Excavating Occluded Histories at Destrehan Plantation: Afro-Creole Resistance from “Marguerite” to Beyoncé

Willson, Nicole Louise orcid iconORCID: 0000-0001-5935-9075 (2020) Excavating Occluded Histories at Destrehan Plantation: Afro-Creole Resistance from “Marguerite” to Beyoncé. Journal of American Studies, 54 (4). pp. 775-808. ISSN 0021-8758

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Official URL: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0021875819000021


This article interrogates the Creole plantation as a site and sight of memory. It presents a unique case study of Destrehan Plantation, a Creole plantation in St. Charles Parish, Louisiana, which, it argues, represents a crypt replete with occluded Afro-Creole histories. These histories speak not only to experiences of subjection and depredation, however, but to rebellious countercultures (represented by syncretic cultural practices), and to acts of collective insurgency (borne out, most potently, in the 1811 German Coast slave uprising). In its analytic enquiry, it engages in a process of what Derek Alderman and Rachel Campbell call “symbolic excavation” in order to penetrate the silences of the Creole plantation, and rehabilitate occluded unruly Afro-Creole voices. It nevertheless strives to go further by promoting interdisciplinary solutions for what it calls “affective memorialization” through what memory studies scholar Karen Till calls “artistic and activist memory-work.” It looks to the work of Hahnsville folk artist Lorraine Gendron and to Beyoncé Knowles Carter's 2016 visual album Lemonade as exemplars of such praxis. In so doing, it invites conversations about how slaveholding histories might be affectively reimagined, and how Afro-Creole histories can be made to service the needs of their descendants.

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