It has always been Oak Alley's goal to tell the complete story of this historic plantation. For many years, we recounted stories of the world famous alley of oaks and the Big House antebellum mansion, and more recently added exhibits on the US Civil War and blacksmithing. But, for many years we did not have the means to properly tell the story of one key aspect of Oak Alley's history- slavery.
It has always been our goal to share the history of slavery, and to do so in an accurate and complete way that would be educational and engaging. More importantly, we are determined to not just share a general discussion of slavery in America, but to discuss a very specific history of the enslaved people that were here at Oak Alley.
After two years of extensive research, design and construction, we are pleased to announce the opening of our newest exhibit, "Slavery at Oak Alley." This new exhibit details the individual lives of enslaved workers that lived and worked here, and on whose backs this plantation was built.
Lead by Vince Yardas, Oak Alley Foundation's Director of Research and Interpretation, the Foundation's team built an array a six buildings containing exhibits on individual enslaved workers, with details of their work, families, food, religion, and health care.
"The decision to build six re-constructed slave quarters as an exhibit was not an easy decision to make," according to Yardas. "We had to have a meaningful way to tell the complete story of enslaved life, but in a way that balances along side the Big House and majestic alley of oaks. We want visitors to understand that the history of this plantation is not just about what happened in the grand mansion or underneath the stunning oaks. A complete history must include the accurate and historically important stories of the nearly two hundred enslaved workers who worked here to support the lifestyle of the Roman family."
"Our team reconstructed five slave cabins very close to their original locations, using the exact building techniques from their original construction (a sixth building is currently under construction)." Four of these will be used as exhibition spaces where visitors can peek into a different aspect of slavery life. Two are open 'museum-like' facilities with ramped walkways, where visitors may enter the structures and explore the exhibits within.
Individual exhibits include the stories of Zephyr and Antoine, 1800's-era medical care, the dangers of sugar cane farming, punishment and confinement, post-emancipation life, and much more.
The exhibit "Slavery at Oak Alley" opened in July 2013, and is a permanent part of Oak Alley's historic grounds tour. This is an important and extremely educational exhibit, and we encourage visitors to plan a trip to see this exhibit in person.