Hampton, a National Historic Site operated by the National Park Service, recently announced a “Slave for a Day” program which will allow visitors, to, “Experience agricultural labor that enslaved people may have performed at Hampton. Work in the fields with actual hoes and scythes. Carry buckets of water with a yoke on your shoulders.” After a chorus of howls went up on the Internet, the title was changed to the much more tame, “Walk a Mile, a Minute in the Footsteps of the Enslaved on the Hampton Plantation” but the program content remained the same. I certainly want to encourage the ranger who developed the program to continue to pursue her passion for African American history, but I’m not sure these activities, as described, get visitors to fully understand what life was like for enslaved people. Antebellum farming is about hard work; slavery isn’t. Slavery is about forced labor and human bondage–the lack of freedom, liberty, choice, dignity, and sometimes even life itself. Indeed, this program may unintentionally distract from or belittle the lifelong suffering and inhumanity that occurred under slavery, experiences that are crucial to discuss but are nearly impossible to recreate. If you’re going to be a “slave for a day,” those experiences have to be included as well. For now, just call it “farm work on a pre-Civil War plantation” and discuss how much of that work was done by enslaved men, women, and children. Then convene a team of scholars and interpretive specialists to see how this important story can be told in a more effective, accurate, and complete manner–I suspect it has weaknesses in all three areas. Can anyone recommend a good program at an historic site that interprets slavery effectively?