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

Things That Matter

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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The Little-Known Underground Railroad That Ran South to Mexico

Culture

The Little-Known Underground Railroad That Ran South to Mexico

Tyrone Turner / Getty Images

Latinos make up the largest minority group in the country, yet our history is so frequently left out of classrooms. From Chicano communities in Texas and California to Latinos in the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s and the Underground Railroad – which also had a route into Mexico – Latinos have helped shape and advance this country.

And as the U.S. is undergoing a racial reckoning around policing and systemic racism, Mexico’s route of the Underground Railroad is getting renewed attention – particularly because Mexico (for the very first time in history) has counted its Afro-Mexican population as its own category in this year’s census.

The Underground Railroad also ran south into Mexico and it’s getting renewed attention.

Most of us are familiar with stories of the Underground Railroad. It was a network of clandestine routes and safe houses established in the U.S. during the early to mid-19th century. It was used by enslaved African Americans to escape into free states and Canada. It grew steadily until the Civil War began, and by one estimate it was used by more than 100,000 enslaved people to escape bondage.

In a story reported on by the Associated Press, there is renewed interest in another route on the Underground Railroad, one that went south into Mexico. Bacha-Garza, a historian, dug into oral family histories and heard an unexpected story: ranches served as a stop on the Underground Railroad to Mexico. Across Texas and parts of Louisiana, Alabama, and Arkansas, scholars and preservation advocates are working to piece together the story of a largely forgotten part of American history: a network that helped thousands of Black slaves escape to Mexico.

According to Maria Hammack, a doctoral candidate at the University of Texas at Austin studying the passage of escapees who crossed the borderlands for sanctuary in Mexico, about 5,000 to 10,000 people broke free from bondage into the southern country. Currently, no reliable figures currently exist detailing how many left to Mexico, unlike the more prominent transit into Canada’s safe haven.

Mexico abolished slavery a generation before Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.

Thirty-four years before Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, in 1829, Mexican President Vicente Guerrero, who was of mixed background, including African heritage, abolished slavery in the country. The measure freed an estimated 200,000 enslaved Africans Spain forcefully brought over into what was then called New Spain and would later open a pathway for Blacks seeking freedom in the Southern U.S.

And he did so while Texas was still part of the country, in part prompting white, slave-holding immigrants to fight for independence in the Texas Revolution. Once they formed the Republic of Texas in 1836, they made slavery legal again, and it continued to be legal when Texas joined the U.S. as a state in 1845.

With the north’s popular underground railroad out of reach for many on the southern margins, Mexico was a more plausible route to freedom for these men and women.

Just like with the northern route, helping people along the route was dangerous and could land you in serious trouble.

Credit: Library of Congress / Public Domain

Much like on the railway’s northern route into Canada, anyone caught helping African-Americans fleeing slavery faced serious and severe consequences.

Slaveholders were aware that people were escaping south, and attempted to get Mexico to sign a fugitive slave treaty that would, like the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 that demanded free states to return escapees, require Mexico to deliver those who had left. Mexico, however, refused to sign, contending that all enslaved people were free once they reached Mexican soil. Despite this, Hammock said that some Texans hired what was called “slave catchers” or “slave hunters” to illegally cross into the country, where they had no jurisdiction, to kidnap escapees.

“The organization that we know today as the Texas Rangers was born out of an organization of men that were slave hunters,” Hammack, who is currently researching how often these actions took place, told the AP. “They were bounty hunters trying to retrieve enslaved property that crossed the Rio Grande for slave owners and would get paid according to how far into Mexico the slaves were found.”

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