It’s not uncommon for museums to whitewash history. However, the Whitney Plantation Museum in Wallace, Louisiana, labeled by the New York Times as America’s first “slavery-focused museum,” is taking a different approach. Rather than closing over the plantation’s troubling past, the Whitney Plantation embraces it.
In 2014, the Whitney Plantation — formerly known for its indigo, rice, and sugar production — opened to the public and gained fame for being a “museum with a mission.”
During its time as a working plantation, this property housed more than 350 African enslaved people. The museum’s owners and employees don’t shy away from this fact.
According to the museum’s website, Whitney Plantation strives to teach visitors about the “history and legacies of slavery in the United States” through a collection of exhibits, conversations with staff, and tours (self-guided or guided).
John Cummings, a retired New Orleans trial attorney, founded the museum. He also owned and operated the property from 1999 to 2019, spending 15 years and $8.6 million of his own money restoring it.
When asked about his desire to open a museum that didn’t try to mask its troubling history, Cummings explained that the United States has not “acknowledged [its] great sin of slavery.” He added that the country must “own it… embrace it and take responsibility for it.”
Cummings also argued that the U.S. government should have erected such a museum but hasn’t “because of the prejudice.”
Since it opened in December 2014, the museum has made incredible impressions on hundreds of thousands of visitors.
One reviewer on Roadtrippers called Whitney Plantation “one of the most interesting” tourist destinations “in the entire South.” Another told those thinking about visiting to “prepare to be moved,” and someone else confessed that the “tragic history” discussed during the tour made them cry.
Visitors are welcome to attend tours of the plantation Wednesday through Monday from 10 am to 3 pm. Reservations are not required, but you can book in advance online to guarantee a spot.