An extremely interesting, well-preserved and genuinely historic location for America that should be more popular than it seems to be. I am very glad to have visited but found the attitude of our tour guide to be needlessly patronizing and overbearing. I thought it was great to hear a focus on the lives of the slaves but was wryly disappointed in the pointed lack of information on the planter family and how they lived. In my opinion, one set of research needn’t be at the expense of the other, and researching both does not indicate a tacit acceptance of the brutality of slavery. People are interested in history, record and why people acted as they did in a time that is bizarre to judge by today’s standards. To paraphrase a philosopher, whitewashing our history dooms us to repeat it.
I understand that Stagville wants to come at the touring of a plantation from an in vogue apologist perspective of white guilt, but such a consistent diatribe from a guide is unpleasant and unnecessary. I imagine that our guide felt the need to orate so vehemently in fear of tourists missing anything they should feel bad about.
It is not the role of a tour guide to try and make tourists feel bad, ignorant or racist, simply for wanting to know what life was like for planters, as well as for the slaves they drove. Tourists come from a long way to see Stagville, keep the site alive in doing so, and want to hear historic facts more than they want to hear political opinion.
My advice as a visitor, would simply be more facts, more history, invite more questions, be less aggressive. It would be great to know how many slaves worked in the house, what their days consisted of, how many slept in each slave quarter, what their life expectancy was, how the Stagville slave populous had come to be at the plantation, what areas of West Africa their families had originated from, how Stagville compared in size Nationwide (as exhibited, the North had plantations, too) and what happened to the plantation slaves after emancipation.
The slave trade was barbaric and complex. To denigrate its narrative to “kidnapped in Africa, shipped to the South, then the civil war was fought to save them” is not merely a simplistic view but also inaccurate. It’s OK to be interested in what a planter’s house and family was like – that’s part of history – and if we start ruling out anyone from history who lived in a way that is unacceptable by today’s standards, then unfortunately, world-over, there wouldn’t be much left to visit.
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