Nottoway manager: Historic site is resource for education

Photo by SHERVIN LAINEZ -- Ani DiFranco Show caption
Photo by SHERVIN LAINEZ -- Ani DiFranco

DiFranco cancels event on backlash

The general manager of Nottoway Plantation and Resort, the historic site in the midst of the Web-based controversy that encircled singer-songwriter Ani DiFranco’s now canceled writing and performance retreat at the resort, said the former plantation is an educational resource and an economic asset to its White Castle community.

DiFranco canceled the event following an online firestorm of criticism and angry posts on various websites that objected to DiFranco, a performer and recording artist known for social activism, headlining a retreat at a former plantation that is historically linked to slavery.

“Historic sites such as Nottoway Plantation are powerful places that reflect on both good and bad moments in our country’s history,” Nottoway general manager Neil Castaldi said in a statement Tuesday. “All of these places look to collect the history and stories of the place and provide that information for the good and betterment of our society.”

Scot Fisher, DiFranco’s manager, said there “are legitimate questions about how plantations should be used.

“But what was happening on the Web, at Facebook, were attacks,” Fisher said. “A few voices were very loud, and they drowned out more reasoned conversation.”

DiFranco announced the retreat’s cancellation Sunday through her website, www.right When first approached by a promoter about doing a retreat, she said in the statement, she didn’t know where the event would be held.

“Later, when i found out it was to be held at a resort on a former plantation,” DiFranco said in the statement, “I thought to myself, ‘whoa,’ but i did not imagine or understand that the setting of a plantation would trigger such collective outrage or result in so much high velocity bitterness.

“I imagined instead,” she said, “that the setting would become a participant in the event. This was doubtless to be a gathering of progressive and engaged people, so i imagined a dialogue would emerge organically over the four days about the issue of where we were.”

Castaldi said the plantation, which was on “the brink of destruction,” underwent a multimillion-dollar restoration and expansion.

“This work was to restore a historic piece of our history, but also create economic and tourism opportunities for the White Castle area which would have otherwise been lost,” Castaldi said.

“And while we work to preserve, maintain and interpret Nottoway Plantation’s history in a sustainable manner, we also look at ways to support and provide value to our community above and beyond the historical education,” he said.