We hope that some artifacts from the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola will be helpful in telling the story envisioned by the National African American Museum for History and Culture in Washington, D.C.
Officials of the museum, which is still being developed, wanted an old guard tower and vintage jail cell from Angola. Angola officials obliged, and the items will become part of an exhibit at the museum. Angola began as a plantation, then was converted to a prison that, according to its critics, became little more than an extension of the old slave labor system. Things are much better at the prison today, but some three-quarters of the prison’s inmates are black. The prison’s troubled connection with African-American history made it a natural point of interest for museum organizers.
We hope, though, that more-positive reminders of the African-American experience in Louisiana will be included in the museum’s collection, too. African-Americans have contributed immeasurably to Louisiana’s music, literature and cuisine, as well as its civic life. Many of those contributions continue to resonate throughout the nation and, indeed, the world.