While driving the west bank river road upstream of New Orleans we toured this Creole plantation. An enterprise built on slavery and cheap transportation of sugar down the river. The Creoles were French and Catholic and had been in Louisiana for well over 100 years by the time that first steamboat came huffing along. They knew not to paint houses white. The mold and climate would turn white houses green in a short time, so why not paint them more interesting colors?
By the time we reached the Mississippi River on this trip we had travelled a lot of miles on the interstate highway system. But the River was the first interstate highway system. Did you know the first steamboat travelled from Pittsburgh to New Orleans in 1811/1812? We didn’t. That’s 202 years ago; less than 10 years after Lewis and Clark had to pole their way up the Missouri from St. Louis.
The workers did not get such a good break. Five people in a 16-foot by 16-foot cabin (when the law was followed – an important caveat). And everything from hammocks to possessions had to be kept in that space. And that was maybe the least of the cruelties their occupants endured in a system that produced commodities to be distributed to the world from ports on the River.
Today the plantations are gone, but sugar and all manner of other commodities are still moving up and down the river. It is still an interstate highway.