HOUMA, La. (WVUE) - For some African Americans in Louisiana, researching your family tree can take you to plantations and slavery, but one Terrebone Parish museum is working to provide the missing links.
Margie Scoby helped found the Finding Your Roots African American Museum in Houma.
“And every corner I turn, I didn’t see anything said African American, so that gave me a drive even more to want to say we need to do something," Scoby said.
The exhibits are housed in what was once a school for black children, which opened in 1890. Many of the images inside tell the story of slavery on the sugarcane plantations of Southeast Louisiana.
This type of history is an uncomfortable history, a shameful history. But Scoby believes in telling that story in a way that’s meaningful to people.
“The truth of the story is the truth. I mean, if you continue to try to cover up what took place, then you’re not telling history,” Scoby said.
One exhibit highlights the 1838 sale of 272 slaves by Jesuit priests to pay off debts at what is now Georgetown University. Many of those slaves were sold to plantation owners in Terrebonne and other nearby parishes.
“Because I was so familiar with so many names in the local area, some of those names popped out,” Scoby said.
Retired Houma Police detective Aurestile Scott is personally connected to that story.
“One day I was walking through the house, and the president of Georgetown was apologizing for the slave trade, so I sat and listened at it a little while, and said 'wow, that’s horrible.”
Then, Scott gets a call from Margie Scoby, telling him that his ancestors are among the Georgetown slaves.
“Now, number one is Mary Scott, a Negro woman, age 35, was appraised for the sum of $600. That’s my great-great grandmother,” Scott said. “Underneath that, John, a Negro boy age 8, appraised for the sum of $400. That’s my great grandfather.”
The discovery was jolting.
“It’s something that eats at me deep. Just to think that they was sold as commodities," Scott said.
The museum has other resources, including a list of 3,000 names from local Catholic diocese, the baptismal records of black children, nearly all under the age of 8, who were slaves.
“My heart leaps for joy because I know I’ve helped someone to find out who they are where they came,” Scott said.
This small museum doesn’t blink when it comes to telling the story of African Americans, their inhumane treatment and their later achievements.
The staff at the Finding our Roots Museum in Houma can help you track down your family history. The museum is open Monday - Saturday. For more information, visit their website here: Finding Our Roots African American Museum