Donation Will Support “The Power of Place” Exhibition
The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) received a $1.5 million donation from Louis Bacon’s Moore Charitable Foundation. Bacon also donated an important painting, “The Garden of Eden,” by Robert S. Duncanson (1852), to NMAAHC. The gift directly supports “The Power of Place,” one of the museum’s inaugural exhibitions, a portion of which explores the origin of rice cultivation along the southeastern seaboard of the United States.
The exhibit about the rice fields of South Carolina’s low country will be located within “The Power of Place” exhibition. Enslaved Africans and African Americans cultivated rice along the southeastern seaboard of the United State for hundreds of years. The transformation of the landscape along this coast is a story of great creativity and cruel coercion, in which the culture, knowledge and skills that enslaved people brought with them from Africa played formative roles. The reverberations of this process continue to shape the region’s environment, culture and social life.
“It is crucial to preserve the stories of the rice fields of the low country because they hold important lessons for today,” said Louis Bacon, founder and president of The Moore Charitable Foundation. “We hope this exhibition will encourage people of all ages to learn about the significance of these places and value our shared history.”
Bacon is a direct descendent of Roger Moore, the original 18th-century owner of Orton Plantation, the northernmost rice plantation in the low country. As the owner of Orton Plantation Holdings, which owns Orton Plantation, Bacon is the driving force behind efforts to re-establish heirloom agricultural production on those lands. Orton Plantation Holdings purchased the plantation home and tracts of surrounding forest in November 2010, and shortly thereafter initiated environmental restoration and historical preservation efforts.
Many acres of rice fields have been lost over the years due to storm erosion and wave action from ships, but ongoing work to renew Orton’s fields will preserve the historic use of the land and maintain a key link to America’s past. Recent archaeological excavation efforts at Orton Plantation revealed for the first time the remains of the lost Kendal Plantation, a site originally founded in the 1720s by Moore. The site is also a testament to the heartache, sacrifice and accomplishment of all enslaved African Americans.
When NMAAHC opens in 2016, “The Garden of Eden,” a work of oil on canvas, will be on display in the “Religion and Spirituality” gallery. Duncanson was a celebrated American landscape painter who explored themes related to religion, classical landscape and western expansion in his work. NMAAHC has built a collection of more than 30,000 objects to be used in exhibitions exploring major periods of African American history beginning with the origins in Africa and continuing through slavery, Reconstruction, the civil rights era, the Harlem Renaissance and the great migrations north and west and into the 21st century.
About the Museum
The National Museum of African American History and Culture was established by an Act of Congress through legislation signed into law in 2003 by President George W. Bush. Scheduled to open in fall 2016, the museum is under construction on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on a five-acre tract adjacent to the Washington Monument. Upon completion, NMAAHC will become the nation’s largest and most comprehensive cultural institution devoted exclusively to exploring and documenting the African American story and its impact on American history. The museum will be open for the first time to the public on September 24, 2016. For more information, visit the museum’s website at nmaahc.si.edu.