MLK, Jr Day Special: America’s First Museum on Slavery

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I have never visited a museum on slavery in the US. Turns out one did not exist until the Whitney Plantation opened in Louisiana.

Whitney Plantation

In Postcard…from Louisiana, the FT profiled the museum:

John Cummings, 77, a New Orleans lawyer and real estate investor, bought the 1,700-acre property in 1999 and, aided by Seck, began planning its transformation. When he greets our group of visitors, his words convey an ongoing sense of disbelief.

“This is the first spot in the United States dedicated to slavery,” he says. “In Germany there are over 200 museums dealing with the Holocaust. They embraced it, they owned it. Here . . . first one.”


The emotional shock closes the distance between past and present, digs into the wound of this largely unreckoned history that still haunts America. The Whitney is evolving and will continue to do so. Buildings are being renovated for a research institute which is establishing partnerships with organisations from Virginia to Europe and Africa, creating a momentum that has surprised even the founders. “Truth is like fire,” says Seck, quoting African folklore. “Nobody can sit on it forever.”

Louisiana is the state highest on my list of those I have not visited and this will be a certain stop. There is a companion FT piece, profiling the annual rode of the Louisiana State Penitentiary:

The Louisiana State Penitentiary, also known as “Angola”, is home to 6,300 prisoners; 4,500 are in for life and 83 are on death row. For one weekend in April and four Sundays in October, the convicts compete in a series of rodeos that draw up to 10,000 spectators each day.

Readers, have you visited the Whitney Plantation?

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