(NEXSTAR MEDIA) — For years, the Whitney Plantation in Wallace, Louisiana was hidden from view until the property was bought by John Cummings, who opened it to the public.
Cummings documented not only the past ownership of Whitney, but also found records on the enslaved people who lived and died there.
When the master rang his bell at any given moment….
“It would mean, an ever-present knowledge that someone was in control of your schedule, that you had to answer to someone for almost every minute of your life,” said Joy Banner, Director of Marketing.
More than 200 years ago, hundreds of men, women and children called Whitney Plantation home, but home didn’t mean happiness or freedom.
Some, like Betty Thomas-Ledet, a Baton Rouge resident, recalls vividly what she believes life was like on the grounds day-in and day-out.
“Slavery impacted black mentally, physically, financially, and spiritually, and all of that plays over into today, those particular things that happened to them,” said Thomas-Ledet.
On these walls are the names of 120,000 enslaved Louisianians. Stories of pain and suffering stories of perseverance. Stories that weren’t being told about the brutality, being bull-whipped for protecting your children, wanting a biscuit to eat.
Louisiana had one of the largest slave auctions in the United States. Once the slaves were bought, they were sent here to the Whitney Plantation. Many refused to conform to their new way of life, even going to the lengths of self destruction.
While we can’t change what happened, some, like John Cummings through Whitney Plantation, can at least education people by sharing real stories during a dark time in history.
Cummings is restoring the plantation one building at a time. He said his vision is to make the Whitney an education center for all people so that what happened there will never happen again.