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Activist organizing protest of Latta Plantation after event scheduled for Juneteenth sparks backlash

Updated: Jun. 14, 2021 at 5:35 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - A historic plantation in Huntersville is facing backlash after the site manager created an event online that some people say is racist.

Site manager Ian Campbell created an event at the Latta Plantation titled, “Kingdom Coming” which was scheduled for this Saturday on Juneteenth.

Juneteenth is the holiday celebrating the freedom of slaves, but the description of the event did not match that.

It was supposed to be a representation of life in the waning days of the antebellum era. The post said the interactive event would introduce people to a character that’s referred to as “massa,” a term slaves used to address oppressors.

It went on to refer to slaves as “former bondsmen” and state that they took over his home and were “living high on the hog.”

It did not mention the struggle of slaves.

Mecklenburg County reached out to the organizers and the event was cancelled.

Mayor Vi Lyles also tweeted out that the plantation should know better.

“It was a smack in the face,” activist Kass Ottley told WBTV. “It really was. It was hurtful.”

Ottley says the description of the Kingdom Coming event, written by Latta Plantation site manager Ian Campbell, struck a nerve.

“What about the families that were bought, sold, beaten, tortured and still dealing with generational trauma?” she said. “There’s no mention of that.”

Ottley says her activism group Seeking Justice Charlotte will protest on Saturday, because she says this is not the first incident to cause concern.

In 2009, WBTV reported three black elementary school students on a field trip at the plantation were asked to play slave roles.

Ottley says Campbell was also behind that.

“It makes me think what else is being taught here what else have we missed?” she said.

Ian Campbell took responsibility for this event in a statement online, but did not apologize.

He did mention that he is African American in the post.

He also provided more context, writing in part: “To tell the story of these freedmen would be pointless if the stories of others were not included. Many of you may not like this but, their lives were intertwined, the stories of massa, the Confederate soldiers, the overseer, the displaced white families.”

Johnson C. Smith University assistant professor Dr. Aman Nadhiri agrees that teaching history requires multiple perspectives.

“How did others feel?” Dr. Nadhiri said. “It was a way of trying to explain how slavery was an integral part of the social fabric and economic fabric of North Carolina at the time.”

He says he believes the issue is not this event, but a lack of substantive curriculum in schools.

“There’s not enough education going on outside of this event for people to be able to put it in any real context,” he said. “The fear becomes someone will go to this event and whatever they learn at this event will be the only education that they have.”

Mecklenburg County is looking at its contract with the facility vendor regarding future programming.

County leaders will provide an update during Tuesday night’s Board of Commissioners Meeting.

Seeking Justice Charlotte will be out at the plantation protesting on Saturday from 3-4:30pm.

They ask that anyone who wants to come out to come after or in between Juneteenth celebrations.

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