I have recently visited one of the older plantations in South Carolina. The plantation is a bit less than 400 years old. The entry of miles in length is the same and the standing trees covered with tangled moss remain, but the rice fields are now immersed in water and become swamps. The swamp is heavily covered with moss, desolate, and deserted. However, the intense green surface decorated with brown fallen needles and leaves looks quite beautiful.
We took an isolated path by the swamp hoping to capture a few tropical birds images, but I got nothing at all except mucho mosquito bites that I am still recovering from. I took a few pictures of crocodiles, peacocks, herons, and such, but they are not my subjects on a plantation. Not born here and not as deeply educated in American history, I was driven by my curiosity to be here. I love this country and my interest in its historical background is growing the longer I live here.
Out of everything I saw, the miles-long Entranceway and the Cabins are what stirred me up the most. You may think it is strange and I cannot explain why either. I think it must be a drastic task for the slaves who tried to escape from the plantation bare-footed beating through nasty bushes, wading through rice fields, and still had to walk the miles to get out of the property. The cabins are sitting in the original location. Though they are being preserved to stay intake, the building structure and furnishings inside can still trigger your imagination. When I read ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’ as a student, I could not quite relate to what’s described in the book, and now it begins to unfold and I am saddened…
Imagine this: The owners of the plantation dressed up in luxurious Chinese silk and linen, topped with stylish hats and ties, are sipping coffee from bone china cups and looking out the green acres. Beyond the green, many slaves were working and sweating during the day and sheltered in the small cabins which had absolutely basic belongings.
The boarded walls do not match up with the solid white columns. The simple woodwork cannot compare with Georgian-style architecture. The bed with simple wiring as a base, I doubt, offers any comfort to sleep on at all. How does it compare to the Victorian canopy bed with fancy drapery?
The good news is, the owner of this plantation used Bible to educate his slaves. According to the tour guide, some slaves even chose to stay at the plantation up to this day. Some of them may have left the plantation, but I believe quite a few still live in the area.
I had one occasion trying to just generate a friendly conversation with a black lady who was weaving baskets, but I was discouraged by her unresponsive face . At a restaurant, I tried to give my Thanks to a black waiter whenever he came by, but he never looked me in the eyes and had no expression on his face whatsoever. These may just be something personal, but I think the hurt and impact from that horrendous era have resulted a gap that will take generations to mend and to bond.
Supposedly we were born to be equal, but the intelligence and opportunity are gifted to the individuals unequally. We will always be different from each other to certain degree. How we find the balance in between and learn to be content with what we are capable of is the key. The lofty should never exploit the lowly and the lowly should understand what better quality is and thrive to make improvement.