An ironic next adventure. Last month’s new activity took me to the Martin Luther King Jr birthplace in Atlanta – the fighter for black civil rights in the 1960s. This work trip took me to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and to an pre- (and post-) Civil War era plantation of the 1860s, the Oak Alley Plantation to the south. My god, it really drove home the point that people kept others as slaves. How incredibly beautiful the house and grounds were, but they were built by a couple – two people – who kept enslaved two hundred people, made them do back breaking work in the sugar cane fields, and sold them and bought them at auction, all so they themselves could be rich. Humans can really stink. Additional case in point: according to the recently added slavery exhibit, apparently the only way those kept as slaves could get enough food was to grow their own gardens – the couple, like traditional slaveholders, did not provide enough in the way of rations. Burns me up.
I reflected later about the physical beauty of the Oak Alley plantation, and I realized that although the house has been raved about and visited over decades, and the recently recreated slave quarters now tell the full, sad story, the main draw of the property were the oaks. The great, old, grand trees are the focus of the attention throughout the property (and the reason I had chosen that plantation to visit). It made me feel a little better that many people were visiting this place in order to appreciate nature and the beauty that can grow if allowed enough time. I know I will remember the sadness of the slavery exhibit and the beauty of the oaks – and not so much the names of the owners or the house. There are many gorgeous houses in the US built without slavery – but how many trees are over 300 years old in one place?
Here are the photos of the oaks, the indeed beautiful house, and the recreated slave quarters.
Oh, and then another new thing I did this trip was eat in the Shaquille O’Neal breakfast buffet area. Not many can say that. It is at the Cook Hotel, an alumni-run hotel on the LSU campus. Photographic proof below.
Then, after all of that, I drove to New Orleans, one of my favorite places in the world and even more precious now with the seas rising.
Btw, I am not a fan of Bourbon street – but am of just almost every other street of the French Quarter. Also, one thing I just read in an National Park Service exhibit is that many free men worked to build New Orleans, which is great – although I know the city also had its tragedies. But what a great place now.