort I have with Black History, and I learned to use this discomfort as motivation to educate myself and take every opportunity I have to learn more about it. This time it wasn’t through a conversation, reading a book, or watching a documentary, but through touring a plantation. Our group toured three plantations: Oak Valley, Whitney, and Laura. Each tour emphasized different aspects of the plantation and its history. All the tours were informative, but the Whitney Plantation was the best tour due to its in depth overview of the history of slavery in New Orleans, description of life on the plantation, and memorials for those who were enslaved. The plantations were beautiful, but also haunting. Haunting because I was walking through the same areas where people who looked like me were enslaved.
I know that I will never be connected to and truly understand the consequences of slavery like those who presence in America is a direct result of slavery. I also know this realization of mine doesn’t matter to racists and the systems that perpetuate racism because what matters is my skin color: Black. Touring these plantations reminded me of that, added to my knowledge of Black History, and challenged me to learn more.