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Whitney Plantation gives new perspective on Louisiana’s slavery story

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The Whitney Plantation, known as Habitation Haydel until 1867, is located less than an hour from New Orleans in Wallace, Louisiana. Three years ago, the plantation began offering guided tours to traveling students for the first time in the property’s 265-year history. 

Field of Angels at the Whitney Plantation in Wallace, Louisiana

Photo: Whitney Plantation Field of Angels, Whitney Plantation, Wallace, La.

Ambroise Heidel, a German immigrant, established the plantation in 1752. His slaves specialized in indigo cultivation until switching to sugarcane in the early 1800s. After Heidel’s death, his descendants carried on the business for three generations.

While visitors do learn about the Haydel family, the plantation’s real purpose is to retell the story of slavery in the South, including those enslaved. Students learn the history through museum exhibits, memorial artwork, restored buildings and hundreds of first-person slave narratives.

“The slave narratives discuss different aspects of daily life, including living conditions, religion, food, work, punishment, and general memories and reflections,” said Ashley Rogers, director of museum operations.

While the 90-minute guided tour does take visitors through the Antioch Baptist Church, a slave cabin and the Big House, most of the tour is spent outside at three memorials.

Statues of children at the Antioch Baptist Church on Whitney Plantation in Wallace, Louisiana

Photo: Whitney Plantation Statues of children, Antioch Baptist Church, Whitney Plantation, Wallace, La.

The Wall of Honor, made of vertical granite slabs, is dedicated to the 350-plus people who were enslaved at Habitation Haydel. On the slabs are names and personal information relating to the men, women and children who worked on the plantation.

The Allées Gwendolyn Midlo Hall memorial bears the names of the 107,000 people documented on the Louisiana Slave Database. The memorial is named after historian Gwendolyn Midlo Hall in recognition of her contribution to the history of slavery in the Americas.

The Field of Angels is a memorial for the 2,200 enslaved children who died in St. John the Baptist Parish between 1823 and 1864; 39 of those perished on the Whitney Plantation. 

Motorcoach parking is available on-site. 

Article by Hannah Pikaart

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Whitney Plantation
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whitneyplantation.com

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