Welcome to Down by the River, a bike ride designed to get you face to face with two powerful forces in Louisiana: our environment and our history.
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Our field trip, taken on bikes (though a trip via car is possible - If you are interested in booking a trip that is not on bikes, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org), examines the confluence of the environmental justice movement in Louisiana and the 1811 slave revolt. This tour is inspired by Margie Richard, the former President of Concerned Citizens of Norco. Margie led her community in a successful campaign for a fair buy out of homes contaminated by Shell Oil.
Margie invoked the past for power and inspiration. She often said, “If my ancestors were willing to be killed for standing up to slavery, I can surely stand up to Shell.”
The Slave Revolt of 1811 was the largest slave revolt in U.S. history, yet this revolt is little known even in the region it took place – New Orleans and the adjacent St. Charles Parish. Many of the descendants of the slave revolt comprised the Corps d’Afrique – the battalion of black soldiers who fought in the Civil War. This is a long proud history, but there are scars. The area continues to celebrate the history of the plantation owners, rarely referring to enslaved people. Instead, places like the Destrehan Plantation focus on the china and fancy furniture of the plantation homes. Unsuspecting visitors to the region get a distorted view, as if the wealth of the plantation owners is something to be admired.
The Whitney Plantation is the only plantation in the region that explores the experiences of enslaved people. The River Road African American Museum is an additional resource that honestly explores our region’s past.
Down by the River is an evolution of what has traditionally been called a Toxic Tour in which polluting sites – dumps, refineries, chemical plants – are toured. The Down by the River ride transforms a litany of depressing sites into powerful beacons of resistance. The past and the present are applied to today’s movement.
Down by the River is an antidote to the plantation tours that dominate our region. Book a bike ride today!