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Whitney Plantation

Posted from Austin, Texas, United States.

This is a plantation that is now being protected by a private citizen. This in itself is controversial because they can do whatever they want to without needing to go though a dozen hoops to get things done but now they just pick and choice what to do without worrying about the hoops that they would have needed to do other wise. This is the first plantation museum that focuses on the slavery that was happening on the plantation and not the owners of the land. They do talk about the owners but it is mostly done through the eyes of the slaves that worked for them. The land we call the Whitney Plantation was bought by a man Ambroise Heidel who was a German immigrant that moved to the United States with his family. He bought the land in 1752, and grew a plant called indigo and he did fairly well for himself. He had called the plantation Habitation Haydel. Then his youngest son Jean Jacques Haydel got the land and he changed the crop from indigo to sugar cane. He had found out about a whole new method of take care of the sugar cane that it would be one day a lot more economical then indigo and so he made the conversion. His brother however was not the best at keeping out of debt and so he was starting a plan so that he could buy his brothers shares and be done with it. So his wife had taken over and Marie Azelie Haydel had taken over. She was a very smart and brilliant business women and this was due to the fact that she was very good to keep her books straight and tight. Her brother was the face of the plantation but she was the true brains behind it all.Now the truly horrific events that happened because of slavery where made more clear at our second stop. At the first stop we went to a church that talked about how a society was born because of the slavery past that wanted to free everyone but to still remember it all. This was at the Antich Baptist Church. The society that was born called themselves the anti-yoke.

the outside of the church

Inside the church with sculptures of kids

The second stop was at a place called the wall of honor which had names of all the documented slaves on the plantation, there were only 354 names there had to be many many more that they couldn’t find. The wall would have there name that they were born with if it was found as well as there christian name which was given to them when they got to America, there age and the skill sets that they had. There was one place that didn’t have any names and this was because they wanted to leave space in honor of all of the names that have and may never be found. On one side they had a list of names of slaves that were sold with what they were good at with a price to it. This was because the brother of Marie’s husband was often in debt and would sell slaves to alleviate some of it. For 43 slaves he got $56,000 in those days in todays market that would be around $60 million. There was one name that was taken note and this was Victor Haydel he went on to become a rather important figure and he was the son of Marie’s brother and a slave by the name Anna. This name was noted because he was related to people that would become great business people and would eventually become the first black mayor of New Orleans.

Wall of honor

List of name, skill and price for slaves that were sold

The next stop was made possible by a women named Allées Gwendolyn who had done thousands of research to find names and stories of slaves that were in Louisiana from 1719 to 1820. There are 107,000 names in the this area with stories written next to the names. Most of them were really sad, there were some really sad moments  in the mall.

Story of Henriette Butler

Story of Manda Cooper

A photo of the hall

After seeing all of those names of slaves we moved into an area called the field of angels. Which had a nice statue of an angel and we found out that it on all of the stone slates were names of kids that had died due to being salves. There were 2,200 names. The most common cause of death was malnourishment. There were some that died of other means but that was the most common. On the slates it had the child’s name, age when died and if possible the name of the mother.

We then moved on to where the slaves would sleep when they weren’t working. They had very little room and in total there were 20 cabinet for them but they were very tiny and had to fit many more people then there should have been. We did talk about how resilient the community was for the workers. They would welcome new people and would adopt kids that didn’t have parents when they would be there and they would look after one another. At night they would sneak into he fields to do songs and dances to relieve stress. The people were also very hard and resilient they would often walk 25 miles in one day to go from the upper south to the lower south in one day with a big chain around there neck. The workers would also resist there masters in small ways like work slowly, fain sickness and the likes. If they were caught though they would get severally punished and get whipped 30 times very quickly. Or they would do a more direct method of resistance which was running away. However if they were caught the workers would get branded with the state symbol, if they got caught again they would get branded again or sometimes get there hamstring cut, so that the slave couldn’t run any more but still work they would be in extreme pain the whole time though of the rest of there lives. If the salve was caught a third time then the slave was killed. However some families would give the slaves Sundays off and the Haydel family did.

