The travel press is currently full of happy articles about the popularity of river cruises within the United States.
Apparently, such paddlewheelers as the famous American Queen are full of eager passengers, especially for cruises leaving New Orleans and proceeding northward along the Mississippi River through states of the former Confederacy.
Though I hate to throw cold water on their pleasure, I remember my own Mississippi cruise on the American Queen several years ago as a propaganda effort to rewrite the Civil War—and not a truthful effort either.
Though some of the American Queen’s staff may have changed in the years since my cruise, I think it’s likely that the very same people are in charge of choosing its personnel.
The propaganda was delivered at that time by a stately Southern woman of middle age, dressed in a silk outfit. With strands of pearls around her neck. She was the “riverlorian” (a contraction of the words “river historian”).
In an introductory lecture delivered to passengers, she was delivering a message whose presentation was clearly known to executives of the American Queen.
We were about to be sailing through areas associated with the War Between the States. And she quickly cautioned us to remember that the North “caused” that war out of jealousy for the economic prowess of the Southern States.
They, the Northerners, were simply dismayed by the riches created in the South, and provoked a war as a result.
The word "slavery" was never mentioned by her.
Later, on a riverside stop at a city in Mississippi, she led us to a resplendent local home. And once inside, she enlightened us as to the opulent inside rooms of a family known as “planters.”
Not slave owners, but “planters”—the word “slave” never being mentioned.
We passengers sat in a heavily furnished living room while she alerted us with great pride to the expensive furnishings, the splendid curtains and rugs, the fireplace under paintings, the opulent side rooms.
And later, shown an outdoor courtyard of the large home, she made no comment at all as she took us to view what were obviously slave quarters. Each slave family residing therein was obviously assigned to a pitifully small area.
These “planters” were obviously slave owners, and yet no word of acknowledgment or regret was voiced by our tour leader.
She clearly felt that use of the word “planters” leading to a “plantation” was an ethically neutral introduction to this subject.
And she obviously felt that the institution of slavery needed no apology from her, or anyone else associated with the Confederacy.
They were being introduced to us as worthy individuals who had been wrongly injured by selfish Northerners!
Clearly, the overwhelming number of today’s Americans have a thoroughly different view about the shameful practice of slavery.
And it is now a matter of outrage that there are still Americans who feel no rage over the earlier practice of that obscenity.
Now, all this happened several years ago, on and via a boat whose personnel had to be aware of their “riverlorian”’s shameful attitudes.
But I am certain there is a good chance that many of the American Queen’s personnel are the very same as before, with perhaps the same attitudes.
I hope I am wrong. But in the meantime, I personally would steer clear of the American Queen and its antebellum values.