Tag Archives: slavery

Cane River Creole National Historical Park

Overview

In colonial Louisiana, the word “Creole” referred to any New World product, from architecture to livestock to human beings (and was not specific to any ethnicity).  South of Natchitoches, Louisiana the Cane River National Heritage Area follows an abandoned meander of the Red River, with two antebellum cotton plantations protected as Cane River Creole National Historical Park.  This National Park Service (NPS) site was authorized in 1994 and continues to be developed; meanwhile it provides an interesting perspective on a unique culture and excellent photographic opportunities.

Highlights

Oakland Plantation, Magnolia Plantation, historic buildings, pecan picking

Must-Do Activity

Oakland Plantation dates back to the late 1700s and survived the Civil War intact, but in the wake of Reconstruction tenant farming created a new form of indentured servitude.  Self-guided tours of the site take you through the mule barn, general store, and several cottages.  When we visited in November 2016, park volunteers were only offering one tour per day, but were happy to spend time talking with us inside the old general store.  Slave/tenant quarters are also preserved at Magnolia Plantation downstream, but the main house (which was burned during the Civil War and rebuilt) is privately owned and closed to the public. 

Best Trail

None

Instagram-worthy Photo

Nothing says you are in the South like the crooked branches of live oak trees.  Live oaks drape over the bottle-lined garden at the Oakland Plantation main house.

Peak Season

Fall

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/cari/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All roads paved

Camping

Kisatchie National Forest has a small campground three miles north of Natchitoches off State Road 117.

Related Sites

Natchez National Historical Park (Mississippi)

Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve (Louisiana)

Poverty Point National Monument (Louisiana)

Explore More – Cane River National Heritage Area covers 40,000 acres, but how large is Cane River Creole National Historical Park?

African Burial Ground National Monument

Overview

When excavating a federal office building in New York City in 1991, construction workers came upon a massive cemetery forgotten since it closed in 1794.  Archaeologists eventually found the remains of 419 bodies from a time when Africans were not allowed to be buried inside the walls of the Dutch city of New Amsterdam.  There are believed to be about 15,000 people buried in the original six-acre cemetery.

Highlights

Museum, film, Circle of the Diaspora, Ancestral Libation Chamber

Must-Do Activity

After passing through security, check out the National Park Service (NPS) visitor center that opened in 2010.  It has interactive exhibits about the thousands of captive and freed Africans that lived in the city in the eighteenth century.  Outside, a memorial made of Verde Fontaine green granite from Africa was completed in 2007 with the 24-foot high Ancestral Libation Chamber symbolizing the depth at which the bodies were discovered.  Nearby the 419 bodies were ceremonially reinterred in 2003.  Call ahead to schedule your place on an NPS ranger-led tour of the site.

Best Trail

None

Instagram-worthy Photo

The symbolic “Door of Return” is part of the outdoor memorial, which was entirely covered by scaffolding to protect it from a construction project during our visit in 2019.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/afbg/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None

Road Conditions

Take public transportation!

Camping

Check out our blog post on Gateway National Recreation Area for information on camping in the New York City area.

Related Sites

Saint Paul’s Church National Historic Site (New York)

Stonewall National Monument (New York)

Boston African American National Historic Site (Massachusetts)

Explore More – What does the Sankofa (a West African heart-shaped symbol) mean?

George Washington Carver National Monument

Overview

In southwestern Missouri is 210-acre George Washington Carver National Monument where the artist and inventor was born into slavery.  Near the end of the Civil War, raiders captured he and his mother (who was never seen again), but he was returned to his older brother and they were both raised by the Carver family.  He went on to earn a master’s degree in botany from Iowa State University in 1896 and work at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama for 47 years.  His most influential legacy is arguably his outreach work marketing peanut and soy plants, helping to turn them into the widespread agricultural products they are today.

Highlights

Museum, films, bronze sculptures, 1881 Moses Carver House, Williams Pond

Must-Do Activity

The National Monument has an excellent museum with interactive exhibits and examples of Carver’s paintings.  A self-guided 0.75-mile trail passes several bronze sculptures and interpretive signs.  It leads through the forest to Williams Pond and a house that dates back to 1881.  George Washington Carver’s spirit lives on at this site, inspiring future generations to great aspirations despite humble beginnings.

Best Trail

The self-guided 0.75-mile trail loops from the visitor center and is partially wheelchair accessible.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Williams Pond is a nice place to sit and contemplate what each of us can accomplish regardless of how we start.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/gwca/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All roads paved

Camping

There are private campgrounds around Joplin, Missouri and 50 miles away is Roaring River State Park.

Related Sites

Booker T. Washington National Monument (Virginia)

Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site (Alabama)

Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield (Missouri)

Explore More – When was the year the National Monument was dedicated, which was the same year Carver died?

Booker T. Washington National Monument

Overview

Booker T. Washington was born in 1856 on this small plantation farm in Hardy, Virginia and freed shortly after the Confederate army’s surrender at nearby Appomattox Court House.  He went on to earn an education and found the groundbreaking Tuskegee Institute in 1881.  Rather than dwelling on his horrible past, Washington was inspired to work hard and maintain an indefatigable spirit.  Later in life he wrote in his book Up From Slavery: “There was no period of my life that was devoted to play… From the time that I can remember anything, almost every day of my life has been occupied in some kind of labor.”

Highlights

Museum, film, reconstructed buildings, farm animals, Jack-O-Lantern Branch Trail

Must-Do Activity

A bronze bust of Booker T. Washington is the first thing visitors see when they approach the National Monument.  The National Park Service (NPS) has reconstructed several buildings on the farm in a style consistent with the 1850s, as seen on the quarter-mile self-guided trail.  The NPS keeps livestock similar to that which was here at the time, including pigs, cattle, chickens, turkeys, and ducks.  This site demonstrates that antebellum life in the South was not all aristocrats on large plantations. 

Best Trail

The Jack-O-Lantern Branch Trail winds 1.5 miles through the forest and fields.

Instagram-worthy Photo

None of the original buildings survive, but several have been reconstructed, including the birthplace cabin of Booker T. Washington.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/bowa/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All roads paved

Camping

Roanoke Mountain Campground is run by the NPS on the Blue Ridge Parkway 19 miles northwest of the monument.

Related Sites

Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site (Alabama)

George Washington Carver National Monument (Missouri)

Shenandoah National Park (Virginia)

Explore More – Washington graduated from what school for ex-slaves in 1875, which inspired him to establish Tuskegee Institute in Alabama?