Evergreen Plantation - What was Life as a Slave Really Like?
Beautiful as the Nottoway Plantation was, I was left with wanting to know what was life really like on the Deep South Plantation? What were the slave quarters like? Was it really true what you see in films like Roots? We drove back up the River Road towards New Orleans and visited Evergreen Plantation to find out.
Imagine the acres of swampland that was Louisana in the 1700s, knee deep in alligators, snakes and mosquitos. Who would want to grow anything in that?! You needed a huge workforce to grow the lucrative sugar cane here and it wasn’t just a question of numbers – you needed people who were skilled at what they did and knew how to farm and get the best out of the land – and how to survive in a difficult climate.
The tour around Nottoway Plantation we took before we left White City this morning couldn’t have contrasted more with the Evergreen Plantation Tour we were booked for in the afternoon. The Nottoway tour focussed on the grandeur of the antebellum house and said nothing about what life was like for the slaves that worked there – a pretty blinkered view. It was a fun tour nonetheless, led by an enthusiastic guide in period dress.
The highlight for me was the grand white ballroom, complete with elegant chandeliers powered by methane gas produced from vegetable waste. They kept canaries in cages in every room to alert them to gas leaks.
The remake of Roots was actually filmed here at Evergreen Plantation. The tour really brought history alive. There was plenty of opportunity to ask as many questions as you wanted during the tour and I felt that they were answered honestly enough. You certainly got an absorbing picture of what life was like for both the plantation owners and the slaves. The slave quarters are still in tact and contain many exhibits explaining the history – the good, the bad and the ugly.
No doubt, the slave trade was an abhorrant piece of history, but this tour helped you to understand how and why it happened and gave a much more balanced picture of how things really were here than the TV/films suggest plus a really good understanding of the brutal realities of making a living in this harsh landscape Well worth a visit. Whitney Plantation has a similar theme – but it is closed on Tuesdays.
Tips for Future Travellers
With hindsight, it would have been much more sensible to visit Evergreen Plantation yesterday en route – a useful tip for future travellers.