I am a history buff. Although my favorite area of study is the Greco-Roman period, I enjoy visiting any time period by way of historical re-enactment or physical re-creation. Whenever I have had the opportunity, I have jumped at the chance to visit venues such as Riley’s Farm, where owners go to great lengths to re-create the Colonial experience for their visitors. I have ground meal for bread, churned butter, loomed fabric, sat in on a mock trial run by British soldiers in uniform, and taken up “arms” to “fight” in a re-enactment of a battle between colonists and soldiers.
One of the places of historic sites to visit is Williamsburg, Virginia – in particular the slave quarters on Oak Plantation. From what I understand, seeing the conditions first hand under which captured Africans were forced to live, is both gut-wrenching and inspiring. I look forward to the day when I can take my entire family on such a visit, so that we can experience this part of our nation’s history and our own personal history as African Americans together.
Visiting historical sites and reliving history can be an enjoyable and exciting glimpse into history. That is why when I learned about the experience of three black students at one of these venues, I was saddened and later confused by how an ignorant tour guide marred what had the potential to be a truly educational experience.
It seems that while a class of Rea View Elementary school in Charlotte, North Carolina, was visiting Latta Plantation, a black tour guide saw fit to instruct three black students to pick cotton while their white counterparts watched them. The CNN video below gives more detail about the experience and includes Syracuse’s Dr. Boyce Watkins ‘ commentary on the event.
In defense of his actions the tour guide stated that he was trying to be “historically correct not politically correct.” It would seem that if he was trying to impress upon the children the evils of slavery, he might have had everyone participate in the back-breaking work. If the class had been all black, selecting a few students would not have been as traumatic for them. But since this tour guide was trying to be historically correct, perhaps he should have demonstrated a mock lynching – just for effect.
The president of the local chapter of the NAACP stated that the tour guide should have “put sensitivity first.”
“There is a lingering pain, a lingering bitterness, a lingering insecurity and a lingering sense of inhumanity since slavery,” said President Kojo Nantambu. “Because that’s still there, you want to be more sensitive than politically correct or historically correct.”
I am saddened by the fact that this man could not see why his choice to subjugate the black children in front of white counterparts was a bad one. The parents of the children involved saw what was wrong right away. Incensed, they have voiced complaints to the school and to the plantation. It will be interesting to see what happens next.
Do you agree? Was the tour guide wrong to have only the black children pick cotton? Are people overreacting? Are the parents wrong to be offended? I invite your comments. Share with the Elev8 community what you think and why.
In the meantime, be blessed Family.