Although the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, under construction in Washington, will exhibit slave quarters recovered from South Carolina, they will lack visceral touches like the Whitney Plantation’s relentless humid heat and distant trains. — Eve M. Kahn, “A Restored Louisiana Plantation and Its Lifeblood,” New York Times, July 26, 2013.
This is cute writing, but it is also truth. I stood shakily at the edge of a North Carolina tobacco field one July, the sun like a ball-peen hammer on the crown of my head, and wept when a horsefly ripped a divot from my forearm. It is humbling, and terrifying, to consider the everyday of the lives of my ancestors, and nothing quite drives the imagination like one’s own acute physical discomfort.