Ignorant of Evil

June 23, 2020

My husband standing with former plantation resident of Oakland Plantation and president of  the Natchitoches Genealogical and Historical Association Elvin Shields.

Ignorant of Evil?

An interview with a plantation resident

If you forget that which made us evil, we are no less evil, only ignorant of the evil.

I originally wrote this post three years ago. I was unaware at the time that there were still so many injustices in our community, but I feel that this man’s story is as relevant as ever.

Today’s Environment

A couple of weeks ago, my daughter and I drove from Georgia to Texas. Admittedly, I was a bit nervous with all of the riots and looting going on.

Let me tell you what we discovered instead.

We drove through Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana- stopping in cities such as Jackson, Mississippi to get gas.

Most of the towns we were in were predominately black. Most of the people we met were African American. Everyone treated us with kindness (except for one lady who wouldn’t let us use the restroom, but that was not about race).

If it weren’t for the news, we wouldn’t have known that a race war was raging America.

What to Do?

I have heard many opinions on where we have gone wrong as a country with regard to race relations and systemic racism, and how we should fix it.

One of the responses included tearing down statues of confederate soldiers, abolitionists, and even of Jesus! I do not agree that destroying historical statues is the answer. Do we want to become ignorant of evil?

**ORIGINAL POST**

I just got married. The man in the black t-shirt, that’s my husband. He is amazing and I could go on for hours about all of the reasons I love him.

This post, however, is about another man. The man standing next to him. His name is Elvin Shields. He is the president of the Natchitoches Genealogical and Historical Association.

The day before I snapped this picture, we went on an adventure of sorts, taking many pictures of flowers, trees, butterflies, even a feisty little squirrel.

Feisty squirrel on the Oakland Plantation.
Feisty Squirrel on the Oakland Plantation

The Adventure

My husband and I love history and so we ventured onto a plantation called the Oakland Plantation. We were fortunate enough to have a park ranger give us a tour of the main house- the “Master’s House”.

I have read many books about the era and I wasn’t surprised that they had slaves, or that only some of the slaves were allowed at the main house.

I WAS surprised that the slaves lived UNDER the house. They had a room under the house and would come up the stairs into the family’s rooms when summoned.

I had always assumed that the slaves had smaller rooms in the main house- maybe it was that way on some plantations.

Park Ranger giving a tour of the slave quarters under the main house at Oakland Plantation.
Park Ranger showing us the slave’s quarters under the main house.

We also got the chance to view the Overseer’s house and slave quarters. Just little rooms really. In the slave quarters, there are two pictures of beautiful women who lived there. They are Elvin’s mother and sister. Elvin grew up on Oakland plantation. His parents were former slaves, turned sharecroppers. You can also see toys that he made while living at the plantation and a replica of the plantation that he built out of wire.

Beautiful red wildflowers in front of the overseers house on Oakland Plantation.
Beautiful wildflowers in front of the overseers house.

I, like most people, have lived most of my life in my own little bubble. This day, my bubble expanded and I learned things that I never thought about before.

Words of Wisdom

Elvin was more than eager to tell his story to us. There was no malice in his voice. No hatred of “white people”. He did NOT wish to have statues or the plantation and slave quarters torn down as you might think. Elvin simply wanted his story heard.

We were told of the three “races” that lived in the area… The white plantation owners, the black slaves, and the creoles who were neither white nor black, but a melting pot like much of America is now.

He told us how the problem is not really about race at all, but about the culture and about learning to live together in a place that doesn’t forget and change is hard to grasp.

He talked of when “freedom” came. Yes, the slaves were free to go, but where would they go? They had little to no education, they knew no trades other than farming, and upkeep on the plantations. There was no family to go home to.

So the slaves stayed and became sharecroppers, which was little more than slavery in itself. Then with the mechanization of the plantations, they were suddenly turned out. They are still in the town, in the “black” section of Natchitoches.

Elvin told us that he is worried about the future that doesn’t know it’s own history, for the families in the city with young girls “breeding” and young men getting arrested for petty crimes.

Then he spoke of the young people who get educated and take the first ticket out of the old town- about the older uneducated generation that still lives there and can only live what they know.

He spoke of all of this with such urgency and passion, that we dare not tear ourselves away (even if we were on our honeymoon, and were learning of things that were not comfortable to hear).

His passion and urgency though were not to tear down the statue or pretend like there was no slavery so that we can move on and live happily side by side. His passion and urgency were to tell the story- HIS story- “Remember” he said, “Remember”.

Black mother in the hospital mourning the loss of her daughter, and holding onto her tiny toes.
Momma A looking at the tiny toes of her precious baby girl

The Evils of Today

Personally having witnessed abuses of a black mother whose baby died as the result of a doctor ignoring her symptoms, and having held her hand as she asked why her baby wasn’t crying during her c-section, having held the too-small baby who never got a chance at life… It angers and grieves me that we can still treat people this way. We cannot be ignorant of this evil. We MUST do better!

I have stood outside of the abortion clinic in Savannah and watched as mostly black mothers go in to have their babies aborted. I’ve spoken with the fathers who don’t feel like they have a choice in the decision because it’s “her body”- yet they have no idea that over 40% of the African American population was aborted last year. Don’t their lives matter? We cannot be ignorant of this evil. We MUST do better!

If you forget that which made us evil, we are no less evil, only ignorant of the evil.

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