were the slaves would sleep

While we were their our guide told us about the common ways that the workers had died. One of the most common was malnourishment the others were cuts that got infected that were easily treatable and burns. These injures were infected during the time of them working in the sugar can fields. There were two shifts a day and a night. During the day slaves would be out in the field cutting the sugar cane with a machete like knife. They would first burn the leaves off since that was a faster then doing it by hand. Then the slaves would go out in the field and cut the cane up for further processing. The problem was that the cane was often so thick that the workers couldn’t see what was directing in front of them and would often accidentally slice into the person that would be right in front of them. This would often lead to death, but not always. Then during the night shift it is when the slaves would process the sugar but crushing the cane to get the sugar out, then the sugar would go through a few periods of heating up and adding things to the sugar before it was ready to leave the plantation. The slaves would need to be really close to the fire and would get burns. This was more deadly then the cuts and happened often. To fully process the pots there are 4 giant pots that are required. 2 of them are large and then 2 small ones and it would take 50-70 slaves to take care of the sugar. The Haydel family had 2 sets. The reason why there was a day and night shift was because the sugar cane doesn’t hold very well it, it goes bad/drys up very quickly.

We then meandered over to a jail that was there. The one that we were looking at came from Pennsylvania. What it was used for was to keep slaves that hadn’t been sold yet. The jail had 3 cells and each cell would hold 4 slaves so it could hold 12 slaves all together. When it was summer time in the south, were the temperature is commonly in the 90s or even 100 with humidity also around 100% it would make the air fell significantly hotter. Anyway during the summer time the salves would be out of the cells during the day doing work for the auctioneer and then go back into the cell at night. During the day the cell would be collecting the heat and it would also be collecting heat during the evening since it would still be around 80 in the evening. These jails were used when the salves were “free”. However the catch was that when a slave was convicted of a crime then they would go back into slavery. During that time in the south the crime rate flew up and the common group was freed salves.

outside looking into a cell

the inside of a cell

one of the doors to keep them in

Some of the salves would be a lot more valuable then others. One of the most expensive/useful salves was a blacksmith. They would be able work in the plantation that they are in salved in but can do small little projects on their day off if they are able to and get a little cash. They wouldn’t be able to enough to get there freedom ever but they could at least make life a little nicer for them and their family. The inside of the blacksmith shop was actually used in Django Unchained when Jamie Fox was hung upside down. However we were unable to see inside because it was closed off. The other incredibly useful salve was the cook. She had to extremely trustworthy because she was the one that cooked for everyone and needed to not poison everyone in the house or do other such things. The owners would not only be buying the women as a slave but they are also buying her knowledge as a chef, she needs to be able to read the recipes as well as remember other recipes. They would cook in a creole fashion, which was a combination of white and African food. The kitchen that we went into was a fully functional kitchen to the day that it was built it is all original. The kitchen was detached from the main house just in case there was a fire in the kitchen and not burns the house to the ground and because there was a need to continually need fire and during the summer time it could get very hot so they could cook.

The outside of the blacksmith shop

To get into the house the slaves would need to enter through the back doors NOT through the front that was punishable. There are two floors; this was not always the case it use to just be on stilts like many of the houses that we have been seeing around the town. The bottom floor was added around 1850. When floods would come through, the salves would break down the furniture and take it up stairs so that it wouldn’t get damaged during the flood. Then they would also open up the doors to let the water through. There was also a prepare for last minute details for food and a wine cellar that the masters would drink. The spices that were used had to be kept under lock and key because they are exceptionally expensive and they didn’t want people to take it. Out front of the house there were these live oaks that were very old and abundant. There were two that are closer to the house that are the oldest not sure on how much older but they are definitely older. There was a store off to the right of the house that the “freed” slaves would use to buy things but it would just keep them on the plantation. We made our way up stairs where there was Marie Azelie Haydel bedroom and living room area. Marie Azelie Haydel had a slave who’s name was Anna that was bought by the Haydel family to keep Marie company. Anna had it a little better then most of the slaves but she was still a slave and Marie’s brother actually rapped her and Anna had Victor who went on to do things as well as his kids. The truly tragic thing was that the fait of Anna is unknown. The only thing we know was that once Victor was born and was about 7 years old she seemed to have disappeared. They think that she got put into a mass grave but it is unknown.

 

The preproom

Marie Azelie Haydel’s bed

The oaks infant of the house

The front of the house

more dinning room table

dinning table ground floor

All of this was made possible because in 1930 FDR made a group called FWP (Federal Writer Project), where writers all over the country were hired to tell the story of Americans all through out the lands. A few of the writers talked with freed slaves about there stories. The owner of the Plantation now is also preserving the history by making this museum. All of the stories are told from a child’s perspective because all the slaves that were talked to were all kids at the time of their enslavement.

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