New Orleans exhibition about slave trade to showcase across Louisiana

Published: Aug. 30, 2016 at 9:22 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 31, 2016 at 6:49 PM CDT
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American Slaves by William Henry Brooke, engraver; engraving from The Slave States of America,...
American Slaves by William Henry Brooke, engraver; engraving from The Slave States of America, vol. 2; London: Fisher, Son and Company, 1842; The Historic New Orleans Collection, 2014.0450.2 (Source: The Historic New Orleans Collection)

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WAFB) - The New Orleans Historic Collection (TNOHC) has an exhibition that set records for attendance and a version of it is about to roll it out to the rest of the state.

"Purchased Lives: The American Slave Trade from 1808 to 1865" features pictures of America's slave trade, both engravings and some photographs. Erin Greenwald, the curator for the exhibition, said TNOHC tooled the panel exhibition for mobility, wanting it to reach a broad diversity of eyes.

"We put together a traveling panel of our images," she explained, not sending the original artifacts, but reproductions of important ones from the original exhibition. "What we looked for were sites that were geographically dispersed throughout the state. and also wanted to make sure we had a diversity of sites. So some are libraries, some of them are in state parks, and the town of Bunkie will host it.

"Bunkie has the connection of the Solomon Northup ("12 Years a Slave") story, and the success of that movie, combined with the issues facing American Society, including unequal treatment within the justice system and police brutality against blacks have pervaded every kind of medium. People want to discuss how we got here (to this point) in America."

And the slave era is part of that story.

During the time the larger exhibition was on view at The Historic New Orleans Collection's Williams Research Center on Chartres Street last year, several violent events fueled interest in black rights in America.

While crowds gathered to study the images, Black Lives Matter demonstrations took place all over the country. Baton Rouge saw the shooting of Alton Sterling and the emotional protests that followed.

Greenwald admits the exhibition focus was timely. "I think we were very fortunate in the timing, unfortunately we don't want to coincide with violence."

As for the subject matter in the photos, I asked is this exhibition appropriate for children?

"All of the images are okay for children," Greenwald said. "My feeling as a parent of a 12-year-old is that I think parents should use discretion in how they talk about the images to their children. The content is tough, right? Everybody is going to react differently. I think parents have to determine what their child is ready for. I think it's about P-G 13."

Ready to seek out "Purchased Lives: The American Slave Trade from 1808 to 1865?" Generous support from Entergy Corporation with additional gr ants from the National Park Service, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Kabacoff Family Foundation are making it happen.

The portable panel display will visit the following Louisiana cities over the course of 16 months. Each site will host the display for approximately six weeks starting in November.

  • Nov. 1 - Dec.13: Cane River Creole National Historical Park in Natchitoches
  • Jan. 2 – Feb. 13, 2017: City Hall  in Bunkie
  • Feb. 17 – March 31: West Baton Rouge Museum in Port Allen
  • April 14 – May 26: Jackson Parish Library in Jonesboro
  • June 1 – July 13: Bossier Parish Library in Bossier City
  • July 17 – Aug. 28: Bayou Teche Museum in New Iberia
  • Sept. 1 – Oct. 13: Ellender Memorial Library at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux
  • Oct. 17 – Nov. 28: Pointe Coupee Parish Library in  New Roads
  • Dec. 1, 2017 – Jan. 12, 2018: St. Tammany Parish Library in Slidell
  • Jan. 16–Feb. 27. 2018: Calcasieu Parish Library in  Lake Charles

Greenwald said in addition to managing the transportation and logistics of the display, the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities will issue gr ants to support programs during the tour stops and coordinate with The Historic New Orleans Collection to train staff at each host site on the content and educational aspects of the display.

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