One day after a Historic Latta Plantation Juneteenth event listing was removed from the website and condemned by local government officials as inappropriate and racist, the historic site manager posted a 1,348-word statement defending the program as educational about Reconstruction.
“To the masses on social media and politicians, no apology will be given for bringing a unique program to educate the public about former slaves becoming FREE!” wrote Ian Campbell, who is Black.
The lengthy defense of the planned event called “Kingdom Coming” comes after public outcry on social media caused Mecklenburg County, Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles, the town of Huntersville and the Arts & Science Council to issue statements of rebuke Friday and Saturday.
On June 19, 1865, known as Juneteenth, 250,000 enslaved Black people were declared free be executive decree. That day should be celebrated and honored in the most humble way possible, with laser focus on the perspective of the inhumane treatment of an enslaved people.
— Mayor Vi Lyles (@CLTMayor) June 12, 2021
“We should not support any business or organization that does not respect equality, history, and the truth of the African-American people’s journey to freedom,” Lyles wrote on Twitter. “Despite intent, words matter. And the Historic Latta Plantation should know better.”
Said an ASC statement: "It is frustrating and upsetting that Historic Latta Plantation continues to tell and share the site's history in ways that centers and protects the feelings of white people while diminishing the stories and contributions of Black people. This is white supremacy and one of the reasons we stopped providing operating support funding to Historic Latta Plantation in 2016."
The event appeared to be written to reflect language that might have been spoken at the time of emancipation, and promised to deliver stories from "the massa himself," telling stories of "white refugees" and Confederate soldiers expressing their feelings about the "downfall of the Confederacy."
"White refugees have been displaced and have a story to tell as well," the post said.
It was to take place on Saturday, June 19, the Juneteenth holiday to commemorate the emancipation of enslaved people in the United States.
“Many people complained about Historic Latta not doing anything for Juneteenth,” Campbell wrote. “Then when I create a unique event to highlight our successful struggle out of slavery, there is backlash from many who have never visited our historical site. William T. Sherman had a dislike for the media of his day. I understand what he maybe have been going though.”
Campbell wrote that the event was canceled “due to security concerns for volunteers and staff,” and added “the media’s corps of yellow journalist had a perfect opportunity to educate, however, they chose to whip the public into a frenzy, it worked.”
This is not the first time Latta Plantation or Campbell have been in hot water. In 2009, Campbell was a presenter for a Waxhaw elementary school tour of the site, discussing slavery. When he selected three students to portray field hands out of 60 mostly white students, all were Black, according to reports.
“In closing, my job will be to continue to educate,” Campbell wrote. “Historic Latta Plantation’s narrative will be to give a voice to our ancestors enslaved and as freedmen who were denied a voice. We will speak for them in a compassionate, accurate, and sensitive manner.”
The full statement, posted on the main Latta Plantation website Saturday afternoon, can be read here.
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