3 Historic Louisiana plantations, Black cemetery to be impacted by proposed grain terminal, review finds

Published 2:00 pm Thursday, October 5, 2023

WALLACE – A historic Black cemetery, Whitney Plantation slavery museum, and two other historic plantations would be adversely impacted by a massive proposed grain terminal in Louisiana, a review by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has found.  

The burial ground is Willow Grove Cemetery, a small, community-run cemetery active since at least 1919. It is tied to the Willow Grove Benevolent Society, an African American social aid and charitable organization. The Willow Grove community consists of descendants from nearby Whitney Plantation, which is now a slavery museum, and the cemetery is where their ancestors, who were enslaved at Whitney, have been laid to rest.  

According to the review, “The visual and vibratory impacts will alter the cemetery’s integrity of setting, materials, and feeling, all important characteristics of the Willow Grove Cemetery.” 

The Descendants Project has requested that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers deny the permit for the proposed project by Greenfield Louisiana LLC, which would consist of more than 50 silos, at least one of which will reach the height of the Statue of Liberty.  

“To see it in black and white that the vibratory impacts are adversely affecting the remains of the community’s loved ones is especially disturbing. There’s no way to mitigate that type of adverse impact,” said Joy Banner, Co-founder of The Descendants Project and a local resident. 

In addition to Whitney Plantation, Evergreen Plantation and Oak Alley Plantation will also experience adverse impacts. Whitney Plantation is a National Register Historic District, and Evergreen Plantation and Oak Alley Plantation are National Historic Landmarks.   

The review notes that the Evergreen Plantation has a double row of 22 nearly identical cabins constructed for people once enslaved at the plantation. The construction and operation of the proposed terminal “will greatly diminish the integrity of the property’s setting, resulting in economic hardships on the property that will cause additional adverse effects later in time,” the review found. 

Similarly, the review said Whitney Plantation would be impacted by the “day and nighttime lighting, noise, traffic and vibratory impact” of the proposed project. Whitney Plantation is the only plantation in Louisiana that is exclusively focused on slavery and the lives and labor of the enslaved. The adverse impacts could impact its ability to continue educating the public. 

“We must not let Greenfield erase our community’s vital history,” said Jo Banner, co-founder of The Descendants Project. “Telling the story of our ancestors is vital to a true telling of the American story and bolsters the economic health of our community through heritage tourism. We call on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to deny this permit.”  

The Descendants Project was formed by sisters Jo and Joy Banner of Wallace, La., to preserve and protect the health, land and lives of the Black descendant community in Louisiana’s River Parishes. The organization won a key legal victory on Aug. 4 against the proposed operation when Judge Sterling Snowdy of the 40th District Court ruled the site must be returned to residential zoning.  

The Descendants Project is a 501c3 nonprofit organization established to support descendant communities in river parishes working together to dismantle the legacies of slavery and to achieve a healed and liberated future.