Plantation tours across the south are finally including the ugly truth about the history of slavery on their properties––and some visitors are unhappy about it.
At Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello estate in Virginia, where slaves built, planted and tended a terrace of vegetables, a white woman interrupted the tour guide’s explanation.
“Why are you talking about that? You should be talking about the plants,” she said, Gary Sandling, vice president of Monticello’s visitor programs and services, told The Washington Post.
That is not the only plantation tour that is starting to incorporate the truth and real history of slavery. Other places are adding slavery-focused tours, rebuilding slave cabins and reconstructing the lives of the enslaved with help from their descendants.
Backlash has been seen in person by the tour guides as well as in online reviews, The Washington Post reported.
McLeod Plantation, located in Charleston, S.C., had a review where a visitor complained that she “didn’t come to hear a lecture on how the white people treated slaves.”
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Most of the negative reviews of Monticello this year are complaining about the tour’s focus on slaves, instead of on Jefferson.
One gem of a review read: “For someone like myself, going to Monticello is like an Elvis fan going to Graceland. Then to have the tour guide essentially make constant reference to what a bad person he really was just ruined it for me.”
But tours are pushing forward anyway in being more accurate about how the lives of the enslaved really were. At Monticello, slaves were once called “Mr. Jefferson’s people” during the tour. Now they are called “enslaved people” –– not “the souls of his family,” as Jefferson frequently referred to the people he kept in bondage.
Last year, Monticello opened a room once home to Sally Hemings amid growing evidence that Jefferson was the father of her children.
“We’ve been waiting, you know, for this story, for this amount of truth about the past,” said Niya Bates, Monticello’s director of African American history.
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