Date of Award
Master of Arts in American Studies (MAST)
Dr. Rebecca Hill
Dr. Luciane Rocha
In 1834, new living quarters emerged in the Main Street District of New Iberia for the Weeks family, who were prominent white sugar cane planters that owned a fully operating plantation twenty-five miles away. With their sixteen-room home sited twenty feet above the banks of the bayou, the Weeks family earned the reputation of flamboyant community members whose wealth was accumulated through the exploitation of enslaved African Americans. However, the ability to savor riches generated through the institution of slavery was short lived as the Union Army’s strategy of “Total War” threatened the prosperity of slave-owning families in the South. Unlike other plantations in the region, the Weeks’ property was spared after being used as an officer quarter for Union troops, allowing the home to be preserved years later as a museum of historical commemoration now known as Shadows-on-the-Teche. Initially, the narrative of the home’s tour site centered on the 125-year history of the Weeks family. Like many residents of New Iberia, my first introduction to The Shadows was through annual school field trips there before the Christmas holidays. Performances were put on where children reenacted rationalized versions of life at the plantation during its time of prominence. For years, there was public opposition from the town’s Black population because of The Shadow’s lack of inclusivity regarding former slaves and their descendants and flowery versions of how African Americans were treated while enslaved. Many Black residents argued that The Shadows did not fully acknowledge the extent of forced exploitation, further limiting the trust in a slave plantation’s ability to produce non-biased source information about the pasts of their ancestors.