They're Very Eager To Smooth Over The Whole "Slavery" Thing
If a modern plantation has an official historical house, there'll be a plaque or something about slavery, but in private plantations, the subject is usually ignored. Former slave quarters are called other things, like the "tack room." Higher-profile plantations have taken heat for this, and some are now becoming a bit more honest about the subject. Meanwhile, some people are so clueless about the racial overtones of plantation weddings that they ask black wedding planners to organize them. This sometimes doesn't go well.
One plantation that gives wedding tours says they don't discuss slavery "on principle in a wedding," but do talk about it if someone asks. Defending plantation weddings, another person said, "they're often beautiful places, and although they may have a terrible history, now people of any race can enjoy them as venues." Did you hear that, people of color? You have her permission to enjoy getting married on a plantation! And you thought this article was going to be all bad news.
Some people even argue that plantation weddings actually aren't so bad, as they "reclaim" the space. It's the kind of argument an Orange Julius manager might make to angry Cherokee ghosts whose graves lie under his food court bathrooms. Plantation websites usually mention slaves in their fine print, though they're usually referred to as "workers." Hey, you need to let people know why they might find unceremoniously discarded human remains on the grounds.
Yes, There Are Slaves Buried There
Plantation slave graveyards are supposed to be notable historic sites, open for the public and sometimes curated by the slaves' descendants. In reality, these cemeteries are often tucked away, hidden and unlabeled. Sometimes, even those who run the place don't know what's up with them, because the original records were lost or never kept to begin with. Other times, the owners know they're there and pretend they don't exist. "Even long before I started working," says Sarah, "my family was in the landscaping business, so as a kid, I had free reign to wander plantation grounds ... I walked around it for a while, seeing posts driven into the ground and stones set in rows. Then I saw a legible name engraved in one of the stones."
"I [still] stumble on those secret graves today," she says. "Once, I remember getting very close and trying to read the weathered stones. I couldn't tell if they were unmarked or if the names were lost to time ... it was very obvious where the bodies had been, as the land was visibly sinking around each individual grave. But after ten minutes, I had to leave, because something in the atmosphere was almost warning." Sarah says she doesn't believe in ghosts, but still didn't feel like getting sucked in, should a Poltergeist portal sudden open up.
We should note that while these plantations might not mention the men and women who were forced to build the property, they will lay out the history of the white family who owned them in rich detail. One plantation, called (unironically) the "White Castle," advertises the fact that its little antique bells are still in place ... the ones used by white children to summon house servants. Adorable! Another plantation website defends the former owner as being "relatively benevolent" to his slaves, saying some of the slaves lived inside and "slept at the foot of the bed of their master or mistress."
So the lesson is if you truly love Antebellum architecture so much that you're willing to have a wedding at a plantation, try to find one where they at least treated their slaves like dogs? Otherwise, it seems like romanticizing the past is a good way to wind up repeating its mistakes.
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Check out Robert Evans' A Brief History of Vice: How Bad Behavior Built Civilization, a celebration of the brave, drunken pioneers who built our civilization one seemingly bad decision at a time.
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