In 2019, Color of Change, the country’s largest online racial justice organization, raised important issues regarding the practice of hosting weddings and other celebrations at historic slave plantation sites. In response, the National Trust for Historic Preservation hosted in December 2020 the Plantation Weddings Symposium, which brought together staff who work at the National Trust’s sites of enslavement, descendants of slavery, and public historians to work collectively to come up with new strategies, solutions, and questions on how to ethically steward sites of enslavement. The symposium was a collaboration between the National Trust's Historic Sites Department and the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund.
Reconsidering Celebrations at Sites of Enslavement continues that conversation by chronicling the history of sites of enslavement in the National Trust portfolio and the resulting actions taken by the National Trust to ethically steward those sites, while also providing initial guidance for other historic properties addressing similar considerations across the country.
The first three stories, written by Elon Cook Lee, the director of interpretation and education for the National Trust's historic sites, shares her personal history with this work, positions the National Trust’s legacy with sites of enslavement within the broader historical context, and outlines future plans and actions for our work on these issues.
Additional stories provide a look at wedding practices of enslaved men and women, guidelines for sites regarding marketing on online wedding platforms, and concludes with a case study from National Trust Historic Site Woodlawn and Pope-Leighey House.
This series is the next stop in a series of conversations, trainings, and convenings that the National Trust is committed to producing around this issue in the years to come.