Johnson on Time, Space, and Memory at Whitney Plantation (Louisiana)

If your summer travels take you to Louisiana, be sure to visit Whitney Plantation in Wallace, Louisiana (about forty miles from New Orleans). See below for #ADPhD Founder and Curator Jessica Marie Johnson’s reflection on her visit last February….

Johnson on Time, Space, and Memory at Whitney Plantation

“Each statue represents a person. Most represent one of the thirty odd men and women who experienced slavery in Louisiana as a child and was interviewed by Works Progress Administration investigators in the 1930s as an elder. A handful represent a child who labored at the plantation site at some point in its history, a child with a story we now know.

Each child has a name. They have identities and histories. They are neither nameless nor voiceless, as so many subaltern historical subjects are, particularly in histories of slavery. They have already spoken. The statues and everything they represent also give lie to the presumption that the enslaved left no stories, no words worth mentioning or remembering. Or believing.

By choosing to engage the visitors through a historically African-American church filled with statues of enslaved children, Ibrahima Seck, the Director of Research, does more than memorialize the original interviewees and enslaved members of the Haydel/Whitney Plantation site. Seck and the Whitney staff force us to enter the plantation by walking past, watching, and being watched by enslaved themselves. The figures act as artifacts of and portals into the words and lives of residents of Louisiana who experienced slavery, who engaged Writers’ Project interviewers as experts in their own lives. Confronted with their familiars, we are challenged to take them seriously as the only experts that matter. As intellectuals in their own right and masters of their own words and worlds.

This is the visitor’s introduction to the Whitney Plantation and Slave Museum…”

Read the rest at AAIHS: Time, Space, and Memory at Whitney Plantation

 

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