About our Narrators

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Pleasant “Cousin Joe” Joseph (1907-1989)

At Whitney Plantation 1907-1920

Pleasant Joseph was born at Whitney Plantation in 1907. He was the third generation in his family known to have been born on Whitney Plantation. His extended family all worked on the plantation, but his parents moved to New Orleans in the early 20th century and he went back and forth between Wallace, Gramercy (where his mother worked at the sugar refinery) and New Orleans. He started playing music as a teenager, eventually becoming a well-known blues musician under the name of “Cousin Joe.” He died in 1989 after recording a series of interviews with the Friends of the Cabildo in New Orleans.

Marion Matherne (1924-Living)

At Whitney Plantation 1924-1942

Marion Matherne was born at Whitney Plantation in 1924. His father, Joseph Techle Matherne, was the manager of the plantation store during St. Martin and Perret's ownership. Marion assisted his father in managing the plantation store during his youth. He and his six brothers were all drafted into service during world war II. After the War, Marion returned to Louisiana to study electrical engineering at LSu.

Lawrence Alexis (1927-Living)

At Whitney Plantation late 1930s through 1940s

Lawrence Alexis was born on his family's property bordering Whitney Plantation, where he still lives today. His father, Lawrence Alexis Sr., was a black farmer and landowner who did additional harvesting at Whitney Plantation. As a young man, he worked at Whitney Plantation for extra money, shooting birds and pulling grass out of the rice fields ("grassing") along with 9 other siblings. His family land was planted in sugarcane and his entire family worked in their own fields to harvest cane, which they sold to a sugar co-op. As an adult, Lawrence worked at Colonial Sugar Refinery in Gramercy. Lawrence's great niece, Joy Banner, works at Whitney Plantation today as Director of Communications and Marketing.  

Clementine Poche Grows (1939 - Living)

At Whitney Plantation 1939-1969

Clementine Poche Grows was born in a cabin at Whitney Plantation in 1939. She lived on the plantation for the first 30 years of her life. Several members of her family worked at Whitney Plantation, including both her parents and grandparents. On her maternal side, Clementine is a descendant of people enslaved at Whitney Plantation. Clementine worked in the fields and raised a family on the plantation with her husband.

Maurice Tassin Jr. (1940 - Living) and Deanna Tassin Schexnayder (1950 - Living)

At Whitney Plantation 1940-1963 and 1950-1972

Maurice Tassin Jr. and Deanna Tassin Schexnayder are the son and daughter of the last manager of Whitney Plantation, Maurice Tassin. The Tassin family owned the plantation from 1928 until 1946. Members of their family were managers and field workers until the plantation closed in 1975. Maurice Tassin grew up at the plantation and left in 1963 to go to college. He came back periodically to help his father with accounting and managing the plantation store. Deanna Tassin Schexnayder also grew up at the plantation and left Whitney for college in 1968.

JOHN HOWARD (1961 - Living)

At Whitney Plantation 1961-1975

John Howard was born at Whitney Plantation in 1961. His grandmother, Charlotte “Eve” Howard, was a domestic worker for the plantation’s manager. His parents were both field workers. He lived here with his family until the plantation closed in 1975. The last house they lived in was one of the two original slave cabins that is on view on our guided tour today. His family worked at Whitney Plantation since at least 1910. After leaving Whitney Plantation, John went into the military.

Percy Paul Zeringue (1944 - Living)

At Whitney Plantation 1946-1964

Percy Paul Zeringue moved to Whitney Plantation when he was very young. his father, Antoine "Sam" Zeringue, came from Modeste, Louisiana and got a job at Whitney Plantation as an overseer. The Zeringue family lived on a part of the plantation known as Oliver, which was formerly the Mialaret plantation. Percy's older brothers Clifton, Clarence and A.J. all worked as foremen on the plantation. Their house is still standing on Whitney's property, located about a half mile upriver from the visitor center. Percy grew up working odd jobs on the plantation but never worked here full time. He left to go to trade school at Delgado Community College and worked at Avondale Shipyard.

The Julien Family

The Julien Family are African-American landowning farmers from Modeste, Louisiana - about 45 minutes from Whitney Plantation. Their enslaved ancestor bought land after the Civil War which has remained in their family since that time. The speakers are all siblings. Their father, Leonard Julien, Sr., invented the mechanical cane planter which was the last step toward full mechanization of sugar work. He fought legal battles for his patent, which he ultimately lost. The Julien Family employed other African-American cane workers at the same time that Whitney Plantation was in operation.

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Contributors

Contributed date

September 28, 2020 - 6:59pm

Critical Commentary

Overview of oral history narrators for the project Grass, Scrap, Burn