Friday, January 11, 2013

Southern Road Trip: A Study of Slavery

For this winter’s road trip, we decided to give our kids a small taste of the South.

After an overnight in Fayetteville, NC (which I found out was named for General LaFayette and was set up by merchants in Wilmington, NC as a defensive measure against the port of Charleston), we drove down to the Palmetto state.

Our first stop was Magnolia Plantation where we placed the emphasis on teaching the kids about the history of American slavery. We covered topics ranging from human rights to economics to agriculture and more.

The NFO did a phenomenal job of making the story of slavery personal by connecting it to the story of the Exodus, with which the kids are familiar, of course.

We had a nice Southern moment when we went to buy our tickets. Paco had to use the bathroom desperately and, without batting an eye, the woman at the cash register willingly let us in so he could use it and then return afterwards to buy our tickets. Sure, we didn’t have our stickers indicating we had paid, but I could see many scenarios where people would not have let this happen.

The bulk of our time/tour was in the former Slave cabins on the plantation and it was just tough to imagine having 6, 9, or 12 people in one of those homes. It was about 45 degrees when we were there and I imagined how unpleasant it must have been to have winter days and nights in this rickety house with no insulation warmed only by a small fire.

From there, the conversation (by a first-rate guide) took us through 570 years of history in about 25 minutes. While the kids may not have gotten everything, they understood that having 600 people crammed into the hold of a cargo ship, lying horizontal for 7-10 days at a time when it was built for 450 (not that that was a good situation either) would be miserable.

In short, I think they felt a bit of empathy…which was the ultimate point.

Aside from that, the grounds were glorious. The gardens had a great deal of attention paid to them and the kids enjoyed the garden maze.  You really felt a sense of relaxation, away from it all, surrounded by nature’s beauty.

It’s like keeping two ideas in your head at the same time…the beauty of the grounds, but built on the injustice that was slavery.

But, we take these trips to confront these dilemmas and the cognitive dissonance.

Our travels continue tomorrow as we go to Fort Sumter…the site of the beginning of the Civil War.

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