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Whitney Plantation Tour, Louisiana

When I travel I like to learn as much as I can about the area and city I am in. There are so many places to explore, and in order to get to as many as you can in a life time you need to fully maximize each trip.

So this morning we travelled out of New Orleans to see more of Louisiana proper through its history. The slave trade is part of that history and something I do not have much experience with, so took the opportunity to learn.

After you reserve it the night before a tour bus picks you up from your hotel lobby and drives you 1 hour out to the actual plantation locations, how they stand after many years. Majority of them transformed into museums and tourist experiences to preserve the culture and recognize what could have been done better for the people who had to live through them.

But first getting there, our hospitable driver/ tour guide gave us the 411 on anything within eyeshot as we drove out.

This included nods to the New Orleans sporting arenas and the stadium, most recently renamed Caesars Super Dome.

We got some need to knows about New Orleans’ above ground cemeteries as we drove over the bridge and past a couple. This was welcomed knowledge as due to my superstitious nature I have no intention of walking into one.

The city and its people bury the dead above ground to avoid flood waters from bringing them back up. And after tying them down, putting weights in the coffins, and drilling holes in them; this was the only solution they found helpful long term.

Each family purchases their own mausoleum, where all subsequent family members are buried, generation after generation. And they all fit, because the city’s hot and humid climate acts as nature’s crematorium, and the term ash to ash and dust to dust is literal. So it is completely normal and possible to have 200-300 bodies in one tomb.

When burying the dead, you cannot do so consecutively, there needs to be year and a day in between. The year is to ensure there are no diseases left alive, that would spread. And a day, because the thought of burying someone on the anniversary of another person’s death is fairly morbid. And when it is burial time, the mausoleum needs to be broken into to access, then sealed up once done.

Our drive would continue towards James parish. There are 64 in the area total. And New Orleans is within the Orleans parish. Once you drive out of the city you are in Louisiana with its swamps. There, the trees have their roots submerged and its leaves are on branch and green all year round.

Within Saint John parish we drove over the Mississippi River, across the bridge. Here, our guide explained that this was the wealthiest of all the parishes, but also the one with the highest rate of cancer. The same plants that made the area wealthy were also increasing the resident’s likelihood of a terminal diagnosis. In particular, Shell gas and petrol.

Our stop finally came to the Whitney Plantation, driving past “Big Daddy’s” house, as portrayed in Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained” blockbuster movie. An imaged story surrounding the slave trade. The property is iconic with its winding staircases.

The Whitney house was owned by the Heidel family, a rich German landowner looking to make money in both the sugar and rice industry.

And the memory of the Whitney House focuses on the people who once lived and worked at this property. This is the only plantation tour that focuses on the stories of the people, as a tribute to them.

This is a self guided tour and you go at your own pace with an audio listening set. They also host large tour groups for those who preferred a led discussion. There are 14 stops and I won’t be going into detail, recapping each one. Instead, I suggest you take the tour yourselves and to take note of what you see and hear and how it affects you in the space.

We saw the two storey “big house” where the plantation owners lived. The domestic workers lived adjacent, and were called to tend to the owner 24/7. They had a higher status than the slaves who worked the fields. All together 115 domestic slaves lived and worked on the property.

They would clean the home and cook the meals, bringing their culture into the cuisine with pigeon, watermelon, and black eyed peas.

There was a hierarchy to the chain of command. The plantation owner did not run the day to day affairs. This was the work of the Overseers, free white men whose goal was to produce as much profit as possible. The Slave Drivers themselves were slaves, given a little more freedom to keep their brethren in check and at work from sun up to sun down.

At the Whitney Plantation there were 22 slave cabins and those who shared pallets within them were set to producing sugar. The sugar cane harvest boomed in Louisiana thanks to the Haitian knowledge of how to produce it into refined sugar and molasses. A hearty crop that once is gathered, the ground is burnt and the plant regrows back heartier.

We were given the Cole Notes on how to produce sugar, witnessing the kettles used to boil the juices from the ground sugar cane in order to have it crystalized into refined sugar.

The turning point for this era was the New Orleans rebellion, the largest in US, where rebels marched from plantation to plantation killing owners and freeing slaves to join their cause. This ended when news got to the Militia, who was better equipped and trained, waiting and ready to end the uprising. They sent a message to would be future uprisings by beheading rebellion leaders, and sticking their heads on spikes along the river, in warning.

The tail end of the tour showcased art and memorials. Statues of hope and a brighter future as the slave trade was abolished. Shrines documenting as many of those lost to the slave trade as possible, including those who died during the transport. Names memorialized on plaques. The last slave that stayed on the plantation ended his time there in 1975.

As dark as the individual stories were, the tour ended hopeful with a pause at the church. Said stories were many, many told by the children, who are now elderly, in their own voices and words.

This church was originally named the Anti-yolk baptist church, erected a few years removed for slavery. It stood as a symbol of freedom. The freedom to practice their religion, provide education to their children, and to help unite families, and stand together through worship in the community.

And thus our tour ended with a check out in the gift shop. Our group then boarded the bus again and it was another 1 hour drive back to New Orleans.

As a plug for their culture tour, we also got to watch a video of the true account of one women’s Hurricane Katrina story. A tale that took 10 years to recall and share as it was then too painful and she was not yet ready to remember.

The culture tour is about preserving the New Orleans culture, with a look at what it was like before and after the hurricane, 18 years ago. With pauses at key points, like where the levies broke.

Not your typical tourist attraction, but something larger than oneself. This is something that I do recommend in order to appreciate how far we as humanity have come.

Whitney Plantation
5099 LA-18, Edgard, LA 70049, United States
+1 225-265-3300

1 thought on “Whitney Plantation Tour, Louisiana”

  1. “My trip through history was made even more memorable by Mag Mei Adventures’ exploration of the Whitney Plantation. Every step seemed like learning more about the past, from its somber memorials to its thought-provoking exhibitions. I heartily suggest this tour to anyone looking for a memorable and insightful time in Louisiana.”

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