Erected by the city of Natchitoches in grateful recognition of the arduous and faithful services of the good darkies of Louisiana.
It was the brainchild of Jackson L. “Uncle Jack” Bryan, cotton grower and banker. Time magazine said he:
had been lulled to sleep in his babyhood by Negro spirituals, and had played with little slave boys on his father’s old plantation, so he recently felt the urge to do something big for the Negro.
Meanwhile the only hospital in town would not admit Negroes, not even the spiritual-singing kind.
The New York Times:
Many white people in the parish have been nursed or served by the old-time “uncles” and “aunties,” and a warm regard remains on each side.
The Natchitoches Rotary Club said the statue:
express[es] the general Southern sentiment toward the faithful old slaves who took care of their masters’ wives and children and homes while the masters were away fighting to hold them in slavery.
National Geographic had several pictures of it and said:
A visit to Natchitoches was not complete without a visit to the statue.
One black man, P. Colfax Rameau of Birmingham, said:
Do not think it will be an insult to the modern, Christian negro. He will only say deep in his heart, “I wish there were more white men in the South of the cloth of the Honorable J. L. Bryan, and mob violence would soon be history for unborn white and black boys and girls to read.”
But not all blacks remember it quite that way. Pearl Payne, who was nine when the statue went up, remembered that blacks:
didn’t appreciate it. They took it for nothing good. There was controversy. It had a negative effect on our people.
Ed Ward, a black businessman who grew up in Natchitoches in the 1950s, said:
I recall ire and dismay in the black community. It brought forth negative feelings because it promoted a subservient and menial view of the race.
Ebony magazine called it “a symbol of degradation” and wanted it torn down.
Apparently the Klan did not like it either: the statue was twice covered in white paint and once had a cross burning.
In 1968 the mayor received a bomb threat. So in the dead of night he sent city workers to tear it down. Bryan’s daughter, Joy Bryan Ducournau, got wind of it and ran out to stop them, throwing a fit. They moved the statue, all six tons of it, to the airport to store it.
Ducournau reportedly received many requests for it, one even from the Smithsonian Institution. In the end she gave it to the Rural Life Museum in Baton Rouge, where it stands to this day greeting visitors.
In 1974 they covered over the words about darkies to say only this:
Donated to the Rural Life Museum by Mrs. Jo Bryan Ducournau.