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Racialized Geographies and Southern Identity

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Candace Forbes Bright
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Situated just outside of Charleston, South Carolina, Middleton Place Plantations and Gardens must surely rank among the most beautiful places in the Southeastern United States. These “oldest formal gardens in North America,” feature structural elements found at Versailles as well as a terraced lawn sloping down to the Ashley River. During peak season in early April, almost 1500 people come each day to gaze at the plethora of azaleas reflected in the still waters of the mill pond, or to photograph the amazing variety of wildlife that make the gardens their home.
Candace Forbes Bright
added 3 research items
This article examines the responses of 448 tourists to an exit survey at four Louisiana River Road tourist plantations. We investigate and discuss the relationships between the demographics of the tourists and their interests as they relate to tourist plantations. Cluster analysis of the visitors' interests indicates that visitors typically fall into one of four interest clusters: “Everything is great!”; “Culture and the Enslaved”; Culture without the Enslaved”; or “Everything is just Okay”. Several plantation managerial and theoretical implications are discussed, as well as suggestions for future research directions.
This paper examines owners of plantation heritage tourism sites as memorial entrepreneurs who control and negotiate the inclusion and specific treatment of the history of African enslavement. Interviews with owners of four South Louisiana plantations are used to document and analyse their complex relationship with the topic of slavery. Interviewed owners reveal varying understandings of tourist demand for the inclusion of slavery on tours and differences in their own personal desire to advertise and fully narrate enslaved heritage. Indeed, owners continue to propagate common myths surrounding the nature of slavery. Conceptualizing owners as memorial entrepreneurs has implications for understanding the interpretation and delivery of heritage tourism not only as a product but also a set of social values about the past.
Tourists come to museums with varied expectations and leave appreciating different aspects of their presentations. Thus, tourists/audiences are primed to see, hear, and experience certain representations and narratives when they enter museums. This is particularly so with plantation museums. Most Americans possess at the very least a vague sense of the antebellum South. They have a vague sense of a time and of a place populated by wealthy and esteemed plantation owners and their Black enslaved labor. We use, as our raw material, visitors’ responses to the question: “What is your level of interest in ...,” ten topics related to plantations’ presentations. This question was asked of visitors returning from tours at three plantation museums. Specifically, all three differ in their presentation of enslavement and as so, have been selected to represent the spectrum of plantation museums in regards to presentation of slavery and enslaved labor. It is expected that the differences in presentations at the three sites reflect differences in plantation audiences. To this effect, plantation audiences are mapped and viewed through the framework of social representation theory in an attempt to discern social representation communities using visitors’ levels of interest in topics/items presented on plantation tours at sites. Disregarding incidental cultural tourists, we found there to be basically two social representations that visitors to these three plantation museums hold: a nostalgic social representation and a Janus social representation.