LOGO
  • ,,

    Whitney Plantation: A tour of truth appropriate for Juneteenth

    EDGAR, La—On June 19, 1865, enslaved people in Galveston, Texas learned they were free from the United States institution of slavery. It was a great time of celebration and great trepidation. Thousands of the newly freed people had nowhere to go so they stayed on the plantations or near it, maintained the crops, and kept the plantation operational. Some lived as freed people. Some unknowingly continued living and being treated as slaves. This was the case of more than 300 African Americans living at the Haydel plantation from the late 1860s until 1975. To understand their stories and their brilliance within the confines of slavery and sharecropping, one would need to visit the Whitney Plantation in Edgar, Louisiana.

    “Use this time of Juneteenth to reflect on our individual families and their lives following slavery,” said genealogist and historian Antoinette Harrell who has followed family lineages in South Louisiana. According to a series of interviews published by Vice, Harrell has uncovered long-hidden cases of Black people who were still living as slaves a century past the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. She even interviewed a St. Charles, La. family who had been enslaved through the 1960s.

    Antoinette Harrell

    Antoinette Harrell

    “This is a time of celebration but it is also time to challenge ourselves to know more about our own families, to research and find out what happened to them at freedom, in slavery, and before then,” she said.

    This reflection and research has been done for the Haydel family who were the original owners of the Whitney Plantation. (It is now the nation’s sole plantation that tells the story of slavery through the eyes of the enslaved children who lived there.) This reflection is also being done by visitors—like the Semien family from Baton Rouge—who walked the grounds earlier this month.

    Here are the children’s thoughts:

    I really enjoyed the Whitney Plantation and loved how the guide made Black brilliance and intelligence a main part of the tour. She pointed out many times how knowledgeable the enslaved people were and that they were selected because of their intelligence and strength. Hearing that about my ancestors made me remember that I should always work hard and strive to do my best. It also made me wonder where my family is from. I believe that we are from Senegal or the Senegambia region of Africa like she explained because most of the Africans stolen and brought to Louisiana plantations as slaves were from that area. I also liked learning that these Blacks were actually powerful and brilliant and we saw that they created everything the white people needed and everything the plantation needed to make money with sugar cane. Another big thing that I took away from this experience was if my ancestors didn’t have anything but their intellect and still found a way to be successful, why can’t I strive for excellence with everything, too?

    —Yulani, 11

     62202858_1662320187234382_8486852224390004736_o

    The guide at Whitley Plantation told about the legacy that was stripped from history books until now. We toured through concrete memorials with thousands of names and dates of slave purchases, births, and deaths etched in each. We were told about the horrors of living on the plantation and of slavery and the brutal ways people were treated and punished; and even after slavery was over, how they continued to disenfranchise Blacks to keep their minds, money, and bodies enslaved. Slaves were shackled around their necks and ankles as a way of punishment. Some were being buried alive. She shared how Catholicism and religious leaders were predators who benefited off the institute of slavery here and in France. However, slaves fought back in subtle ways. Breaking tools, pretending to be sick, working slowly, stealing small items or treats, and sneaking off into the bayou were examples of resistance. The guide said the Emancipation Proclamation ended slavery New Year’s Day 1863 but the Whitney Plantation was up and running with the same families until 1975! That was only 44 years ago. When the slaves found out they were free, they had nowhere to go so they ended up sharecropping—which was still a form of slavery—until the closing of the plantation.

    This experience made me see the relationship between modern behavior and previous practices towards Blacks. The most impactful part was when the guide explained how Blacks were kidnapped for their intellectual skills and physical characteristics. She explained how the Africans’ knowledge was used to make the plantation profitable. In school we are taught this land we are living in is the land of the free, home of the brave even though the truth of the bravest people have been omitted or watered down in textbooks. Whitney Plantation told us the truth in many ways. What sticks with me the most is the fact that the enslaved people were brilliant architects and agriculturalists, great musicians, and amazingly strong. If they could do all that while in bondage, then there is much more that I could do.

