West Feliciana Historical Society permanently cancels Audubon Pilgrimage after petition claims festival glosses over slavery

West Feliciana Historical Society permanently cancels Audubon Pilgrimage after petition claims festival glosses over slavery

ST. FRANCISVILLE, La. (WAFB) - The West Feliciana Historical Society has canceled its annual Audubon Pilgrimage after a petition criticized the festival for failing to recognize the history of the Black community in the 1820s.

“If it truly is going to be an exploration of the past, we have to see all sides of history at that time,” the petition to the West Feliciana Historical Society and the Town of St. Francisville.

Hannah Leming, who started the petition, said she enjoyed going to the festival during her childhood but has realized the event is not inclusive to members of the Black community.

I grew up going to the Audubon Pilgrimage wearing the dresses and dancing the Maypole. It was an enjoyable part of my childhood. But time, reflection, and listening and learning from the Black community has made me realize that the Pilgrimage is part of the system of oppression.

When students are brought to the Rural Homestead for field trips, white and black students are either given or encouraged to buy wooden paddles engraved with their name and whips, both objects used to torture slaves, without any explanation.

I remember going to Oakley Plantation on a field trip and the whole plantation life being glorified and the real history of oppression never was told to me or my black classmates. We didn’t see the slave quarters and they were never even mentioned as being a part of this “educational” field trip,” Leming says in the petition.

Leming’s petition called for either the Audubon Pilgrimage to be canceled in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement or be changed to “illuminate BOTH sides of history in the 1820s.”

The West Feliciana Historical Society issued a statement Tuesday, June 9 that it would be permanently canceling the Audubon Pilgrimage. This year’s festival, scheduled for March, was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“After listening to our community and stakeholders, and understanding the world and community in which we all live, the West Feliciana Historical Society has decided to cancel the Annual Audubon Pilgrimage going forward. We will focus our efforts on providing a complete and accurate history of our parish in a meaningful way that is relevant today and in the future,” officials with the West Feliciana Historical Society said.

WAFB’s Donovan Jackson will have more on this story on 9News at 4, 5, and 6.

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