ST. FRANCISVILLE, LA (WAFB) - Preserve Louisiana is sponsoring a living history style program this week to shed light on the life of a slave in South Louisiana.
The non-profit preservation group is sponsoring a lecture by a slave experience re-enactor and discussion led by Maxine Crump's Dialogue on Race at the Old Governor's Mansion on Thursday, March 16 at 6:30 p.m.
"The two slave cabins were donated by General Robert Barrow, USMC, a relative of the previous owners of Oakley," said Raymond Berthelot, Parks Program Manager with the Louisiana Office of Parks. "The cabins match the footprint of the archaeological dig at Oakley by Laurie Wilkie and Paul Farnsworth, LSU, back in the 1980s."
Crump discovered her slave roots last year, when news broke that Georgetown University had sold her relatives to Louisiana plantations to pay bills. You might ask that Crump share her experiences with her new knowledge of family history.
The Thursday night session at the governor's mansion is free.
Then Preserve Louisiana's taking that "show on the road," and transporting living history re-enactor Joseph McGill of the Slave Dwelling Project to Oakley Plantation for an overnight experience Saturday and Sunday, March 18 and 19. For that there is a fee.
The program lands in St. Francisville at Oakley during the Audubon Pilgrimage, a huge event opening to the public the history and the antebellum homes of the Felicianas. This spend-the-night at a State Park will be the perfect complement to the Audubon celebration, WAFB's Donna Britt observed.
Fairleigh Jackson of Preserve Louisiana says, "People will rough it by modern terms. It's to recreate the experience to sleep there, to spend the night there. They're clearly not enduring the physical labor, but the night in a real slave cabin will mean sleeping on a mattress on the floor. There is one bed in one cabin that is strung with rope and they use hay straw in the mattress, but that's the only one we have. The rest are going to be on the floor."
Joseph McGill is a preservationist at the Magnolia Plantation in South Carolina and was inspired to pioneer the project after spending years as a Civil War re-en-actor. He began with a strict focus on South Carolina, sleeping on bedrolls and dirt floors, then traveled across the country. During his travels, he's visited more than 80 dwellings in a variety of conditions in Alabama, Connecticut, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.
The night that you spend at Oakley, they'll build a fire for you to sit around and McGill will tell you what he's learned about the slaves who lived at Oakley House.
"He'll also lead open dialogue on what the slaves meant to that plantation and what their lives may have been like," based on his research.
The slave cabins at Oakley House were moved there to sit in the same places where the original slave cabins sat before they were destroyed.
Now that it's a state park, Louisiana State Parks will fiercely protect the buildings.
Jackson says the son of the original owners of Oakley, moved the cabins you'll sleep in to the property from another plantation to preserve them.
Preserve Louisiana hopes that by presenting this national expert on the lives of the slaves during the Audubon Pilgrimage celebration that it will remind us in Louisiana of the value of Louisiana's State Parks and Office of Cultural Development. It is hoped that it will bring the state park system more visibility.
Donna Britt says if you want this rare chance to sleep like a slave and learn more about a slave's life on a Louisiana plantation, the registration is limited to just 12 people.