    - Condoleezza, 13

    web whitney chains

     

    After discussing with the tour guide the different ways Africans built and worked around the plantation we realized some of the traits presented by the Africans on the plantation are also represented by their descendants today. The tour guide discussed the way that rice growing technique was enhanced by Blacks who never grew rice Africa but knew agriculture so well they could cultivate it in Louisiana better than their owners. She also explained how they were smart architects and carpenters who built the big house at Whitney without nails and placed it where air could circulate in the house based on the location. Some slaves were good at building and construction and were making houses or blacksmithing while others would harvest crops and manage the master’s home. Slaves with special talents—like playing instruments or singing— would work in at the plantation, then the overseers or masters would rent them out for their talent so he could make more money off the slave and his friends be entertained. This tour has stressed the importance of self-confidence and education. It helps us to see where we came from and some of us are shown that we have potential and can complete any task.

    - Collin, 14

    ONLINE: WhitneyPlantation.com

     By Cora Lester
    The Drum Managing Editor

    Read more with The Drum

    Read more »
  • Harrell pens history of Tangipahoa, St. Helena parishes

    Geneologist Antoinette Harrell and Alex Richardson president of Richardson Funeral Home in Amite, share a laugh during the Jan. 12 discussion Harrell’s new book, “African American in Tangipahoa and St. Helena Parishes.”

    web 7 Caught You Harrell Book SigningThe book is a great history book of classic  photographs of  ordinary working people, past and present. Military, elected officials, Black farmers, and graduation classes of students when the schools were all colored.  Kingsley B. Garrison was the was the keynote speaker, he urges the young people to do research and learn about their people.

    Youth attend book signing on Black history in Tangipahoa and St. Helena parishes

    Youth attend book signing on Black history in Tangipahoa and St. Helena parishes

    Youth also participated in the book signing. Photographed below are; (l to r, standing) AJaelin Jackson, Joella Lacoste, Adarrius Jackson, Auria Thompson, Jo’Elle Lacoste, and Brennan McCoy. Kneeling are: Connor Lacoste, Adrian Thompson, and Chase Lacoste .

     

    Drum photos by Eddie Ponds

    Read more »
  • ,,

    Floor of Hammond’s Historic St. James AME Church succumbs to termites

    HAMMOND—On March 26, of last year, the Greater St. James African Methodist Episcopal Church celebrated their 150th anniversary. St James was the first Black church in Hammond.
    During a funeral on September 10, the floor of the historical church foyer collapsed with about a dozen of people falling in the hole.
    “I was scared. My husband immediate jump in the hole helping seniors out,” said Stephanie Turner.
    “It was chaos for a short time, the young people panic and forgot about the older peoples,” said the Reverend Carl Turner. The Hammond Fire Department arrived and completed the rescue, he said.
    Later reports stated ternite damages was the cause.

    Hole in church floor

    Hole in church floor

    St. James was organized by Rev. Charles Daggs, who served the church faithfully until his death. As a coal burner after the Civil War in New Orleans, his work brought him to Hammond. Upon his arrival, he and a small band of worshippers went “from house to house holding prayer meetings.” After finding there was no place for Blacks to worship, he sought to organize a church for Blacks.

    Antoinette Harrell

    Antoinette Harrell

    After a period, they were given permission to worship in a small school house. According to historian Antoinette Harrell, the band then moved on a site that was donated by Charles Cates, a wealthy citizen of Hammond.
    Under the leadership of Daggs, the first church was erected.
    Naming the church was easy. It church was named in honor of Daggs’ home church in New Orleans. When, Daggs came to Hammond, that name was deeply rooted in his heart. He desired the same spirit in the newly erected Hammond church, said Harrell.
    According to Harrell, in 1923 the present site of the church, 311 East Michigan Street, was bought by two of the church members, Israel Carter and Albert Gibson, who mortgaged their homes. The architect,

