Thursday, April 03, 2008

The Laura Plantation is an authentically restored Creole sugar cane plantation, originally built in 1805 by a Frenchman for his bride. The marriage was not made in heaven; he wanted her to live on the plantation; she wanted to stay in New Orleans for parties. But the Laura plantation is unique for it is one of the few plantations that encourages visitors to reflect on the reality of slavery.

Creole tradition has the family business passing to the smartest child, male or female, even in the 19th Century. In two generations' time, Laura was that child. When Laura was a young girl, she asked one of the slaves, "Why are your cheeks marked up?" He answered, "Because I ran away, I was branded." This was the beginning of Laura's rebellion. At 16, she refused to become the president of the family company, and she sold her share of the company business. She refused to remain in the south, instead falling in love with a young man in St. Louis, marrying and living there, and later writing her memoirs.

At Oak Alley Plantation (we had visited earlier), the houses where slaves once lived had not been restored, though a plaque memorialized how many slaves had once lived and worked there. At the Laura Plantation, every effort was made to restore buildings and artifacts to show how the plantation owners and the slaves once lived. I found it moving that many implements had been donated by families of former slaves to be a part of the treasures and history of the Laura Plantation. Laura's memoir, Memories of the Old Plantation Home, is available on and tells why she gave up her ante-bellum home.

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