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Tales Told on the Tour: Mythic Representations of Slavery by Docents at North Carolina Plantation Museums

From: Southeastern Geographer
Volume 48, Number 3, November 2008
pp. 265-287 | 10.1353/sgo.0.0025



Historic house plantation museums are common across the southeastern United States. Often these museums depict an idealized vision of the past that heavily emphasizes the experiences and possessions of the wealthy, white planter class while ignoring the large enslaved community that lived and worked on the plantation. Previous researchers have noted how little is said about slavery at these historic sites and have called for more inclusive, socially responsible narratives. This article suggests that, in general, these calls for inclusion have not been fully realized, finding that slavery is often misrepresented on tours at plantation museum sites in North Carolina, which have gone largely unexplored until now. In documenting marginalization of slavery at plantation sites, I conduct: (1) a content analysis of the frequency of hearing references to the enslaved in docentled tours; and (2) a discourse analysis of the myths and representational strategies used by docents in framing public understanding of the history of slavery.

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