The Whitney Plantation is a Must See
If there is only one plantation tour you plan to take along the scenic River Road inside of St. John the Baptist Parish, 35 miles outside the boundaries of New Orleans, I hope you visit the 266-year-old Whitney Plantation. A perfect day trip, Whitney is located approximately an hour north of New Orleans near Wallace, Louisiana.
A town that contains less than 700 residents, many of Wallace’s population are the descendants of those that slaved on the grounds of The Whitney Planation. Worth every minute of travel, originally known as the “Habitation Haydel,” its compelling history leaves most guests mesmerized. The German immigrant Haydel family and the slaves are closely connected. One notable descendant is Sybil Haydel Morial, the wife and mother of Ernest “Dutch” and Marc Morial. Both are former mayors of New Orleans, “Dutch” being the first African-American mayor of the city (1978-1986). Our guide was a former guest that became so embraced with the history, she returned to retell the history of this planation to visitors.
Antioch Baptist Church
During the 90-minute tour, which begins with a moving video inside of the wonderfully restored Antioch Baptist Church, you are guided through the grounds which contains many memorials of the past residents. The Field of Angels is devoted to the 2200 slave children. The likeness of the statues, or as I call them – “slave angels,” in the church are fascinating and eerily life like. Unlike the other plantations that line River Road, the heartbreaking narrative of this tour is told thru the eyes of those enslaved, most notably, the children. Its first-person slave narratives give visitors insight on the daily life of those enslaved. You are also allowed into the 220-plus-year-old “Big House” and the detached kitchen (a wood structured building that is located behind the main house) where meals were prepared for its occupants and visitors. As you walk this plantation, you marvel the beautiful grounds, but then reality hits as you read the memorials to those that lived here.
Kudos to Louisiana Lawyer and former civil rights activist (he was instrumental in the desegregation of Audubon Park’s swimming pool in New Orleans), John Cummings for transforming this sugar plantation to its former glory so that current and future generations will learn about the evils of slavery. Its doors opened for public view on December 7, 2014 and Mr. Cummings has not looked back. I had the wonderful opportunity to meet him during my visit. I hear he is a frequent visitor and happy to take photos. Many, both tourist and nearby residents, have taken this fascinating and incredible journey. There have been articles written in various publications and television stations have featured Whitney. Make sure you arrive early or plan to stay a bit after the tour. There is a “must-visit” gift shop with great reading material. Note that there are no self-guided tours at Whitney.
All eyes are on the Whitney Plantation to adequately portray this unfortunate segment of our nation’s history. Definitely, I am not the same person I was before I walked the grounds in the footsteps of those that labored heavily on this lucrative sugar plantation. We cannot change this injustice in history, but we can work together to change the injustice in today’s society. ~Leslie Everage