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Images from Laura Plantation website

Laura Plantation is a Creole Plantation in Vacherie, Louisiana. The Creole culture is a blending of three different influences; the French, West African and Native American. It was class and not race that determined social status in Creole Louisiana. Creole Women were very independent and successful as Plantation managers. The Creoles of this time period spoke French and maintained their own separate existence from the White Anglo Protestant. The Plantation was originally owned by Laura’s great great grandfather, Guillaume Duparc, whom was a French Naval officer during the American Revolution and was awarded the land by Thomas Jefferson. Duparc bought more of the surrounding land from the Acadians. It was originally an Indian village of the Colapissa Indians. The Manor House was built-in 1804 in the West Indies style with long porches, both upstairs and down, by highly skilled slave labor from French Senegal These slaves were the main influence for music, cuisine and architecture and lifestyle for the Creole Culture. The Mississippi River is 600 feet from the house, the levies had to be built up to prevent flooding in the 1920’s by the Corps of Engineers under the Hoover administration.

Four generations of the Duparc women ran the plantation after Guillaume Duparc’s death in 1808. When it came into Laura’s hands, she had to sell the plantation during an economic downturn. She married a protestant man from St.Louis where she lived out her life, she had become an American housewife. She had sold the plantation to an Alsatian family, the Waguespack’s and stipulated in the sale that the name of the plantation had to remain, The Laura Plantation. The Waguespack’s kept it as a sugar plantation until 1981. Descendants of the slaves from Laura Plantation still live in this area. Laura had written a 5,000 page memoir with all the documentation of the property’s history and it found its way to the current owners through all their efforts and research which led them to find more about the family. They have created a Creole Cultural Center at laura Plantation,that is wonderful and educational with the most entertaining guides who know their Louisiana history well. It is down to 13 acres and 27 buildings on the property, with 1,500 acres of sugar cane growing around it. Br’er Rabbit was written on the property by a visitor who overhead the workers telling the stories to the children in Creole French.

Code Noir was a Creole set of rules to follow with slaveowners.
You had to be Catholic to own slaves.
The slave had to be brought up Catholic.
Sex with a slave was prohibited.
They had to be provided with adequate food, shelter and clothing.
Slaves could not be tortured, but could be punished.
Slaves could chose who they wanted to marry.
If a slave injured a free person he could be executed.

There are many more rules if you look up Code Noir.

The slaves there lived into their 80’s and 90’s, free persons there lived to be over a hundred.

Laura’s grandmother bought 30 teenage girls and had them impregnated so she could have a crop of children on the far. She built 65 cabins for them, now only four are left. I have a feeling she would be really mad if she knew that.

Was in one of the slave quarters on the wall (date unknown)

Two families would have lived here photographed by Susan Grissom

On the wall in the slave quarters

photograph by Susan Grissom

photographed by Susan Grissom

photographed by Susan Grissom

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photographed by Susan Grissom

photograph by Susan Grissom

photographed by Susan Grissom

photographed by susan Grissom

photographed by Susan Grissom

In the bedroom of Laura Plantation

This portrait is behind a mirror and a ceiling cord turns a light on that makes her appear on the wall, but no one, seemed to notice it on the tour. The story behind the portrait is that the young lady in this painting died young, because her parents wanted her to be perfect,but she had a skin condition. They took her to Paris to be treated, the doctors in Paris gave her a series of poisons to clear up the condition, but it killed her instead. They made a death mask of her face, so they could have an exact portrait of her and they brought her back to Vacherie to be buried. The room this portrait was in, was the room where her Mother locked herself in and did not come out for thirty years, until her own death, she suffered such guilt.

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No sooner had I posted the last post about Michael P. Smith, that I received a press release that Debbie Fleming Caffery had received the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, “Michael P. Smith Documentary Photography Award”. I have studied with Debbie at the New Orleans Photography Workshop and she is truly amazing. She has been photographing people in Louisiana for over 30 years, the sugar cane workers, Cajun culture and the aftermath of Katrina. She completed a Fellows project for the Open Society Foundation that George Soros started in 1984 for the Fellows Project, in which she documented the effect of Katrina on the African American community, which can be viewed here.

Workers burning the sugar cane after harvest in Louisiana


Form 1995 Cajun Mardi Gras

Congratulations Debbie, no one deserved this award more.