Louisiana family finds refuge from Hurricane Ida in house built by their enslaved ancestors

The Whitney Plantation is a museum dedicated to the history of enslaved people

Hurricane Ida hit the nation hard this week, but the state of Louisiana was perhaps affected the hardest. Countless families searched for shelter from the devastating winds and rain of the storm. One of them, the Banners, did so in a former plantation house that was built by their ancestors.

The Whitney Plantation in Wallace, Louisiana, is a museum dedicated to the history of enslaved people. It was originally a working sugarcane plantation owned by German planter and slave owner Ambroise Heidel, according to its official website.

Last week, the museum’s communications director, Joy Banner, fled to the museum’s white-columned big house with twin sister Jo, and their parents Harriett and William to escape the dangers of the storm over a 17 hour period, as reported by NPR. The Banner family has been settled in the area for generations. As it turns out, Joy and Jo’s enslaved ancestors were among the ones who helped build the Whitney plantation over 230 years ago.

Joy marveled at the strength of the house and its ability to withstand powerful storms over the years. “This was built in 1791,” Joy said. “It’s seen hurricanes before. It’s seen (Hurricane) Betsy (in 1965), and now it’s seen Ida, the next biggest storm to hit this parish.”

When the Banner family sought shelter from Hurricane Ida, they ended up in a Louisiana plantation home. “I never imagined as a descendant of the enslaved, that we’d be runnin’ to this house,” said a member of the family. https://t.co/Rustk1C7JH

— NPR (@NPR) September 5, 2021

However, the history of the plantation and the irony of seeking shelter in such a place was not lost on Joy and her family. “As much security and safety as the house provided us,” she said, “there’s still the sense of — you don’t belong here, like, the house is not for you.”

Hurricane Ida damaged parts of the Whitney, including sharecropper’s cabins and the slave-built Antioch Baptist Church. However, the big house and slave quarters remained standing.

The Category 4 storm was the fifth hardest hurricane to hit the mainland in America, and recovery in Louisiana had been initially uneven as various areas remained severely flooded and without electricity, as reported by the Associated Press.

President Joe Biden visited the Gulf Coast to assess the damage done to the state, including the communities of Laffite, Grand Isle, Port Fourchon and Lafourche Parish, which were among the hardest hit, as previously reported by theGrio.

Following his visit, Biden addressed the issues during a press conference, as reported by CNN. He spoke of his meeting with Louisiana lawmakers, such as Republican House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, Republican Senators Bill Cassidy and John Kennedy, Governor John Bel Edwards and New Orleans Democratic Mayor LaToya Cantrell.

“I think what we’re all seeing, and I’m getting the same response from my Republican friends here that are in the Congress, is that there’s nothing political about this. It’s just simply about saving lives and getting people back up and running, and we’re in this together,” Biden said. “And so we’re not going to leave any community behind, rural, city, coastal, and I promise to have your backs until this gets done.”

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