Historic Latta Plantation Closes Until Further Notice Over Event Controversy

Update (6/17/21):

The Historic Latta Plantation criticized for a planned reenactment of a white slave owner being pursued by Union soldiers says its doors will be closed until further notice, a local department said.

The Mecklenburg Park and Recreation Department announced Thursday that the Historic Latta Plantation is closed and all previously scheduled events are canceled while the department assesses the future use of the county-owned property, the agency said on its website. The house and the grounds also will be closed, the department said.

The 19th-century house is owned by Mecklenburg County, while a nonprofit operates the facilities and runs the events at the plantation site.

On Tuesday, Mecklenburg County announced it would let its contract with the museum expire next month over the controversial event that many deemed as racially insensitive.

The reenactment was scheduled for June 19, the traditional commemoration date of the emancipation of enslaved people in the U.S. known as “Juneteenth.” On Thursday, President Joe Biden signed legislation making Juneteenth a federal holiday.

Update (6/16/21):

Mecklenburg 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.

The 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.

Original Story (6/14/21):

Photo credit: Queen City Nerve and Historic Latta Plantation

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. — The manager of a historical museum in Huntersville is defending himself from criticism that an event he planned offered a sympathetic portrayal of slaveowners.

Ian Campbell, site manager of the Historic Latta Plantation, posted a statement Saturday on the plantation’s website saying that he will never glorify the Confederacy, white supremacy or plantation owners. He accused the media of a rush to judgement.

Latta canceled its Juneteenth program “Kingdom Coming” after complaints emerged about a promotion for the event. The event description seemed in parts to mirror the perspective of a re-enactor who says attendees “will hear stories from the massa himself” and offered sympathetic commentary about a white overseer who no longer had slaves to oversee.

The word ‘massa’ mocks the Black pronunciation of ‘master.’

The event was canceled Friday amid criticism of the event by Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles and others. The plantation is operated by a nonprofit corporation but Mecklenburg County owns the property, according to a news outlet.

Campbell, who is Black, said the event was canceled out of concern for staff safety, but local activists are still planning a protest at the plantation Saturday at 3 p.m.

“I mean just the wording, the disrespect to minimalize what happened to slaves and our ancestors and black people is ridiculous,” says Kass Ottley, founder of Seeking Justice CLT.

Juneteenth commemorates the tradition June 19 date of the emancipation of enslaved people in the United States.