History has so many secrets and discoveries. We will never run out of historical facts.
The Beginning of The Whitney Plantation
Originally called the Habitation Heidel Plantation. Ambroise Heidel and his family fled to America from Germany in 1721. Ambroise started with just one, soon saved enough to buy the Heidel place. First, they processed indigo and later sugar cane. There was always the threat of slave uprising, perhaps from the harsh and brutal work and punishments doled out. A slave had no rights, could own nothing, yet toiled from sun up to sundown, and had little hope of anything better. This was the life of some 350 enslaved on the Whitney Plantation.
There were uprisings with the 1811 German Coast Uprising that seemed to end them for some time. It has been said some 200-500 slaves led by Charles Deslonde burned houses and barns on the way to the Mississippi River. The revolt leader, Deslonde, was caught by dogs, had his hands severed, shot in both thighs and his body. He was then put on straw and set on fire. His followers were made to watch and listen to his screams and be an example to others.
Some 95 slaves were captured, some shot or hung immediately. Afterward, they were decapitated with the heads on a spike and lined along the road for sixty miles. A unique display is at the Whitney Plantation for the slaves who attempted to change for freedom.
They prospered for many years until the Civil War. Then, a Mr. Bradish Johnson, a wealthy businessman from New York, bought the plantation in 1867.
Profits were made from the sugar cane and on the backs of the enslaved—many of the slaves. However, many had left to join the Union Armygoingg the labor on the plantation was depleted.
Years In The Making
In 1999 a wealthy, white, retired lawyer, John Cummings, bought the plantation to build a museum to tell the story of the enslaved. He read over 400 books, searched journals, census records, and slave narratives for authentic historic events. Cummings spent eight million dollars of his own money to complete his quest to educate visitors.
In 2000 he met Dr. Ibrahima Seck, a historian who worked for the next ten years compiling the history of the Whitney Plantation and the 350 enslaved who lived and worked there. Then in 2012, Dr. Seck moved to the plantation to work full time.
A memorial of black granite lists the banes of the 350 enslaved, each with a bit of their history. Another area is dedicated and called the 'Field of Angels' for the 2200 children that died on the plantation. Finally, a particular area shows the heads of the participants of the 1811 uprising that were executed and decapitated.
The 1811 uprising was called the German Coast revolt led by Charles Deslondes. Deslondes was caught by dogs, had his hands severed, shot in both thighs, then shot in his body, finally put on straw and set on fire. This was to act as a deterrent for any others to try a revolt.
Some 95 others were caught, some shot outright, and others were hung then decapitated with their head placed on spikes lining 60 miles of the roads,
Life On The Whitney Plantation
Cummings sought to educate the public, not the owner's life but the enslaved who lived on the plantation. The Antioch Baptist Church also has lifelike statues of children on benches. There are slave quarters, sugar cane kettles, an iron cage where slaves were kept if they caused problems.
This particular museum of a southern plantation is like no other, Cumming aimed to tell the enslaved history instead of the owners. It is truly an emotional visit to Whitney but a story that needs to be said. Cummings is to be commended for completing his dream to educate the public with the focus on the enslaved.
Located at 5089 LA-18 Egard, La. Tours are Wednesday through Monday from 10 AM to 3 PM. 225-265-3300. Each ticket will have the name of a slave with a bit of history of them.
Thousands visit the Whitney Plantation annually with international visitors from Germany, Britain, France, Peru, Chile, and Brazil.