NOLA's Past Made Public

Most people who know me understand that I like to be at home, or at my Grandma's home, but very rarely do I like to go far from my comfortable, cozy little home where I can find everything I need. So, it's a good thing that opportunities and time for travel don't come up very often. However, Roger was given a job to do in New Orleans and he asked if the children and I would like to go. Even though I don't like to travel, I have a list of places I want to see and New Orleans has always been on the list, so YES!

Off we went.

It took me TWO DAYS, y'all. TWO DAYS to let my body literally relax and the tension ease from my shoulders...and my butt. Let's be honest, all the tension was in my butt. Dear Lord, I am such a scaredy cat! I don't know what I was expecting or thought the city would be like, but I was shocked. It was other-worldly, and if the tourist and locals were dressed a little different, and the things inside the shops were changed, it would have felt like the place was untouched by time. The Caribbean feel to the area coupled by affects of the hands of the French made it all so surreal and very, VERY unlike my little farm town back home in Indiana. I immediately regretted not bringing my actual camera, you know, the one clients pay me to use to take gorgeous photos. Silly Gia. (these photos are not mine, by the way, but stock)

I have a lot that I can say about my trip, and maybe I will get into that in future blog posts, but I want to skip over that to tell you about the moment that broke my heart. Yesterday, I wrote about how I grew up devouring stories from our nation's history and how important that was for me, how it shaped my life and heart. What I was most excited about in exploring New Orleans, was the history. This city is old and at it's heart was the oldest operating market for imported slaves into our nation. If there was a place where the air, even today, would hum with time and mystery and pain and anguish, it would be in New Orleans. And Lord, did it ever! Goosebumps rippled over my arms when we pulled onto Esplanade Avenue. The tangled oaks with the Spanish moss stood in the median and gorgeous homes flanked the street. As Roger was driving on our way to Cafe Du Monde, I was busy looking at everything I could. One thing I have a habit of doing is spotting historical markers (my pal, Brett would appreciate this) and quickly googling them and reading what they were about, since when you're driving, there's no time to read them. The avenue was spotted with beautiful, shiny markers and I got to work.

How had I missed that we had come to NOLA during it's 300th anniversary? And because of this, new historical markers were erected over the city only weeks before I had arrived. What were these markers for that I was seeing on Esplanade Avenue? They were the cities FIRST markers highlighting the truth of New Orleans history in slavery...

I wanted to weep.

Three hundred years later?

All the human souls shipped into the port from the West Indies or on barges down the Mississippi...

Three hundred years later?

The slave pens that lined the city. The auction houses or the blocks quickly put up wherever a crowd could gather, even inside churches...selling human souls and tearing families apart...

Three hundred years later?

The slave ship that docked in the delta named Jesus. The German Coast Uprising along River Road which we don't hear about in our history classes in school. The amputated heads of captured "rebels" put on spikes through the city to bring terror to imported slaves and the free blacks that walked the street.

Three hundred years later?

The Quadroon ballrooms where women of mixed race were groomed and bartered over by their mothers and white wealthy plantation owners' sons to serve as "kept women" for sexual pleasure. The truth that human lives were the second largest asset in the American South and the city of New Orleans. Human souls. The women that were good breeders constantly kept impregnated and some of the most valuable souls to own.

Three hundred years later.

It dawns on me that I am no longer saying that with a heartbroken question mark. It settles in my heart that it is our truth, collectively. It took African Americans fighting for the recognition for the history to be told and the city to stop hiding. It took advocates. It took a fight in civil campaigns. And here I was, staring at the markers that were only weeks old.

Three hundred years later. 

My heart breaks. Because three hundred years later, we do not import and sell humans, black men and women can vote and attend the same schools as white people, but we still live and breathe and thrive off racism and hate. How far have we actually come when it took all this time to tell the truth in a beautiful city that sees a flood of tourism annually?

Not very far.

And why did we allow that to happen? Are we too busy? Are we too ashamed? Do too many of us honestly not know our history? Did we so easily forget? Three hundred years isn't really that long in the grand scheme of human history. Why did we hide the truth? 

Tomorrow I will share about our trip to the Whitney Plantation, the nation's first slavery museum. I am so thankful for the man who purchased it, realized it's history and decided it had to be told. Why? So that in three hundred years, our wrongs of today are not fresh markers in our cities. There is far too much darkness that can grow in three hundred years of silence.


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