Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Natchez and Slavery

I read the following article with interest, as it deals with the interpretation of slavery in Natchez, Mississippi. I spent a couple of days in Natchez last summer, and it was one of the most, shall we say, interesting places I visited. I crammed a lot in my two days, ticking off plantations and historic sites with military precision. The best part of the short trip though, was visiting the African American History Museum. I spoke with the Director there for a good two hours, and it was really educational to hear his perspective on racism in the South and how plantations unwilling to address their past in terms of slavery. (You can read more about my trip in a previous blog post, http://astudentofclio.blogspot.co.uk/2013/10/deep-south-pt-5-from-slave-auctions-to.html) 

The article raises the question that ignoring slavery is not enough anymore - deeply embedded racial problems still persist, and there are some among the younger generation who are impatient with this nostalgic, 'Spring Pilgrimage' idea of the Deep South. It is a subject I would like to read more about, and can only offer my own opinions in what I have seen or heard (small and humble as they are). Most of the plantations I visited did not address slavery adequately, if at all. Unfortunately, this nostalgia for the antebellum period sells. Most of the tourists who hire a Southern Belle tour guide are white and do not hear about - or do not ask - how the plantation owner was able to afford such a luxurious home (or really I should say homes, because many slaveowners had at least two properties, some even had five or six along the Mississippi). People might be reluctant to bring up the 'slavery question' because it deals with race, and perhaps this territory is to close to home, too close to the present. It might, God forbid, open up a can of worms. But denying a part of history, and an integral part of a historical site's past, is just plain wrong. Regardless of how 'difficult' the question is in the present. It should offer an opportunity to confront these questions, to throw down the metaphorical gauntlet and challenge people to confront their present through their past, or in fact, the other way around. Education is the way forward, and historical sites must be at the forefront of this revolution. The difficulty is of course, historical sites have to be run as a business, and the fear is that if they change their program, visitor numbers may decrease. Is this a risk worth taking?

Follow the link below for the article in question:


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