Mecklenburg County officials plan to reopen the former Latta Plantation with a focus on telling the truth about slavery. But first they want the public to weigh in.
Catch up quick: The county shuttered Latta Plantation, now called Latta Place, in Huntersville after the nonprofit that operated the site made a racist post about a Juneteenth event in 2021 about the end of slavery from the perspective of slave owners. The post referred to a slave owner as “massa.”
- Mecklenburg County ended its contract with the nonprofit, Historic Latta Place Inc., shortly after.
- Since then, county officials worked with advocates, historians and others and visited other plantations throughout the South to learn how they told their histories.
Driving the news: Mecklenburg County released a plan from a consultant with three recommendations for the site.
- Alternative A calls for a new visitor center with a research/education area, a gazebo, exhibits with interpretive videos, recreating additional slave dwellings and an “audio soundscape” experience inside the main Latta House.
- Alternative B would feature self-guided or interpreter-led tours of the site, a new, smaller-visitor center, a gazebo and public art installations. The historic buildings would be closed except for during special tours.
- Alternative C includes a gazebo but no visitor center. There would instead be interpreter-led tours of the site with living history demonstrations. The historic buildings would also be open and some would have exhibits inside.
Why it matters: As a Southern city, Charlotte is filled with reminders of its legacy of slavery. It’s vital that the community understands the true story of that past, not one that glosses over the atrocities.
What they’re saying: Mecklenburg County refused to make staff working on the project available for an interview.
Elaine Powell, who represents northern Mecklenburg on the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners, says this initial plan is the “pie in the sky” vision. There will be input from the community and commissioners before a final decision is made.
- “How can we do it the best way to teach people what the truth was, and to give them an experience that you can’t get in a textbook?” she says.
- Still, she says there may not be enough space for all of the recommendations, since Latta Nature Preserve, which is still open and is the largest nature preserve in the county, takes up much of the land.
Corine Mack, president of the Charlotte Mecklenburg NAACP, was part of the group that visited other plantations. She said most romanticized slavery, and few included Black voices.
- “I believe that the enslaved Africans who resided here in Mecklenburg County region still need to be heard,” she says. “And we are their voices right now.”
- Mack praised what she described as an inclusive process for reimagining Latta that included strong Black voices at the table.
What’s next: The county will hold free public engagement sessions on the initial recommendations on Feb. 23 at Quest at Latta Nature Preserve, March 9 at Little Rock Cultural Center and March 23 at South County Regional Library.
Here are the renderings and site plans for each alternative. You can view the proposals here.