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Professor Uses Plantations to Examine Race in America

Reconstructed slave cabins at Oak Alley Plantation along Louisiana’s River Road represent a recent effort to offer tourists more history about slavery. Oak Alley is one of the study sites in Alderman’s NSF-funded project. Photo credit: Arnold Modlin, Jr.

Reconstructed slave cabins at Oak Alley Plantation along Louisiana’s River Road represent a recent effort to offer tourists more history about slavery. Oak Alley is one of the study sites in Alderman’s NSF-funded project. Photo credit: Arnold Modlin, Jr.

As the nation pauses to recognize civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. next Monday, a UT professor is reflecting on the country’s racial history in a different way—by examining plantations.

Derek Alderman, head of the university’s geography department, has received $62,000 from the National Science Foundation to study how the representation of Southern slavery at tourism sites is changing. The research will use plantations to understand ongoing debates about race relations, racism, and white supremacy within the United States.

“Plantations are one of the widely recognized symbols of the South and play an important role in the modern interpretation of Southern history,” said Alderman. “The sites have traditionally remained silent about the lives and struggles of the enslaved community. But, recent evidence indicates they are increasingly bringing the struggles front and center.”

According to Alderman, this transformation has been underanalyzed.

Continue reading at tntoday.utk.edu.