America needs more symbols memorializing slavery and John Cummings, a white southerner, has helped to make that happen.
He’s opened a museum at the Whitney Plantation, the first and only museum in the country dedicated solely to slavery. The Atlantic spoke with Cummings and produced a short video about his involvement with the museum and the stories it highlights.
“This isn’t black history we’re talking about, this is our national history. It’s my history, it’s your history,” Cummings told The Atlantic. “I would try my best to present the facts of slavery to all of the people I could find so that everyone would understand how strong the deck was stacked against the Africans here.”
Cummings spent about 16 years and more than $8 million on the project. He opened the museum last December with Ibrahima Seck, the museum’s director of research. In the video, Cummings admitted that he initially bought the plantation thinking of it only as an investment. He said that, like many white people, he was “living in ignorance” when it came to slavery.
“You got two sides, and blacks are screaming prejudice to the white side and the white side is looking and saying ‘Why don’t they get over it? Why can’t they get over it?'” Cummings said. “And the blacks don’t understand that the whites don’t know what the “it” is. We’re trying somehow, here, to define what the ‘it’ is.”
Learn more about the plantation and its history at The Atlantic.