Rosedown Plantation under fire for describing slaves as "happy"

March 20, 2019 - 2:15 pm

Matt Doyle |

The Rosedown Plantation in St. Francisville is under fire for posting an exhibit sign that described the slaves who worked the plantation as "happy." A state parks official says the sign has been removed and admits it was in poor taste. 

Southern University Political Science Professor Albert Samuels says he’s not surprised.

"It’s not an isolated incident," he said. "It’s symptomatic of a wholesale denial of the centrality of slavery, and just how awful that institution was."

The sign also mentioned that the shacks lived in by slaves were "prettily built," slaves had a "natural musical instinct," and that they were "well taken care of."

Samuels says southern historic venues tend to downplay the terror of slavery, and instead play up the pageantry of those who built their wealth and power on the backs of those chained on their property.

"It’s about the homes, and the furniture, and 'this armoire was ordered from France in 1835, and look at the style,'" said Samuels. "The plight of the enslaved peoples is not the focus."

About 850 people were enslaved at Rosedown, and the site has become the most visited historic location in Louisiana, hosting 28,251 visitors last fiscal year.

The professor says after the confederacy fell, a coordinated propaganda campaign was established to rehabilitate the south’s image, which is why flippant accounts of slavery like the one at Rosedown are so common at southern landmarks.

"After the south lost the war, its leaders really began a concerted effort to downplay the significance of slavery in causing the war," said Samuels.

The controversial quotes were pulled from the book Rosedown, by Sarah Bowman.

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