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Wedding planning websites curb promotion of US plantation venues

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Ritu Prasad/BBC

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The McLeod Plantation in Charleston, South Carolina

Four major US wedding planning websites will restrict the promotion of venues that idealise former slave plantations.

Pinterest, the Knot Worldwide and Brides said they would limit plantation advertisements, in some cases removing adjectives that romanticise the venues such as “charming” or “elegant”.

Planning platform Zola has removed all the listed plantations from its site.

The changes follow calls from civil rights group Color of Change to bar the promotion of plantations outright.

“The decision to glorify plantations as nostalgic sites of celebration is not a compassionate one for the black women and justice-minded people who use your site,” the organisation wrote in a letter to Zola executives, according to BuzzFeed News, which first reported the changes.

“In fact, ‘classic,’ ‘elegant,’ and ‘glamorous,’ are just a few of the tags that your site uses to describe the places where many of your readers’ ancestors were tortured and stripped of their most fundamental rights,” Color of Change wrote.

These plantations – scattered across the American South – remain, for many, a painful reminder of the country’s legacy of slavery and racism. At the height of slavery, the National Humanities Center estimates that there were over 46,000 plantations stretching across the southern states.

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JenAphotographer/Getty Images

But they have also become a popular choice for weddings.

A simple web search for “plantation weddings” will call up venues in Louisiana, South Carolina and Virginia promising “beautiful backdrops” featuring “columned mansions” and “moss-covered oaks”.

An enduring source of controversy, the modern use of slavery plantations has been the source of heightened debate in recent years.

A post on Reddit in September asking if it was reasonable to skip a best friend’s wedding because it was held on a plantation received over 1,000 comments on both sides of the argument.

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Ritu Prasad/BBC

Image caption

A tour at McLeod Plantation

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

The changes will be seen by tens of millions of American couples that use one or more of these sites to help plan their wedding.

Nothing untouched by slavery

By Ritu Prasad, BBC News in Charleston

Charleston reflects a wholly American truth: that nothing here is untouched by the legacy of slavery, even centuries on. What is less certain is how a city – and a nation – should talk about such a difficult past.

For decades, tourists have been drawn to South Carolina and its plantations for the idyllic southern charm, a deliberate throwback to a Gone With the Wind era.

But the industry is slowly changing as some believe tourists should face the truths of slavery instead of the rose-coloured narrative peddled for so long – even if it makes them uneasy.

For many on tours of plantations, there is a struggle to reconcile the beauty around them with the brutality of slavery.

“Slavery was not that bad – it’s probably the number one thing we hear,” says plantation tour guide Olivia Williams.

Read more from Ritu about the awkward questions slavery raises in slavery in the US South.

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Media captionHer ancestors enslaved mine. Now we’re friends

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