GMA on The Road: Shadows on the Teche

Posted at 6:37 PM, May 14, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-07 19:07:08-04

 Shadows on the Teche is a major historical site in New Iberia. It features the plantation home of the Weeks family, the largest sugar cane producers on the Bayou Teche.

Now, the plantation serves as a way to help smooth race relations through the power of history.

"The Shadows is important in telling the African American experience and telling New Iberia and sort of melding it all together," said Jayd Beteaux Shadows on the Teche Marketing and Programs Manager 

Shadows on the Teche might be the perfect place to learn about that experience. Before the Civil War, the plantation housed a large slave population. At the height of the Weeks’ families wealth, more than 300 slaves lived on the property.

When visitors get a guided tour of the Weeks House which the Weeks family lived in from 1854 to 1958, the tour encompasses about 125 years of American History from the Antebellum Period to the early Civil Rights movement.

Historians have found more than 1,700 written documents, including invoices, letters, and journals, describing the Weeks’ family’s life at Shadows.

"This is a beautiful house and a beautiful home, and we have so much information from the Weeks Family…but there only half of the story or less than half," Beteaux said. 

The other half of the story comes from the slaves who were forced to work the plantation’s land and maintain the property.

"I personally enjoy discussing the relationship of Mary and Louisa Bryant, the enslaved housekeeper," said Beteaux. "Because while Mary and Lousia’s children are like fishing in the backyard and playing games, their life is not the same, and at 12, Mary’s children are going off to boarding schools while Louisa’s children would be put to work." 

Shadows on the Teche still has 85 percent of its original furniture, allowing the home to look just as it did nearly 200 years ago.

The history stored on the site serves as a gateway to the city’s past, a link to Antebellum America, the Civil War, Reconstruction, Jim Crow, and the early Civil Rights movement.