16. Facing a Damnable Past

Facing a Damnable Past: We approached New Orleans from the west, through the thick sugarcane forests of St. Charles Parish. Our tattered road was strung along the west bank of the Mississippi River, rendered invisible by the haze of harvest season. Sugarcane farmers burn their crops before the harvest because it strips the plant of its leaves, simplifying the extraction process, increasing profit. The countryside is blanketed in an acrid yellow smoke that doesn’t relent until we turn onto the Old River Road, Louisiana’s pearl necklace of historic plantation homes.

Sloan: You want to stop and see a plantation?
Amy: Sure. We’re visiting the Killing Fields in Cambodia, so why not.

With only limited time we landed at this, the Oak Alley mansion, which is now a functioning museum, restaurant, gift shop, special events center and bed and breakfast. We bought a five dollar ticket to walk the grounds at dusk, time we spent mostly looking for replicas or remnants of old slave quarters. Instead there’s a board with the names and purchase prices of the 120 slaves who worked the sugarcane fields and antebellum kitchens of Oak Alley. It’s a surreal read against the cooing of bus-tour tourists who clutch brochures of irreconcilable prose. Actual quote: From Oak Alley, follow a narrated path of the largest slave revolt in American History to romantic San Francisco Plantation. We found no romance here, only an alluring southern landscape haunted by its damnable past. {S}

 

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