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Heart of Louisiana: Slavery at the Frogmore Plantation

Updated: May. 4, 2021 at 8:50 PM CDT
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FERRIDAY, La. (WVUE) - A Northeast Louisiana cotton plantation is doing more than giving tourists a glimpse of its historic buildings. Visitors also hear the personal stories of enslaved people from interviews done across the South in the 1930s. Stories that were almost lost.

You can learn all about cotton at this old plantation near Ferriday.

Cotton has been farmed here since the early 1800s when the labor came from enslaved people.

A few of the slave era cabins are part of the tour at Frogmore Plantation. And there is something else that is a part of the tour.

“Most all of our ancestors came to America by choice. The West Africans did not have that right. And they missed their homeland,” says owner Lynette Tanner.

“I can imagine in my mind that if it had been me or my grandkids, how I would have felt to keep them safe and I try to keep them safe today,” says Gwen Wyckoff.

After buying Frogmore with her late husband, Tanner began researching the plantation’s history.

“But I hope people can know the real history behind it, how it began, why it all began,” says Tanner.

That led her to the Library of Congress where she discovered a series of interviews conducted in the 1930s with formerly enslaved people.

“We have thankfully over 2200 ex-slave narrations. It’s called the Federal Writers’ Project. And I was given permission to put the Louisiana ex-slave narratives into print.

Her book is called “Chained to the Land”. Tanner says she felt it was so important for her to get these stories out.

“It was not part of our education growing up. I think so much of history for adults today was glossed over.”

A few quotes from those narratives are part of the tour. Some are on display in a starkly furnished cabin, once the home of enslaved people.

Interviewed at age 105, Mary Reynolds talked about being enslaved in Concordia Parish. That is where Frogmore is located.

“She was with an owner that was fairly benevolent. The overseer though was not. He was hard. She recalled that he’d beat the doors down if you weren’t out on time.”

How does it impact you when you read some of these slave accounts about what went on at plantations like this one?

“I would say in Louisiana, maybe about half received what they remember as benevolent treatment. The other half did not. And this was such a despicable thing to happen,” says Tanner.

Tanner wants her visitors to know about the contributions made by Africans whose lives were stolen, but she also explains their living condition and the harshness of their forced labor in the cotton fields.

“You dragged this sack filling it four times a day. This sack weigh 70 pounds when filled. So your quota was right around 280 to 300 pounds.”

It is a cruel, inhumane history that is now being shared through the very words at one of the countless plantations where so many lives were literally chained to the land.

To learn more about the Frogmore Plantation and other stories on African-American history in this state, visit HeartofLouisiana.com

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