An increasing number of plantation museums are transitioning away from whitewashing slavery to interpreting it.

Transitioning plantation museums’ access to a traditional visitor base provides educational opportunities.

To successfully transition, plantation museums must take into account a range of considerations.

Key considerations are narrators’ epistemic positionality and capacity to guide visitors through discomfort.


Against the backdrop of increasing public scrutiny, a growing number of plantation museums seek to transition their historical interpretation from erasing slavery to narrating it. Due to these sites’ access to their “pre-transition” visitor base, they are uniquely positioned to “call in” visitors who tend to avoid the facts of slavery. Nonetheless, we argue that for these sites to be truly transformative, they must account for a range of factors. These include the role of epistemic self-reflection in narrative construction (to help avoid the reproduction of white innocence), and the ability to guide visitors through the discomfort generated by the new narrative (to prevent backlash and to keep visitors open to the narrative’s message). To make this argument we examine the case of the Oak Alley plantation in Vacherie, Louisiana, and offer brief instructive comparisons to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello plantation in Virginia.


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pp. 111-129
Launched on MUSE
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