K and I went to Charleston five years ago to celebrate my 60th birthday (Did you say FIVE YEARS AGO?)
One of the places we toured was Boone Hall Plantation.
I was reminded of the tour this morning because as I was driving to pick up my new glasses I listened to most of an NPR interview with Nikole Hannah-Jones talking about her enormously influential 1619 Project.
In the interview, Hannah-Jones talks about the anodyne history offered in public schools. How much is missing. How Black history is American history is Black history. And how certain words either romanticized slavery or further demeaned the enslaved.
One of those words was “plantation.” It’s a word that calls to mind Tara of Gone with the Wind. It makes us think of long, beautiful live-oak-lined allees (which Boone Hall has), instead of snake-infested rice fields and all kinds of human misery. The better term, she suggests, is “labor camp.”
When K and I arrived at Boone Hall, they were setting up chairs for an outdoor wedding. I was appalled and said so on Facebook. There I was schooled by a local docent / historian who said that without the income produced by such affairs, many significant historic sites would’ve been turned into condos and golf courses. Okay, but still.
A Boone Hall employee sitting on a chair outside the first of many slave dwellings proudly announced that Boone Hall was “the second most romantic setting for a wedding in America.”
Without thinking, I said, “What’s number one — Auschwitz?”
If I’d been thinking, of course, I would have named an American setting. Perhaps Riker’s Island?
That’s it. That’s the memory.
Small add on — the first time I ever saw an eagle was at Boone Hall.
This popped up on my Instagram feed moments after I posted.
How one can be speechless, dumbfounded, appalled and disgusted all at once, along with NOT at all surprised. Geez
It’s kind of the new normal. How shocking things are and yet how predictable. I didn’t even get to sharing the part of the interview about how having the president vilify her complicated her life in gross ways.
I think you response to the Boone Hall employee about this amazing romantic setting was perfect. I’ve been to Auschwitz.
I wish I’d found out what they were touting as the Number One spot.
Been watching PBS Follow Your Roots. Three year old slave listed as property- $250.00. Mind bending.
In researching for my novel, I read a lot of sale notices,runaway notices, and inventories where human beings are listed like pieces of pottery or livestock. It helps to know that $850 (for a healthy male), was a lot of money then. Something equivalent to purchase price of a car in today’s money.
here’s a long-winded memory in return …
back in my Williamsburg school librarian days, we gathered for lunch before or after our meetings … a nearby restaurant would be chosen by the librarian hosting the meeting, and there was one in particular that was favored by the librarian who was a white woman of a certain age … without divulging the name of the restaurant, here from their website is part of the story of its construction in the 1960s:
“The building was constructed of new materials and architectural salvage from the area. The paneling in the back of the shop was from the plantation home Carter’s Grove, acquired when the owner did some remodeling.”
no wonder then that one librarian, who was Black, objected … I remember that she boycotted those lunches … but did we rally behind her? … I wish I could say we did more than just wonder out loud why our white colleague insisted on choosing this one restaurant … but no, even the one other Black librarian went along with the choice … I’m glad I’m more aware these days, but I regret that I didn’t “get it” sooner
I imagine that situation was difficult for both of the Black colleagues involved — both the one who boycotted and the one who went along.