When do we fail our history? – a perspective on an event, from Long Branch

Posted on December 31, 2013 by


This isn’t the way I planned on introducing my thoughts on Long Branch. I think the place is amazing, and under the new director, Nicholas Redding, has shown growth and incredible potential as a historic site… perhaps even reaching the status as the premier historic site of Clarke County, Virginia. As I’m only about fifteen minutes from the place, I hope to do what I can as a volunteer. I’ll revisit those thoughts in another post.

Long Branch

Long Branch

In the meantime, there appears to be some discussion about a performance planned there scheduled at another plantation, that drew a response (see this post), on the Long Branch blog, by Nicholas.

There are two things that catch my attention in Ani DiFranco’s refusal to come.

First, I noticed that the word “genocide”, was used in the piece in Huffington Post (… and DiFranco uses it on her post as well… see update 2, below) which I find so frequently overused. Slavery is, without a doubt, a subject that reaches to the depths of our souls, yet, I’m afraid that many have become consumed with looking at the subject from only one angle. It, in fact, has a multi-faceted story that often tends to rub us the wrong way. It shouldn’t, and we need to approach this with open minds.

Stairs used by slaves, at Long Branch

Stairs used by slaves, at Long Branch

Second, I find Nicholas’ remarks spot-on. Perhaps he said it best in this…

Glorification of slavery or an oversimplification of its cruelty is not acceptable. But tossing out all sites that work hard to tell that story in an inclusive and diverse way is equally unacceptable.

As a result of her decision on the event at Nottoway, Long Branch has extended an invitation to DiFranco. Will she reverse her position, and accept, and if so, how can we turn this into a learning experience… one that serves our history and the significance of our historic sites… for all that they are?

*In my haste this morning (I was apparently one cup behind on my coffee intake), I took this as DiFranco turning-down an event at Long Branch, when, in fact, it was at Nottoway Plantation. I’ve since adjusted my post to reflect this. 

*Update 2 – For those interested, here are Ani DiFranco’s actual remarks. She does, indeed, use the word “genocide”.