    Alexander Cornelius Evans, and the builder, John Noble, were also church members. Church construction was completed in 1925. In August 2, 2017, St James was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

    By Eddie Ponds
    The Drum Founding Publisher
    ONLINE: nuturingourroots.blogspot.com

    Read more »
  • ,,

    Historic Tangipahoa Parish Training School–nation’s first vocational school for Blacks–to be auctioned

    KENTWOOD, La–The Tangipahoa Parish desegregation lawsuit, filed over 51 years ago in the federal courts in New Orleans, has still not been resolved.

    In 1911, the Tangipahoa Parish Training School opened as the first Black training school in the nation. Vocational and industrial education offered students specialized training. The school provided teacher training so that the graduated could staff the Black schools in rural towns throughout the South. The training school was the beginning of secondary public education for Black in South.

    Professor Armstead Mitchell Strange was born in 1884 in Waterproof, Louisiana. He earned his college degree from Alcorn College, where he finished in 1902. Strange came to Tangipahoa Parish via Collins, Mississippi. He came to Kentwood, LA in 1910. Strange joined several local white businesses, and donated money to establish Kentwood Industrial School for Blacks. He raised the money, purchased land, and erected the building, one of which was named for him. The scholastic year 1911-12, marked the beginning of the Training School Movement as far the Slater Fund is concerned. Professor A.M. Strange wrote to Dr. James H. Dillard, general agent for the John F. Slater Fund (a philanthropic fund for the advancement of Negro education), soliciting aid for a Black school that would be located in Kentwood, Louisiana. Professor Strange established Kentwood’s first training school for Blacks.

    O.W. Diillon

    O.W. Diillon

    In 1917, Professor Oliver Wendell Dillon came to Kentwood to take charge of the one-room, one-teacher, two months a year school. That year Dillon received $1,000 from the Brooks Scanlon Lumber Co. and the Natalbany Lumber Co. in order to hire three other teachers and extend the school term to a full nine months for 200 students. In 1919 the school board appropriated $1,000 to construct a two-story, five-classroom building at the school. Another $1,200 was spent to purchase 85 acres adjoining the school.

    Professor Dillon appealed to the local board to buy a machine, and to make cement blocks. After securing the machine he implored Black people in the area to supply labor. They made 40,000 cement blocks, one at a time and erected a building for educating area children.

    According to the genealogy research of Leonard Smith III and local historian Antoinette Harrell, Professor Strange was one of seventeen children born to Tillman and Millie Hunter Strange. His brother Tillman moved to Chicago and became a physician. Professor Strange started other schools and colleges in the South. He helped many young Black students get their education.

    Harrell’s research revealed that the greatest gospel singer Mahalia Jackson performed at the school in the ’60s. Many of the students who attended the school were the children of sharecroppers and farmers who wanted their children to get an education. Having the school auction would create a massive void in the community.

    Deon Johnson, executive director of O.W. Dillon Preservation Organization, attended every meeting to address this situation with the Tangipahoa Parish School Board and hasn’t had much success. “How could they auction off our legacy?” He asked. “Our ancestor worked with the sweat, tears, and blood to build this school,” said Deon.

    Basketball star LeBron James opened the free “I Promise” school in Akon, Ohio. The school offers free uniforms, transportations, access to a food pantry for their family. Professor Strange and Professor Dillon did the same thing in Kentwood. They solicited the support of the community who gave their resources and labor to build the oldest Training School for Blacks in the Nation.

    “Today the school is up for auction and has caused a great deal of pain and heartaches for the African American community,” said  Johnson. “A lot of sweat and hard work built this school,” he said. “Professor Oliver Wendell Dillon and men of the community made the very bricks and mortar to build the school. Please help us to keep this historic school and preserve our legacy.”

