A racist event description, promising to tell the story of “white refugees” and defeated Confederate soldiers, was abruptly removed Friday by the Historic Latta Plantation after backlash.
On its website and on social media, the living history museum promoted the $25 ticketed event, called “Kingdom Coming,” which was set to take place starting at 7 p.m. next Saturday, on Juneteenth, a holiday that commemorates the emancipation of slaves in the United States.
The event has since been canceled. Latta Plantation is in Huntersville, just outside Charlotte.
The event’s description, which didn’t acknowledge the significance of June 19, started with lines from a mournful slave spiritual some scholars say is aligned with the Underground Railroad: “Swing low, sweet chariot, coming for to carry me home.”
The event billing is sympathetic to those who owned slaves in the aftermath of emancipation, and inaccurately minimizes an unnamed slaveowner to an “overseer,” referring to him as “massa.” The post on Latta Plantation’s site also refers to “freedmen” but inexplicably omits that Black people were enslaved in the United States for nearly 250 years. Instead, the museum’s site refers to slaves as “former bondsmen.”
The description of the event said attendees would hear from a slaveowner who had been chased out of his house by “Yankees” and his former slaves, who were now “living high on the hog,” a reference to better cuts of meat, which white slaveowners deprived Black people from having.
“White refugees have been displaced and have a story to tell as well,” it read. “Confederate soldiers who will be heading home express their feelings about the downfall of the Confederacy.”
After the event was posted on the plantation’s Facebook page, several reviews criticized the plantation, calling the Juneteenth event “absolutely disgusting” and “unbelievable.”
Mecklenburg County released a statement Friday afternoon about the incident.
“Mecklenburg County has zero tolerance for programs that do not embrace equity and diversity. Park and Recreation was not aware of the planned event at Latta Nature Preserve until it appeared on social media,” the statement reads. “We immediately reached out to the organizers and the event was canceled. As a result of this incident, Mecklenburg County is looking at its contract with the facility vendor regarding future programming.”
Added Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles on Twitter 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,” Lyles said. “And the Historic Latta Plantation should know better.”
Juneteenth, she said, “should be celebrated and honored in the most humble way possible, with laser focus on the perspective of the inhumane treatment of an enslaved people.”
Huntersville withholding contribution pending review
The town of Huntersville also issued a statement on Twitter saying town officials support Mecklenburg County’s “zero tolerance” for such programs.
The Huntersville Board of Commissioners is withholding its annual contribution to the center “pending further investigations into the facts surrounding this program,” according to the town statement.
That requested contribution is $20,000, town Commissioner Stacy Phillips said on Twitter.
Latta Place Inc. is the nonprofit whose mission is to preserve the historic plantation site. According to its 2018 tax return, the most recent available online, it had total revenue of $328,276 and total expenses of $422,928.
Prior concerns about Latta Plantation
This isn’t the first time the Charlotte-area plantation has come under fire. In 2009, a Black tour guide picked three Black students out of a mostly white group from Union County Schools to help re-enact the lives of slaves.
Latta Plantation officials said there was no malicious intent.
A spokesperson at Latta Plantation couldn’t be reached for comment by the Observer on Friday, but an operator previously told a reporter that a statement will be released. As of Saturday afternoon, no statement had been released.
Staff Writer Joe Marusak and Editor Adam Bell contributed.