Let’s take a second and talk about plantations.
A few weeks ago, a friend took me “Down the Road,” which, to non-locals, is the St. Bernard Parish, a little bit east of downtown New Orleans. (We did a wild U-turn to stop at Johnny’s produce stand and buy mangos first.)
Down the Road is a quiet area, dotted with the occasional snow ball stand and small houses.
Kids get off the bus with unwieldy metal cages to go trap fishing after school. The air is slow churning and still and there’s an undercurrent of the past that steeps right into you, and then all of a sudden, a plantation looms large and daunting from the trees. Now, of course I knew as everyone does, that there are plantations in New Orleans. A lot of them probably. People go on strange tours of these 18th century haunted houses for fun. But the feeling of seeing them, of being in that space was weird and vaguely metaphysical and I felt more connected to history than ever before; it wasn’t difficult to imagine the scene, I didn’t need a poorly construed reenactment, it was all right there and my mind did it’s thing to Remind me.
The beauty Down the Road is deceptive. There’s a famous tree canopy along the road that was once a Hanging Space for the KKK to display broken bodies as people crawled slowly along in their cars, lest they forget the rules of the day. New Orleans is famous for it’s cemeteries and there is a really beautiful one Down the Road, still in use. There are some memorials too, for families who died in violent plantation fires, but no markers exist for the slaves; for the hundreds and hundreds of bodies lost in the marshes, in the fields, Down the Road.