The Whitney Plantation: Looking back to move ahead

The Whitney Plantation: Looking back to move ahead

At the Whitney Plantation in Wallace, you'll find an experience like none other. Here, it's not about the big white house, or towering oak trees. Instead, the experience transcends picturesque landscapes.

"We have here not someone's opinion of slavery... but we actually have the voices from the freed slaves who had no voices" said Whitney's owner, John Cummings.

Cummings opened the old Haydel sugar plantation as the Whitney Plantation Museum in December, but it's been over a decade in the making. Today, it stands as one of the only plantations in the state, maybe country, to focus solely on the lives of the resilient people of slavery.

"I've read 300-400 books about slavery and I'm still in the first grade" Cummings said. "Second semester, I hope. But still in the first grade" he added with a smile.

He'll be the first to tell you he's no expert in the institution of slavery, but is unapologetic in his quest to use the past as a solution to our present.

"We're not here to point fingers, we're here to embrace it" he said. "In order for us to understand... what the life of a slave was like and why there is such a hangover from slavery".

Though the Whitney was once an 1,800 acre sugar plantation, there's no sugar coating the history here; a deliberate choice, according to Dr. Ibrahaim Seck, Whitney's Director of Research.

"When people get educated about he past, I think they would be more willing to do something to bring a solution to the problems we have today" Seck said,

At the Whitney, that education is brought to life through monuments. Some of which include "The 18 Walls" or the "Midlo Hall" memorial, which lists the people enslaved in Louisiana spanning nearly 100 years.

"There are more than 100,000 names here" said Seck.

The "Field of Angels" is another memorial at the Whitney, which offers a painful depiction of the names and stories of enslaved children who died in St. John parish, many who never saw their third birthday.

"The system was based on the sweat and tears of those people who were deported from Africa and their descendants" said Seck. "We thought that it was important to focus on the lives of the slaves".

"Take a look at all of that and you can see that the quest for freedom was never given up all the way given back to the slave vessels" Cummings said. "It was alive. It's part of a continuing history".

It's that continuing history that we celebrate this black history month. Realizing that it's our shackled and divided past, that just may led us into a more united future.

The Whitney Plantation is located at 5099 Louisiana Highway 18. Tours are available. More information can be found at

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