Jackson Faulkner’s Honors Thesis began with a walk in Audubon Park that led him to research the plantation that once existed on Tulane’s grounds. Jackson, a history student with a minor in philosophy, will graduate in December after he finishes his investigation of the de Boré and Foucher Plantations, which existed on the land that Tulane University, Loyola University, and Audubon Park now occupy. The de Boré Plantation especially interests him because it was the first plantation in Louisiana to cultivate sugar cane, which he says, “led to a resurgence of slavery in the deep south and really changed Louisiana history.” With his thesis, directed by Blakeslee Gilpin, Associate Professor, History Department, he aims to recontextualize the history of the area and the legacy of the plantations that existed in New Orleans as a way of better understanding current racial and economic disparities that affect Tulane and the city as a whole.
Jackson was looking for a project that would allow him to “challenge a prevailing history that was built upon false contextualizations” when he stumbled upon a series of “fun fact” signs in Audubon Park that mentioned the land’s history as the plantation of Jean Étienne de Boré. Learning that the university he attends and the house he lives in are located on the site of the first sugar plantation in Louisiana inspired him to read more about the area’s past with the goal of understanding the roots of inequality on Tulane’s campus.
Jackson used primary historical sources from multiple archives throughout the city to create a picture of the plantations. An 1820 inventory of de Boré’s estate was very useful in learning about the structures of the plantation and the people living on it. By cross-referencing this with an inventory from 1823, he was able to compile a complete list of all the enslaved people that lived on the plantation at the time and understand how the plantation changed over time. He completed most of the archival research as part of the Honors Summer Research Program, which was “invaluable” to him.
Through his research, Jackson learned that it is not enough to denounce the past, but rather that “if Tulane wants to become an inclusive community, we have to understand the history that formed the institution.” It also gave him an appreciation for the “complexity of New Orleans and the diverse people who call it home” and made him feel closer to the city and its history. Initially, Jackson struggled with how and where he saw himself at Tulane. In the early part of his undergraduate career, he questioned if he should be here. Yet through that questioning, he decided to examine this place further, to attempt to find some reasons as to how and what he felt. This led him to the research he was able to pursue through his Honors Thesis and the Honors Summer Research Program, which opened his eyes not only to the history of Tulane and the city, but also to why he struggled with his place here—a place where he now feels a sense of belonging.
Armored with this new knowledge, Jackson plans to continue to do social advocacy and social justice work, hopefully while attending law school. He says he loves the research he did because he felt it was “socially important”, and he plans on publishing his final thesis online so that everyone can access it, with the hope of generating conversations on campus and throughout Uptown New Orleans about the legacy of the area’s past.