ST. MARTINVILLE, La. (KLFY)– 23 years ago, The African American Museum in St. Martinville opened it’s doors with the mission of showing visitors who the Africans were before arriving in Louisiana. Danielle Fontenette, a tour guide at the museum, showed News 10’s Danielle Johnson some of the history the museum holds.
The museum focuses on the West African-Senagambian Region, a mixture of Senega, Ghana and Mali. Fontenette says records show this region was home to the first Africans before they arrived in Lousiana.
People from this are were either from the Wolof, Bambara or Mandigo tribes. Men and Women of these tribes were known to be hard workers, rich in culture, goods and services, and spirituality.
Fontenette says slavery existed in Africa before the Europeans arrived. The Trans Atlantic slave trade occurred after Europeans were given access to trade those slaves for war equipment. As a result, enslaved Africans were viewed as cargo.
“Slavery was a business. If my goal was to get to a port and be able to sell 200 slaves and I could only fit 200, I would overpack it. Instead of 200 I would pack 400,” says Fontenette.
Fontenette says although slavery is a large part of black history, African Americans also deserve to know who they were apart from slavery. For example, Alexander Lemelle, a successful free man of color who owned and sold several acres of land. Charlanette was a free woman of color who owned her property as well in 1748.
“It is really important to bring back pride to our people and the way to do that is show who our people were besides being a slave.”