The completely appalling tourist attraction you must visit in the US (Little Guided Vid.)
The remarkable house at Whitney Plantation stands on the banks of the Mississippi River.
Leading up to it are two rows of live oaks dripping with Spanish moss, which creates a natural tunnel and picturesque frame.
The “big house” is at the end of the tunnel: French Creole style, with two white columned floors and a wide verandah.
As habitations go, it is grand and majestic. But it is also, when you look closer, completely appalling. Like many places in Louisiana, the Whitney was built on the backs of enslaved people.
This is one of the many things I learn on a walk around the plantation: the more than 12 million Africans who were stolen from their homelands and carried across the ocean to America were not “slaves”, but “enslaved people”. The subtle shift is important. Slavery was not who they were; it was a condition forcibly inflicted on them by others, here, in this alien place.
I arrive at the Whitney Plantation, which is open to the public by guided tour only, on a steamy Thursday afternoon. A small group of us pick up umbrellas – the sun is blazing – and follow a man named Ali onto the grounds.
“We don’t expect anybody to come as an expert on slavery,” he says with a thick Louisiana accent. “Don’t learn enough about it in our school system for that.”