CONVERSATIONS ABOUT THE PAST
Levi Jordan Plantation
by Carol McDavid
Many, many newspaper articles and TV stories have been written about the Levi Jordan Plantation in the past 70 years.
Media in recent years
Most of the stories in recent years have focused on archaeological excavations that have taken place in the slave and tenant quarters of the plantation. Some of them reflect the attitudes of the archaeologists and members of the descendant community who have been involved with the project through the years who are, for the most part, people who want "the whole story" (whatever that is) of the plantation to be told. Some of these articles do a good job of talking about archaeology and the kinds of new information it can reveal about the past.
Sometimes, however, these recent articles depict a somewhat "romantic" view of archaeology, especially when a reporter somehow thinks that archaeology is a bit like the way it was depicted in "Raiders of the Lost Ark". They also occasionally sensationalize the parts of the history of the plantation that are unpleasant for people in the present to deal with. It's not always easy for a descendant of a slave-owner to talk about his or her ancestors' lives, and it's also not easy for the descendants of the people who were enslaved to talk about their ancestors' experiences. It takes a pretty sensitive reporter to write an article that talks about "hurtful histories" in a way that doesn't just do more damage, and there have been some articles in recent years that have been painful for project participants to deal with.
Media in the past
Earlier stories, especially those from 1927 - the 1950's, focused on the lives of the owners of the plantation. They hardly mentioned the Africans and African-Americans at all, or, when they did, they didn't talk about what it was like to live as a slave or as a tenant farmer on the plantation in the early days. They portray a romanticized view of the south, a view which doesn't do justice to the hard work and sacrifice of the owners of the plantation and their families, or to the people who were enslaved by them and, later, worked for them as tenant farmers and sharecroppers. Look again at the picture of the plantation house on this page this sure wasn't "Tara", even though it was one of the largest sugar plantations in Texas.
What's the point of studying these articles?
In the future (perhaps by late 1999) we want to include the text of some of them on this web site (after we get the copyright permissions and so forth). The reason we want to do this is because those articles can tell us a story about they ways that "history talk" has changed in the past 70 years.
This is important, because the way we talk about history influences what we know about history. We want to look at that, and provide a place for you to discuss it with us.
In the meantime, if you have any old articles you'd like to share, let us know! We have a lot, but I doubt we have them all!
HOME * Conversations * Words * Archaeology * History * Ethnography * Community * Media * Descendants
& others * People in the Past * Kids * Bibliography * Definitions * Links * Maps * Search * Table of
For information about this site or this project, contact or .
‹ Carol McDavid 1998