Lakeport, Ark. – Richard Johnson and Harry Taylor have spent their adult lives 1,100 miles apart – Mr. Johnson as a human-resources director in Texas, Mr. Taylor as a tool-and-dye maker in Kentucky. That’s not unusual for cousins. But Taylor is black; Johnson is white. And as the two men embrace today on a green Arkansas farm, under a Southern sun with bolls of cotton blowing in the breeze, the homestead in the background isn’t just any white colonial or red-brick ranch. Nor is this just any family reunion.
Lakeport is a plantation – a stark fact and a complex heritage that can evoke pride, shame, anger, fondness, and humiliation, often all at once. Over 150 years ago, African-American slaves carved this place from the forests that dotted the riverbanks, while white landowners moved into the stately “Big House,” which could be a backdrop for “Gone with the Wind.”
Now, as the two men pose for a picture at a rare reunion marking the reopening of the plantation, Johnson hugs Taylor.
“You never know who you’re related to,” Taylor says with a laugh.
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