After Hurricane Ida swept through the tiny community of Wallace, Louisiana, the Banner family sought shelter in the sturdiest building they could find. It just so ended up being a plantation that their enslaved ancestors helped build.
NPR reports that twin sisters, Joy and Jo Banner, and their parents, Harriett and William, fled to the Big House on the Whitney plantation last Sunday. The family has lived in the small town for generations and say their enslaved ancestors helped construct the Creole plantation house 230 years ago for a German slave owner named Jean Jacques Haydel.
“Just being back here and going through the experience of being in the hurricane in that house, literally, that was our place of refuge,” Joy Banner said.
“It’s really made me appreciate the skill, the craftsmanship of the enslaved people. They were not able to have this kind of house for their own protection when a hurricane hit them.”
The historic building has since become a plantation museum, the first in the country that was dedicated to telling the slave experience. Joy Banner works as the Whitney Plantation’s communications director and took shelter there after the eye of Hurricane Ida passed right over the building.
“It was just so loud and it sounded like the train was coming through,” Harriett Banner said. “And you looked out and you saw the beautiful trees and they were just all over the place. It was terrifying.”
The family couldn’t help but reflect on the scarred family legacy they share with the plantation.
“It’s so ironic to run to the Big House,” Jo Banner said. “I never imagined as a descendant of the enslaved, that we’d be runnin’ to this house.”
“As much security and safety as the house provided us,” Joy added, “there’s still the sense of — you don’t belong here, like, the house is not for you.”