Things That Matter

Here’s Why Pinterest And The Knot Are Finally Prohibiting Slave Plantation Wedding Content From Their Sites

Pinterest and the Knot Worldwide are two of the largest online wedding planning platforms in the United States. The two organizations are implementing new policies so that some content related to slave plantation weddings can no longer be promoted on the websites, according to BuzzFeed News.

The two companies are taking two different approaches to moderating how former plantations market themselves on the services. While the Knot Worldwide is policing certain language, Pinterest is taking things further by restricting some content altogether. 

The Knot Worldwide thinks language is the source of the issue.

“We want to make sure we’re serving all our couples and that they don’t feel in any way discriminated against,” chief marketing officer of the Knot Worldwide, which owns the Knot and WeddingWire, Dhanusha Sivajee told BuzzFeed News.

Content that glorifies the history of former Southern slave plantations, which are quite often used as wedding venues, will be prohibited. The way these regulations will be enforced is by reviewing the language used to describe these historical locations of mass abuse and white supremacy. 

Plantations will still be allowed on the Knot and WeddingWire, but vendors cannot refer to them as “elegant” or “charming” because people were once forced into labor, banned from literacy, and beaten to name a few of the horrors that regularly occurred on such properties. 

The new language guidelines refer to all wedding venues because some former plantations have tried to move away from that legacy in name.

“You can imagine there could be former plantations that maybe have changed their names to manors or farms,” Sivajee said. 

Pinterest is taking a more hardline approach on plantation weddings. 

The content on Pinterest is user-generated and the platform is essentially used as a search engine to find inspiration. A company spokesperson told BuzzFeed that it is working with Google to de-index searches for plantation weddings. 

When users try to find plantation wedding content it will no longer turn up and if such content does appear, users will see an advisory that the content may violate the terms of use. Pinterest will not allow plantation weddings to be promoted through their advertisement service either. 

“Weddings should be a symbol of love and unity. Plantations represent none of those things,” a Pinterest spokesperson told BuzzFeed News. “We are working to limit the distribution of this content and accounts across our platform, and continue to not accept advertisements for them.”

A civil rights advocacy group, Color of Change, is largely responsible for these new policies. 

“The decision to glorify plantations as nostalgic sites of celebration is not an empowering one for the Black women and justice-minded people who use your site,” the organization wrote to the Knot. 

The Knot Worldwide says they are working closely with Color of Change to determine the best course of action with the new guidelines which will be rolled out in the coming weeks. 

“Plantations are physical reminders of one of the most horrific human rights abuses the world has ever seen,” the letter said. “The wedding industry routinely denies the violent conditions Black people faced under chattel slavery by promoting plantations as romantic places to marry.”

Slave plantations were able to “rebrand” themselves as romantic venues.

Celebrities (and people who don’t care about slavery) like Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds notoriously wed at Boone Hall Plantation in South Carolina. In 2018, the couple was called out of for their wedding again six years later. In Marie Claire’s coverage of the backlash, journalist Pippa Nerada wrote, “Boone Hall Plantation, South Carolina, is an (admittedly beautiful) house that was, like most of its kind, built by slaves.” 

Plantations weren’t merely built by slaves, they were where those slaves were tortured and raped, but it appears even reporters must insert that such locations are “admittedly beautiful.” 

Arisa Hatch, VP of Color of Change, says the organization is trying to uncover, “all the different ways that the wedding industry is disrespecting black folks by romanticizing … forced labor camps that brutalized millions of slaves.”

These attitudes that celebrate the Antebellum era come in the wake of tourists complaining that plantation tours, which allow visitors to view plantations for historical purposes, focus too much on slavery or don’t portray white people nicely enough

Margaret Biser, who worked as a plantation tour guide wrote in Vox that people would ask if slaves got paid, try to shut down conversations about slavery, tried to get her to admit that slavery wasn’t that bad, tried to assert that slaveowners housed slaves out of benevolence, and asked if slaves were loyal to their masters.

“All the misconceptions discussed here serve to prop up one overarching and incorrect belief: that slavery wasn’t really all that bad,” Biser wrote. “And if even slavery was supposedly benign, then how bad can the struggles faced by modern-day people of color really be?”

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Today, Puerto Rico Celebrates Emancipation Day–the Day When the Island Officially Abolished Slavery

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Today, Puerto Rico Celebrates Emancipation Day–the Day When the Island Officially Abolished Slavery

Photo via George W. Davis, Public Domain

Today, March 22nd marks Día de la Abolición de Esclavitud in Puerto Rico–the date that marks the emancipation of slaves in Puerto Rico. In Puerto Rico, enslaved peoples were emancipated in 1873–a full decade after the U.S. officially abolished slavery. But unlike the U.S. mainland, Puerto Rico celebrates today as an official holiday, where many businesses are closed.