    ONLINE: owdillonpreservation.org

    Read more »
  • ,,

    Louisiana genealogist finds Black boys at Florida reform school were modern day slaves

    Antoinette Harrell is a genealogist, activist, and peonage detective in Harvey, Louisiana, who spent decades tracking down slavery in the deep south. The peonage research of Harrell led her to investigate peonage at the Arthur G. Dozier Reform School in Marianna, Florida – also called the Florida Industrial School for Boys. Her research led her to dig deep into Dozier files at the Tallahassee State Archives in the sunshine state of Florida in search of signs of peonage practices on the campus. The school opened its doors in 1900 and closed the doors in 2011 after operating for 111 years. More than 500 former students have alleged they were brutally beaten, sexually abused, as well as mentally abused by Dozier’s staff. Some even alleged that they were used as modern day slaves, working to grow crops, raise livestock and cut timber.

    Harrell focused her research on child labor and wanted to follow the money trails. Boys as young as seven years old worked at Dozier’s child labor camp. They grew everything from sweet potatoes, butter beans, string beans, turnips, okra and other agricultural produce. They raised and slaughtered livestock for sale. Each division made its own money and was headed by school staff. What happened to the money? Who was buying the produce? A general farm produce report on October 1958 from the poultry, dairy, garden and swine division documented the money that was made from each division. A total of $10,980.36 was made that quarter. The reports were made quarterly each year.

    A sale report of proceeds items for the period ending March 31, 1966 showed that for that year, Dozier made $118,160 in swine and $156,108 in beef sales. Each item of produce and livestock was itemized. Harrell interviewed Johnny Lee Gaddy who was 11-years old in 1957 when he was sent to Arthur G. Dozier Reform School for skipping school because he had a speech impediment and was tired of the other students in his class teasing him. He was picked up by a police officer and placed in a jail cell for one night. The next morning Gaddy was sent directly to Dozier without appearing before a juvenile court.

    Gaddy informed Harrell of the hard work he did at Dozier. He said he cut down timber in the swamps; he worked in the fields planting and harvesting the produce. Harrell asked Gaddy if he knew where the produce was going? “I saw the trucks coming and going,” said Gaddy. “But I couldn’t tell you where they were taking the produce or meat. You better not asked any questions. If you want to live and didn’t want to get a bad beating for questioning the overseers, you better keep your mouth shut.”

    The campus was segregated up until the late 60′s.

    Over the years, Harrell has helped the African-American male victims to organize a group called “Black Boys at Dozier” and she helped them to bring their plight of abuse and modern day slavery to the eyes of the public. She also helped them gain national and international attention for their stories. She even took the men back to the Dozier campus for a press conference. It was the first time that the men set foot back on the campus in over 50 years.

    Harrell is always on the hunt for new stories of slavery and peonage that have been swept under the rug in America. She has spent hundreds of hours researching private collections and public documents from the National Archives in Washington, D.C. on peonage. She had climbed in dark and dusty courthouse attics to search for any evidence that pointed to peonage practices. Sometimes driving late night hours on back dusty roads that seem never ending, looking for modern day plantations, and in search of people live in peonage.

    A resolution acknowledged that treatment of boys sent to Dozier and Okeechobee was cruel, unjust and “a violation of fundamental human decency.” Within the first 13 years of Dozier School’s operation, six states led investigations were conducted in response to reports of children being chained to walls in iron, severely beaten, and used for child labor.

    Sen. Darryl Rouson (D-St. Petersburg) carried the Senate resolution, apologizing to the men who say they endured physical, sexual, and emotional abuse at Dozier Reform School and Okeechobee in the state of Florida. Senate Resolution 1440 recognized the widespread abuse. “The bill expressed regret for this shameful part of our history, sincerely apologizes on behalf of the legislature, and declares a commitment to make sure that these atrocities and tragedies never occur again.”

    By

    Read more »
Back to Top
Facebook Auto Publish Powered By : XYZScripts.com