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Published: June 22nd 2019
Oak Alley is a beautiful antebellum (pre civil war) mansion built brick by brick, by slaves in 1805 to house the family of Jacques Roman, part of a wealthy land and slave owning family. Together they owned on average 892 men, women and children as slaves with about 200 of them on the Oak Alley estate. This is known because their names are all recorded as business transactions.
Situated on the western bank of the Mississippi about an hour’s drive out of the city it is famous for the alley of magnificent live oak trees leading up to the house. Crossing one of the bridges we could see how high the river is. We’re lucky to be visiting it from New Orleans as the tour being run on the first day on the boat has been cancelled because the river is too high that particular dock. So our first day after boarding on Monday will be an ‘at sea’ day.
The difference between a farm and a plantation, we were told, is that a plantation is dependent on one crop, in this case sugar cane. At the time of building sugar cane was like white gold hence the wealth
of the family. Inside was similar to other early 19th century grand houses that you have probably seen.
The interesting part here was the life of the people captured from West Africa. Their story is told as individuals along with the role that they played, Hyacinth the house servant, Emily a field slave and Billy a 13 year old boy who worked in the forge as a blacksmith. The guide did a wonderful job of relating his life to that of the teenagers in our group.
They all worked from sunrise to sunset everyday except half a day on Saturday and sometimes Sunday. Hyacinth worked from before sunrise tending to the family’s needs and didn‘t finish until they all went to bed. Emily had five children to raise, feed and clothe, outside of her work hours.
One hut has a list of the names of all of the slaves with an enlargement on one wall inside. It was very moving.
On Sunday we move to a different hotel in preparation for boarding on Monday. We’ll be quite sad to leave the French Quarter as we’re used to the hustle and bustle here.
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