Inside America’s Auschwitz

Elsa_hahne_whitneyplantationbighouse.jpg__800x600_q85_cropJared Keller at The Smithsonian:

At first glance, the “Wall of Honor” at Louisiana’s Whitney Plantation slavery museum — a series of granite stones engraved with the names of hundreds of slaves who lived, worked and died there — evokes any number of Holocaust memorials. But as the future mayor of New Orleans noted at the museum’s 2008 opening, this site is different; this is America’s Auschwitz.

“Go on in,” Mitch Landrieu told the crowd, according to the New York Times. “You have to go inside. When you walk in that space, you can’t deny what happened to these people. You can feel it, touch it, smell it.”

The former indigo, sugar and cotton operation, which finally opened to the public after years of careful restoration in December 2014 as the country’s first slave museum, is a modern avatar of injustice. Nestled off the historic River Road that runs alongside the slow, lazy crook of the Mississippi, the estate was built in the late 1700s by entrepreneur Jean Jacques Haydel upon land purchased by his German-immigrant father, Ambroise. It was the younger Haydel who expanded the estate and established the plantation as a key player in Louisiana’s sugar trade, transitioning the main crop away from the less-profitable indigo markets. A couple of years after the Civil War, a Northerner by the name of Bradish Johnson bought the property and named it after his grandson Harry Whitney.

more here.

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