Museum loses contract over event deemed racially insensitive
Published 11:50 pm Tuesday, June 15, 2021
By Tom Foreman Jr.
WINSTON-SALEM — A North Carolina county cut ties on Tuesday with a historic museum that planned to put on a reenactment of a white slave owner being pursued by Union soldiers.
According to WBTV, Mecklenburg County will let its contract expire next month with the Historic Latta Plantation Nature Preserve over the controversial event that many deemed as racially insensitive. The county had been working with the museum since the 1970s.
The reenactment was scheduled for June 19 – the traditional commemoration date of the emancipation of enslaved people in the United States, known as “Juneteenth.”
Officials in Mecklenburg County said via Twitter on Friday that the performances at Latta Plantation, which among other things would have portrayed Confederate soldiers lamenting the downfall of the Confederacy, would not take place as previously announced.
“We immediately reached out to the organizers and the event was cancelled,” the tweet said.
The county said it has “zero tolerance” for programming that does not represent equity and diversity. As a result, the county said it was reviewing its contract with the facility vendor regarding future programming.
A screen grab from the museum website showed people were invited to the one-night event to hear stories from a “massa,” or an actor portraying the owner of an enslaved person during a time when federal troops were pursuing those who owned slaves. The word mocks the Black pronunciation of “master.”
Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles tweeted late Friday: “We should not support any business or organization that does not respect equality, history, and the truth of the African-American people’s journey to freedom. Despite intent, words matter.”
She added in a separate tweet of the June 19th anniversary that it should be “honored in the most humble way possible, with laser focus on the perspective of the inhumane treatment of an enslaved people.”
While the Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves in the South in 1863, it wasn’t enforced in many places until after the end of the Civil War two years later. Confederate soldiers surrendered in April 1865, but word didn’t reach the last enslaved Black people until June 19, when Union soldiers brought the news of freedom to Galveston, Texas.
The plantation and museum is described on its webpage as a circa 1800 living history museum and farm, once the site of a cotton plantation. It offers educational and school programs featuring animals, workshops, camps, and reenactments, and the grounds include a carriage barn, cabins, and outbuildings.
In 2009, three Black students from a Union County elementary school were chosen out of a group on a field trip to the plantation to portray slaves, angering parents and leading the school to cancel future field trips to the site.