Created By: LSU
The Chasm of Disconnect Between Marketing and Truth of Antebellum Plantation Homes.
For far too many years people have had a misunderstanding of what truly happened on plantations. Let’s fix that.
Plantation homes litter the Mississippi River Valley creating a portal into the past, however many of these plantations have chosen to conveniently leave out a huge part of the historical context of the properties that tend to be marketed as “meticulously maintained, majestic marvels” and an opportunity to “learn more about life during an incredible era leading up to the Civil War”. (Louisiana Travel) What these plantations tend to leave out of their idea of “incredible” is the fact that those mansions more often than not were built by slaves that were brutally mistreated and kept against their will.
Nottoway Resort’s claim on history is the oaks on the property that they are proud of. “In 2015 eleven of the sixteen trees were registered with the Live Oak Society of the Louisiana Garden Club Federation, Inc.” (Nottoway Plantation) All of the trees were named after the Randolph children the oldest tree is called Ella Eugine and is 162 years old. However, The Nottoway Resort is conveniently leaving out that all too important part of its history. In 1860 Nottoway Plantation “encompassed 6,200 acres with 155 African Americans that worked on the plantation as slaves.” (National Park Services) Nottoway offers plenty of information on one of the families that lived on the property naming each of their 40 rooms after the Randolph family but offers no information on the 155 people residing on the property in 1860 and the other slaves that lived thereafter. To give back to Nottoway all of its deep and vast history one can look at the Diary of Bennet H. Barrow another Louisiana plantation owner.
Benett Barrow’s plantation was called Highland or Locust Grove Plantation and it was just outside of modern-day St. Francisville. Barrow was an avid diarist, as were most people in that era. However, Bennet’s diary is different in the sense that next to the common things such as harvest yield and weather he also cataloged in detail beatings or punishments he would place upon his enslaved people. While there are only a few excerpts from Barrow's diary here they are gruesome and offer a better idea of what truly took place on a plantation in the Antebellum and break the false narrative many plantations would have you believe.
1838 Sept. 28 "Dennis and Tom "Beauf" ran off on Wednesday - . . . if I can see either of them and have a gun at the time will let them have the contents of it ..."
1839 October 4th, “Boy Lewis came in last night- gave him the worst whipping I gave any young negro. I predict he will not runnaway soon. Building a jail for him, Dennis, and Ginny Jerry- intend jailing them for Saturday nights ‘til Monday mornings.”
1839 December 24th, “ Intend exhibiting Dennis during Christmas on a scaffold in the middle of the Quarter and with a red flannels cap on”
This is the reality of plantation life for enslaved people. They were real people who experienced real tragedy and trauma.
In the same way that Nottoway resort is a gross misrepresentation of history so is Magnolia Mound which is right here in Baton Rouge. At Magnolia Mound Plantation you can send children to a summer day camp where they will participate in crafts and make food in the open-hearth kitchen. Magnolia Mound is run by Baton Rouge’s Parks and Recreation Service meaning they are an official public office that has to listen to the community. As Baton Rouge residents we may not be purposefully burying history and the black voices that accompany them but if we are not actively excavating these stories and are allowing the burial of these voices we might as well pick up a shovel because we become part of the problem.
Bennett Barrow, Diary, September 28, 1838, Slavery in Louisiana Collection, Louisiana State University Special Collections.
Bennett Barrow, Diary, October 4, 1839, Slavery in Louisiana Collection, Louisiana State University Special Collections.
Bennett Barrow, Diary, December 24, 1839, Slavery in Louisiana Collection, Louisiana State University Special Collections.
History - Nottoway Resort - largest antebellum mansion. Nottoway Resort - Website. (n.d.). Retrieved May 5, 2022, from https://www.nottoway.com/history
Plantations Louisiana. Louisiana Official Travel and Tourism Information. (n.d.). Retrieved May 5, 2022, from https://www.louisianatravel.com/history-heritage/plantations
This point of interest is part of the tour: Slavery in Baton Rouge