AfriGeneas States Research Forum
[LA] Children who lived on plantation reunite
Children who lived on plantation reunite
As adults, they realize they were 1 big family
Thursday, July 14, 2005
By Judy Creekmore
The children who grew up in the workers' quarters of LaPlace Plantation learned much from their parents. They learned to create facsimiles of what more prosperous families could afford to buy. They learned the value of education, even if they had to leave home to get it. They learned respect for others.
Forty-five of the children born in the 1930s to 1940s gathered at Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church in Reserve to share lessons learned in their childhood, bittersweet memories, and to honor their parents and other elders who taught by example.
Many traveled from the east and west coasts to attend the reunion.
LaPlace Plantation field workers raised their families on two streets, Main and Johnson, which were lined with green painted houses, recalled Joseph Narcisse, who now lives in New Orleans. Once owned by the Godchaux family, the area is now part of Carrollwood subdivision.
"About 10 to 15 years ago, my father and I tried to find information on LaPlace Plantation and the quarters but couldn't find any. It's almost like we didn't exist," Narcisse said. "Over the years, I thought about it and thought about it, and that's what led to this reunion."
With help from his sister, Yvonne Narcisse-Green, who lives in Maryland, and Yvonne Mason of LaPlace, they located former residents of the quarters.
Neither Narcisse nor Narcisse-Green know when or how their grandparents, Anatole and Ella Joseph Narcisse, arrived at LaPlace Plantation, only that it was before 1908 when their father, James, was born. He grew up on the plantation and married Noellie "Eveyln" Fabre from New Roads. They had three children, Joseph L., Martin and Yvonne.
At the reunion Narcisse-Green learned from the Rev. Joseph Batiste that her grandfather was a "knocker" or "stickman" on the plantation.
"When it was time for work, a knocker would come by all the houses about 4:30 or 5 a.m. and knock on everyone's gallery to wake them up," Narcisse-Green said. "My father was a field worker, and he was always up before the stickman got to our house so he wouldn't wake up the family."
Narcisse-Green recalled that her father worked most months of the year on some aspect of sugar cane. "Everything was done by hand. Cutting, planting, piling cane. A typical day would be to return home for dinner at noon, then work until five or six o'clock most of the year," she said.
Mrs. Narcisse was a homemaker and seamstress for others who worked on the plantation. She also baby-sat for families with both parents working in the fields.
Narcisse-Green said her most vivid memories are of her father chopping wood, not only for his family, but also for others who needed help. "The quarters community was just a family of people who were not related," she said. "These are things you don't realize until you are grown, and you miss them like you miss your own family. This is the kind of things we talked about at the reunion."
Narcisse and Narcisse-Green recalled how everyone worked hard during the week, and then walked miles to services at Providence Baptist Church in the Woodland area of LaPlace every Sunday. The Rev. Willie Smith, who worshipped with his family so many years ago, is now pastor of the church.
The children of the field workers were taught in a one-room school that only went to eighth grade. The Narcisse children went to live with Mrs. Narcisse's family in New Orleans so they could get a better education, going back to the quarters during holidays and summers.
"All our parents wanted a better life for their children, and they showed how we could achieve it by example," Narcisse said. "That's why we came here to pay homage to our parents. No matter what their lives are like now, no matter where these people went, they still hold high regards for their parents and others who lived in the quarters."