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January/February 2015 Issue

Restored plantation illuminates Louisiana’s dark days of slavery

For the first time in its 262-year history and after nearly $7 million in renovations, the Whitney Plantation in Wallace, La., has opened its doors to the public with a single mission: to shine a light on the darkest period in American history–slavery.

The recently opened site is dedicated to a fuller understanding of slavery through museum exhibits, slave narratives, memorial artwork, and the restored buildings in which the slaves lived and worked. Within the boundaries of the “Habitation Haydel,” as the Whitney Plantation was originally known, the story of the Haydel family of German immigrants and the African slaves whom they held are intertwined.

Located along the River Road not far from New Orleans, the plantation immerses visitors in the world of an 1830s sugar plantation. The Big House on the 250-acre plantation is one of the better surviving examples of Spanish Creole architecture in Louisiana.

During its economic heyday, Whitney Plantation encompassed 1,700 acres. The Haydel family who founded the estate was one of the largest slaveholders in Louisiana.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the property includes other 19th-century buildings that were relocated to the site to further illustrate the lives of slaves on the plantation, including numerous slave cabins, a steel jail, and a shingled African-American church.

Inside the buildings and across the plantation’s landscape, exhibits, statues, and memorials give testament to slavery. The church, for example, is filled with scores of realistic ceramic statues of slave children in ragged clothing, designed to create a more moving, authentic experience.

The former sugarcane field is now occupied by a labyrinth of black granite walls where the names of thousands of Louisiana slaves are engraved. Eventually, 107,000 names will document all the known slaves in Louisiana through 1820.

Located at 5099 Highway 18, the plantation is open for tours every day except Tuesday. Tours are offered hourly from 10 a.m.–3 p.m. Admission is $22 for adults and free for children under 12.

For more details, visit online at


The plantation underwent $7 million in renovations. Among the exhibits are realistic statues of enslaved children. Whitney Plantation photos



Walk through history at Native American museum

To discover what it might have been like to walk in the moccasins of America’s earliest inhabitants, visit the ever-changing Museum of Native American History in Bentonville, Ark.

Dedicated to 14,000 years of Native American history and artistry, the museum provides visitors with a rich sense of how Native Americans lived. Through scores of artifacts and elaborate displays, visitors gain an appreciation for the lives and culture of the estimated 20 to 60 million people who were native to North America when the first Europeans arrived.

Upon entering, guests are greeted by the skeleton of a woolly mammoth, an animal once hunted by Native Americans 12,000 years ago. The skeleton stands more than 12 feet tall and stretches 17 feet in length, a dramatic introduction to the museum’s collections.

Using portable handheld audio devices as they tour, guests learn about the artifacts on display. The museum rooms are laid out in chronological order through five different periods, ending with the Reservation Period of the early 1900s. Among the items in the collection are tools, weapons, pottery, and clothing, and new artifacts are added on a regular basis.

Located at 202 SW O St. about three minutes from the Bentonville Square, the museum is open 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Admission is free.

Call (479) 273-2456 for details or visit


A woolly mammoth skeleton greets visitors. Museum of Native American History photo



Celebrate the King’s 80th birthday in Tupelo, Miss.

The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll would have turned 80 this January, making it a perfect time to put on your blue suede shoes and visit the Elvis Presley Birthplace Park in Tupelo, Miss.

Elvis Aaron Presley was born in Tupelo on Jan. 8, 1935, in a two-room house built by his father, grandfather, and uncle. Restored to its original condition and decorated with period furnishings, the house is the centerpiece of the Birthplace Park.

The nearby state-of-the-art Elvis Presley Museum contains artifacts, large photo murals, and audiovisual presentations that focus on Elvis, his childhood, and his early music.

Other attractions on site include the actual church building where the Presley family attended Assembly of God Pentecostal services growing up. There’s also a gift shop, Memorial Chapel, bronze statue of Elvis at 13, and more.

Located at 306 Elvis Presley Drive, the park is open 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 1–5 p.m. on Sunday. Admission for the house only is $7 for everyone 13 and older, and $4 for children 7–12. Admission for the entire complex is $16 for adults, $13 for seniors and students 13–18, and $7 for children 7–12.

Visit or call (662) 841-1245.



Battle of New Orleans still echoes

British and American troops met on Chalmette Battlefield near New Orleans on Jan. 8, 1815, to determine the course of American history, and 200 years later that pivotal moment will come to life through a variety of commemorative events this January.

Americans of varying ethnicities fought side by side in that battle to defeat the British, a stunning victory that brought about the recognition of American claims to Louisiana and West Florida as well as the ratification of the Treaty of Ghent, ending the War of 1812.

In a salute to that historical triumph, the Bicentennial of the Battle of New Orleans will feature a week-long encampment at the Chalmette Living History Park beginning on Tuesday, Jan. 6, and culminating with battle re-enactments on Friday night and Saturday morning.

Re-enactors will wear replicas of the uniforms worn by the British army and the American soldiers, including Gen. Andrew Jackson, who led the Americans.

The Historic New Orleans Collection is examining Jackson’s role in the battle and the fame that followed his victory. “Andrew Jackson: Hero of New Orleans” is on exhibit now through March 29. Located at 533 Royal St., the museum is open 9:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and 10:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is free.

Also, The Cabildo is presenting “From ‘Dirty Shirts’ to Buccaneers: The Battle of New Orleans in American Culture” from Jan. 11–Jan. 31, 2016. The exhibit includes the uniform coat Jackson wore during the battle. Located at 701 Chartres St., the museum is open 10 a.m.–4:30 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Admission is $6 for adults, $5 for students and seniors, and free for children 12 and under. AAA members save 10 percent.

Other bicentennial events will include a “Call to Arms” re-enactment, wreath-laying ceremonies, a fireworks display, and a symposium.

Click on for details.

cannon firing

Bicentennial events will include two battle re-enactments. A.J. Sisco/National Park Service photo


Give your Valentine the gift of the great outdoors

Valentine’s Day doesn’t always have to involve restaurants, roses, and candles. It can include a campfire, forests, and the great outdoors.

Surprise your sweetie before Valentine’s Day this year with a romantic hayride at Pinnacle Mountain State Park in Little Rock, Ark. The annual Sweetheart Hayride and Campfire will take place on Feb. 7–8, with rides offered from 3–5 p.m.

Grab your hat, mittens, and blanket, and cuddle up with your special someone on a hayride through the scenic vistas of this beautiful park. The ride concludes with a cozy campfire.

Advance reservations and payment are required for the hayrides, which are aimed at couples but families are invited, too. Tickets are $12 for adults and $6 for children 6–12. The park is located at 11901 Pinnacle Valley Road.

Call (501) 868-5806 or visit for more details.


The hayrides end with a roaring campfire.

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