An Apology on the Plantation

By: Chaunte McClure

Kingsley Plantation

Whenever I decide to go on vacation, I usually don’t plan daily activities in advance. It was no different on my spring break to the Sunshine State. The one thing I was sure of is that I wanted to go to the beach. Down I-26 to I-95 we traveled for a weekend getaway. I wanted to stay in Jacksonville Beach, but it seemed impossible to find a vacancy in that area. We found a quieter spot in what must be one of Florida’s best kept secrets – Amelia Island. (Or maybe it’s that I don’t get out much.) It’s just off the coast of northeast Florida and we got to enjoy the crashing waves of Fernandina Beach. I just love the sound of the ocean! After arriving, we relaxed a while and took a walk on the beach before sitting a spell to continue enjoying the sights and sounds. Just before going up to the room, I asked a manager for restaurant recommendations. She gave us a few, but we went with the casual option – The Salty Pelican. No regrets at all. Good food, good service and a good filling.

The next morning I savored the sunrise, then gave some thought to things to do. After breakfast, our first stop was Kingsley Plantation. A class I was taking on African American Church History prompted this memorable visit.

While driving down the nearly two-mile dirt road, I wondered what life was like for slaves back then, as I did most of the time I was there. I think there were a couple dozens of visitors there, one group and a few families.

Once upon a time I would have never set foot on a plantation, but I’ve gotten past those reservations that once kept me away. While scrolling the grounds, walking from the barn towards a nearby interpretive sign, I noticed an older white lady taking a couple glances at us as we approached. She seemed a bit uncomfortable, but she said hello and asked, “Do you mind if I ask you something?” Two young girls, who I later learned were her grandchildren, seemed embarrassed that their grandmother had asked. Nervously, she proceeded, “As African Americans, how does it make you feel when you come here?” After explaining that I come with an open mind and I understand that it’s an awful part of history that can’t be erased, she apologized. With tears in her eyes, she said, “Well, I’m sorry for what my ancestors did. I apologize for them.” She mentioned how disturbing the photo she had just seen of a slave with countless lashes on his back after whipped for God knows what. After continuing our conversation for a few more minutes, she again apologized, but this time for interrupting our tour. No apologies were necessary because I appreciated the fact that she took the time to engage in conversation with us. Little did she know, that was an integral part of my experience on Kingsley Plantation, and it’s a great memory to hold onto.

But I can’t leave out the rest of the trip because that’s where I had the most fun that day. Jacksonville Landing was our next stop. The online reviews weren’t the best, but we thought we’d give it a try. There was a gumbo festival and live music going. While enjoying lunch on the waterfront, we did some people watching and perused the shopping center. That didn’t take long because many of the spaces are vacant and I wasn’t interested in most of the retailers there.

Jacksonville Beach, however, was the place to be! That’s where all the people were hanging out and having a good time. We joined in on the fun at the Springing the Blues Festival where there was live music, good food and vendors from across U.S. (We even met and supported a vendor from Columbia.) Of course I couldn’t pass up a walk on the beach and a stroll down the boulevard. I had a nostalgic moment, to the days when the boulevard in Myrtle Beach was THE place to be.

Now I’m ready for a vacation to the Caribbean! Any sponsors out there?  🙂

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