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Plantation site manager refuses to apologize after criticism over planned Juneteenth event

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An event at the Historic Latta Plantation in North Carolina was cancelled after it sparked backlash for its focus on ‘white refugees’. This image was taken on 15 April 2006.  (Brian Leon/Flickr)
An event at the Historic Latta Plantation in North Carolina was cancelled after it sparked backlash for its focus on ‘white refugees’. This image was taken on 15 April 2006. (Brian Leon/Flickr)

The site manager of the Historic Latta Plantation in North Carolina is refusing to apologize after an event planned for Juneteenth sparked an online backlash.

The description of the event, entitled “Kingdom Coming,” which was planned for 19 June – the day commemorating the end of slavery in the US, outraged many.

Large parts of the description were about the experiences of white people, saying: “White refugees have been displaced and have a story to tell as well.”

The description added that attendees at the Historic Latta Plantation north of Charlotte would also hear from defeated Confederate soldiers.

The since-deleted description said: “You will hear stories from the massa himself who is now living in the woods. Federal troops (Yankees) have him on the run and his former bondsmen have occupied his home and are now living high on the hog. Hear how they feel about being freedmen.”

A backlash started to form against the event, which was subsequently cancelled.

Commenters expressed their outrage on the plantation’s Facebook page.

“This should not even need to be said, but the idea of ‘hearing from massa himself,’ and sympathizing with an overseer who is no longer allowed to enslave people is disgusting,” one person wrote.

“My job will be to continue to educate,” site manager Ian Campbell, a Black man, said in a statement on the plantation’s website. “Historic Latta Plantation’s narrative will be to give a voice to our ancestors enslaved and as freedmen who were denied a voice. We will speak for them in a compassionate, accurate, and sensitive manner.”

“Many of you may not like this but, their lives were intertwined, the stories of massa, the Confederate soldiers, the overseer, the displaced white families,” Mr Campbell added.

The plantation is located just northwest of Charlotte, North Carolina. The city’s mayor, Vi Lyles, tweeted: “On June 19, 1865, known as Juneteenth, 250,000 enslaved Black people were declared free by executive decree. That day should be celebrated and honoured in the most humble way possible, with laser focus on the perspective of the inhumane treatment of an enslaved people.

“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. And the Historic Latta Plantation should know better.”

Mr Campbell said the main reason for the cancellation of the event was because of “security concerns for volunteers and staff”, blaming the media for starting a “social media frenzy”.

“It was not until after the social media frenzy that Latta received numerous emails and phone calls about the event,” he said, adding that he created the event himself along with others.

“To the masses on social media and politicians, no apology will be given for bringing a unique program to educate the public about former slaves becoming FREE!,” Mr Campbell wrote on the site.

The “Confederacy will never be glorified, white supremacy will never be glorified, plantation owners, white refugees or overseers will never be glorified,” he added.

“What will be commemorated is the story of our people who overcame being snatched from their loved ones in Mother Africa and taken to a new and strange land,” Mr Campbell said. “To work from can see to can’t see from birth to death. The fact that they survived and we are here and continue to thrive and prosper will be glorified.”

Mecklenburg County is in charge of the nature preserve where the Latta Plantation is located. The county said in a statement on Friday that they have “zero tolerance for programs that do not embrace equity and diversity”.

The town of Huntersville said in a statement that “funding for the new fiscal year will remain on hold pending further investigations into the facts surrounding this program”.

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