Civil rights group wants to stop weddings at ‘historic slave plantations’

A national civil rights group’s call to stop holding weddings at historic slave plantations hasn’t affected Destrehan Plantation, or at least not yet.

“We’re not trying to create any disrespect to the history of slavery, but this is money to continue the ongoing mission,” said Tracy Smith, the plantation’s interim executive director. “We give daily tours at the plantation and we talk about the history of the plantation – good and bad.

“That is our primary function at Destrehan Plantation.”

Based on the nonprofit group Color of Change’s campaign, five wedding websites have announced they won’t promote plantation weddings. The group maintains the weddings romanticize these locations, and sites like The Knot and its sister company, Wedding Wire and Zola, have all apparently stated they are removing all content that “glorifies” plantation vendors from their websites.

Slave quarters exhibit at the plantation in Destrehan.

Louisiana has a least 24 venues that are referred to as a plantation, although some of them are not.

Destrehan Plantation averages 30 to 40 weddings a year, Smith said. There have been no cancellations and they’re still averaging five to six inquiries about weddings per week at the Knot’s website.

Smith doesn’t believe it’s going to affect their wedding business at the plantation, but added, “Its unfortunate that people have such a negative connotation with the word ‘plantation.’”

Destrehan Plantation stands as one of the great River Road mansions, which tells its whole story to visitors including its own chapter with slavery.

Smith, as did former director Nancy Robert, said it’s been their longtime mission to not candy coat the Old South’s dark side when it comes to educating the public about the largest black slave insurgency in U.S. history. The uprising occurred in St. Charles and St. John the Baptist parishes, and was commemorated in October by the march and reenactment of the German Coast uprising of 1811.

Slave exhibit on Destrehan Plantation’s guided tour.

Ninety-five slaves were killed during confrontations with military and executions after the trial.

As part of the plantation’s guided tour, the slave quarters exhibit includes a list of the names of the men, women and children enslaved on Destrehan Plantation. The quarters depict sparse accommodations with the wooden bed there being described as a luxury because many lacked one. Across the room, a small placard with an arrow points to a child’s pallet bed near a fireplace with homemade cooking implements on the mantle.

Adjoining the exhibit is another one showing the tools that some slaves used to make barrels or fix wheels that kept the plantation running.

Ormond Plantation, also in Destrehan, responded to Color of Change’s campaign in a letter.

“We do regret the actions Wedding Wire and the Knot have taken and hope they realize the impact it will have on the lives of business owners and employees in the industry that have nothing to do with actual slavery. This action penalizes modern-day business owners. One cannot erase history but should embrace the past, never repeat it and move towards the future. We will never forget all who sacrificed before us, enslaved or free, to give us this historic estate.”

 

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