Is Slavery the New White Trend?
A recent New York Times article on the alleged “first slavery museum” has us wondering: is slavery the new buzz-trend for white historians and Hollywood?
The article, titled “Building The First Slavery Museum in America,” reports that the Whitney Plantation in Louisiana marks this nation’s first official museum dedicate to slaves. The site officially opened on Dec. 7 about an hour from New Orleans in a small town called Wallace.
Retired New Orleans lawyer, John Cummings, was responsible for creating the plantation and decided to make it his personal project using his own money after purchasing the property in 1990. He spent about $8 million dollars updating and revamping the plantation in hopes to pay homage to those who were enslaved.
Whitney Plantation guests can take a 90-minute guided tour of the museum where they’ll learn about slave labor and visit three memorials that record the names and first-hand narratives of individuals who were held in bondage in Louisiana. The tour also explores The French Creole Barn, Robin’s Blacksmith Shop, The Slave Quarters and The Antioch Baptist Church. Not to mention its topped off visits to locations where scenes from the 2012 Quentin Tarantino film Django Unchained were filmed.
While I commend Cummings for his efforts to honor the rare (and often untold) stories of slaves, after more than 100 years since the abolition of slavery in America, I’m hard-pressed to believe this is the first museum solely dedicated to slavery.
Is this a real first-first, like the first time a Black man stepped into the Oval Office as President? Or is this a white privileged first where once again, history is being written from the perspective of people who dictate the time, value, and connotations of other cultures without fully understanding them? Is a museum only a “first” when the New York Times says so?
It’s a fair question to ask considering historical sites like The Slave Relic Historical Museum in Waterboro, South Carolina, The Old Slave Mart in Charleston, South Carolina, and The North Star Underground Railroad Museum in Ausable Chasm, New York, have existed long before The Whitney Plantation launched last year.
Sure, these museums can’t boast sprawling acres of land or restored sites like those at The Whitney Plantation, but they still are museums dedicated specifically to slavery, which again begs the question of who writes (or rewrites) black history in America, especially when films like Django Unchained and 12 Years of Slave have generated so much acclaim, you can’t help but wonder if slavery is becoming an untapped commodity.
Tell us: Do you think slavery is the new white-hot trend and if so, how we can preserve our history without having crucial parts of it rewritten?