Route 5, from Richmond, capital of Virginia, to Yorktown, where the Brits surrendered to U.S. and French forces in 1781, is a tight two lane road skirting the James River. Each bend in the road takes you deeper into American history. The drive is short, only 63 miles (101 kilometers), but it spans centuries and passes numerous plantations where our enslaved ancestors were introduced to America and Americans-
From west to east, these are the Shirley Plantation, Edgewood Plantation, Berkeley Plantation, Westover Plantation, Evelynton Plantation, Belle Air Plantation, Piney Grove at Southall's Plantation, North Bend Plantation and Sherwood Forest Plantation.
Today in 2021, these structures of horror and despair are being rented out as bread and breakfast locations-movie sets-weddings and other festive events. Their lavish sprawling, decorated well-manicured lawns courtesy of unpaid labor by enslaved Africans, are the very thing still bringing income into the owners of these places. https://www.edgewoodplantation.com/rooms/ all while denying slavery even existed and dismissing the teaching of critical race truths.
They advertise such things as “Weddings That Are Unforgettable”…Edgewood’s specialty is small, highly personalized weddings that recall the intimate splendor of an elegant, romantic past. Our wedding venue near Williamsburg, VA can accommodate weddings ranging in size from 2-125 guests, whether contemporary or Victorian, we can meet all of your needs, including minister, flowers, photographer, music, catered reception, cake and an onsite chef. Edgewood also provides an ideal environment for wedding portraits. The B&B’s living room was used as a church for local worshippers during the Civil War. When in reality what they were praying for was for the war to end in their favor. They were hoping beyond hope that the Union army would be defeated and they would be able to go back to their lives as usual. Back to having their enslaved humans continue to wait on them hand and foot, and have a subservient life in complete opposition to their own. Romanticizing the events of the past is always done at someone else’s expense. In this case those someone’s, were black people who were enslaved against their will.
This brings me to the crux of my issue in 2021-Black people being required to pay for entrance to plantations. This whole premise seems impossible-It also feels like paying for something that should already be yours. There is currently not a plantation in Virginia (my point of origin for this article) that isn’t there today because of the practice of slavery. Its past time, that we stop pretending that these places were anything else but country work farms-For a long time plantations were sought after to admire the architecture and beautiful views and luscious landscape. Now black people are seeing the need and responding to the ancestral pull to visit these places and the prices to get in are ridicules.
Reparations would relieve this. I feel that black people should be able to pilgrimage to their choice of plantations without impunity stemming from a disproportionate economy. Black people should NOT be made to pay an entrance fee and the thought of it is ridicules. The fees are not to have an event, but merely to walk around and tour the grounds-So let’s talk about it, just what does it actually cost to travel back in time and see what our ancestors saw- Edgewood Plantation-Dating circa 1849, this is a National & State regulated landmark. $15/person-Shirley Plantation is the oldest active plantation in Virginia and the oldest family-owned business in North America, dating back to 1614 with operations starting in 1648. $11.00 Berkley Plantation-$9.25-Westover Plantation-$5.00 entrance fee but $300 per two-hour session on first floor of Main House for photo session.
So yes, we should go see the very places our enslaved ancestors, were tormented, disrespected, mimed and killed. We should be able to touch the land that was ultimately promised but reneged on by the United States government. We should definitely see for ourselves the power and tenacity our ancestors exhibited, so that we could be here today. Reparations should allow us to do that for free.