That's Uncle Jack -- way, way in the back of the Rural Life Museum.
There's Uncle Jack -- way, way in the back of the Rural Life Museum.

Uncle Jack

Field review by the editors.

Baton Rouge, Louisiana

The conflict surrounding some of America's Confederate monuments (and even some President statues) is not a new phenomenon; it was played out years ago with the tribute to "Uncle Jack," a still lingering artifact of historical controversy.

Why is he tipping his hat? Opinions differ.
Why is he tipping his hat? Opinions differ.

The statue, depicting an elderly African-American bowing and tipping his hat, was sculpted by Hans Schuler and paid for by banker Jackson Lee Bryan. In 1927 it was erected in a riverfront park in the busiest part of downtown Natchitoches. Its original plaque read, "In Grateful Recognition of the Arduous and Faithful Service of the Good Darkies of Louisiana," and it was considered shockingly liberal for its time, at least by the standards of the Deep South. The New York Times and Boston Globe ran stories about the statue, praising the progressiveness of the white citizens of Natchitoches for erecting a monument to a negro. The statue became a bona-fide tourist attraction with its own post card. Its anonymous subject was variously named "The Good Darky," "The Faithful Darky," or simply "Uncle Jack."

Forty years passed. By the late 1960s the statue was no longer seen as liberal or progressive. It was removed by the city but saved from destruction by the daughter of Jackson Lee Bryan, who stored it in a barn. She then donated it to the LSU Rural Life Museum. According to its current plaque -- the old one was was removed -- the statue has stood on the museum grounds since September 1972, now accompanied by several signs explaining its history.

But not in its current spot. At first Uncle Jack greeted visitors at the museum entrance. Some felt that placing the statue at such a prominent spot sent the wrong message about the museum, so Uncle Jack was moved to his current location, way in the back, where no one can accidentally see him, and where most people will have to ask a museum employee to point the way.

Uncle Jack

LSU Rural Life Museum

Address:
4650 Essen Lane, Baton Rouge, LA
Directions:
I-10 exit 160. Turn south onto Essen Lane and then make a quick right at the first light into the grounds of the LSU Rural Life Museum. Drive back 1.5 miles, following the twists and turns of the paved road. You'll come to a gravel traffic circle; drive half-way around, and continue along the gravel road (If you drive three-quarters of the way around, you'll see the back of Uncle Jack on the right). Continue driving. The road bends left to the parking lot of the Museum. Ask at the Museum for walking directions back to Uncle Jack.
Hours:
Daily 8-5. Must enter through the museum. (Call to verify)
Phone:
225-765-2437
Admission:
Adults $9.
Save to My Sights

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In the region:
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September 25, 2018

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