The emancipation of Puerto Rican slaves was a very different process than the United States’. For one, the emancipation was gradual and over three years.

When the Spanish government abolished slavery in Puerto Rico 1873, enslaved men and women had to buy their freedom. The price was set by their “owners”. The way the emancipated slaves bought their freedom was through a process that was very similar to sharecropping in the post-war American south. Emancipated slaves farmed, sold goods, and worked in different trades to “buy” their freedom.

In the same Spanish edict that abolished slavery, slaves over the age of 60 were automatically freed. Enslaved children who were 5-years-old and under were also automatically freed.

Today, Black and mixed-race Puerto Ricans of Black descent make up a large part of Puerto Rico’s population.

The legacy of enslaved Black Puerto Ricans is a strong one. Unlike the United States, Puerto Rico doesn’t classify race in such black-and-white terms. Puerto Ricans are taught that everyone is a mixture of three groups of people: white Spanish colonizers, Black African slaves, and the indigenous Taíno population.

African influences on Puerto Rican culture is ubiquitous and is present in Puerto Rican music, cuisine, and even in the way that the island’s language evolved. And although experts estimate that up to 60% of Puerto Ricans have significant African ancestry, almost 76% of Puerto Ricans identified as white only in the latest census poll–a phenomenon that many sociologists have blamed on anti-blackness.

On Puerto Rico’s Día de la Abolición de Esclavitud, many people can’t help but notice that the island celebrates a day of freedom and independence when they are not really free themselves.

As the fight for Puerto Rican decolonization rages on, there is a bit of irony in the fact that Puerto Rico is one of the only American territories that officially celebrates the emancipation of slaves, when Puerto Rico is not emancipated from the United States. Yes, many Black Americans recognize Juneteenth (June 19th) as the official day to celebrate emancipation from slavery, but it is not an official government holiday.

Perhaps, Puerto Rico celebrates this historical day of freedom because they understand how important the freedom and independence is on a different level than mainland Americans do.

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In Crackdown on Domestic Slavery, Brazilian Authorities Rescued a Maid Who Had Been Enslaved For 40 Years

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In Crackdown on Domestic Slavery, Brazilian Authorities Rescued a Maid Who Had Been Enslaved For 40 Years

Photo: Getty Images

On December 21st, Brazilian authorities revealed that they had rescued a woman from a family who had been keeping her as a domestic slave for nearly 40 years.

The woman was also forced into a marriage with one of the family’s elderly relatives so that the family could continue to cash in on his pension when he died.

According to local authorities, the unnamed woman had been kept in unpaid servitude by the family since she was a child, when her “destitute” family gave her up.

The woman worked as a domestic slave for the family of Unipam university professor Dalton Cesar Milagres Rigueira. Before that, she had worked for Rigueira’s mother, who had “raised” her from childhood.

“They gave her food when she was hungry, but all other rights were taken from her,” said Humberto Camasmie, the inspector in charge of the rescue operation, to Reuters.

Authorities were alerted to the woman’s situation when neighbors tipped off local officials to what they believed was an illegal working situation. According to the neighbors, they grew suspicious when the woman began sending them notes asking for food and sanitary products.

Prosecutors say that Rigueira could face up to eight years in jail.

They are also pushing to get him to monetarily compensate the woman for an undisclosed sum. Authorities are also working to reunite her with her biological family.

After her rescue, the woman was taken to a shelter where she was attended to psychologists and social workers. She is also being provided with a pension of R$ 8,000 ($1,557) a month–seven times higher than Brazil’s minimum wage.

“She did not know what a minimum wage was,” said Camasmie. “Now she’s learning how to use a credit card. She knows that every month she will be paid a substantial amount (from the pension).”

Unfortunately, domestic slavery is a rampant and unchecked problem in Brazil.

To make matters worse, domestic slavery is hard to crack down on because the victims rarely know that they are, indeed, victims. Many of the enslaved women have been unpaid domestic workers since they were small children. Sometimes, they may even feel grateful or indebted to their captors for raising and feeding them.

In June, a similar case made headlines when authorities discovered a 61-year-old had been working as an unpaid maid for an unknown amount of years. The woman was found living in a shed. Her “employer” was an executive for the cosmetics company, Avon.

“The longer the victim remains in the home environment with deprivation of … rights, the more difficult it is to (carry out a) rescue,” said Mauricio Krepsky, head of the Division of Inspection for the Eradication of Slave Labor, to Reuters in August.

These enslaved maids are given little freedom to leave the house, see other people, or have time off. They are never paid. They are completely reliant on the families they serve.

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