A week or two ago, I came across an article about “America’s first slavery museum” being built on a former plantation west of New Orleans and shared it on Facebook. My cousin (an SU alum, no less) commented on my post, telling me that there already were slave museums in the US, so the story wasn’t entirely accurate. In the museum’s defense, they never claim to be the first slave museum, that was the journalist’s doing. Their claim to fame, in their own words, is that they are “the only plantation museum in Louisiana with a focus on slavery.” The article the museum was featured in reminded me of a class discussion that we had a while back about the lack of such museums in America. I looked into the existence of slave museums, and like Dr. Hoffpauir said, there are a number of museums who have exhibits about slavery, but no museums devoted directly to slavery. I did come across a really cool museum, the closest one I could find to being a slave museum, which was named America’s Black Holocaust Museum. This museum was created by the only known lynching survivor, Dr. James Cameron, in order to commemorate the holocaust that black people experienced at the hands of whites and the effects that they are still experiencing today. This digital museum is exceptional because it seeks to create a dialogue around the American Holocaust (as I think it should be called, although considering these criteria: http://abhmuseum.org/2013/02/what-is-the-black-holocaust/ America probably has two simultaneous Holocausts– against blacks and against Indians/ Native Americans, so I’m not sure that I can identify the Black Holocaust as THE American Holocaust.) One criteria that surprises me is the “Medical experimentation,” I haven’t heard of slaves being experimented on, but that could go back to how little we’re told about slavery/ this Holocaust. Same goes for Indians.
So, to sum this post up, I think the Black Holocaust Museum is the first valid slavery museum, and its emphasis on a dialogue about slavery and the Black Holocaust is essential and there should be more institutions that do this. At the same time, Whitney Plantation Museum is also the first slave museum because visitors can actually see the boundaries of a slave’s world in person and seeks to get visitors to understand what it was like to be a slave and experience slavery during the Antebellum, as opposed to focusing on the after effects of it. Both are vital parts to understanding the atrocities committed in this country and learning from them/ commemorating them/ remembering them/ preventing them from ever happening again.
Here are the links to the websites to each museum:
America’s Black Holocaust Museum: http://abhmuseum.org/2012/09/our-mission/
Whitney Plantation Museum: http://www.whitneyplantation.com/index.html