Article Courtesy of The
By Cindy Smirko
Published June 23, 2020
Southwest Gainesville community drew its name in the 1970s from a slave-owning
Since the Haile Plantation subdivision was developed late 1970s, it has been a
suburban address of choice for many.
Few knew its history —
at least initially. The land really was a plantation that
enslaved people who did much of the work for the Haile
Now, with statues of Confederate soldiers being torn down
and the renaming of buildings of people with a history of
racism, a debate is playing out on social media about
recasting Haile Plantation.
A sampling from a discussion on the app Nextdoor that drew
more than 150 responses as of Wednesday morning:
“Good Grief! This movement to validate everyone being
offended about everything is insane!,” wrote one neighbor.
“I’m fed up with you people trying to make white Europeans
feel guilty about being white. No one in my family owned
slaves. It’s an institution that has been dead since 1865.
Give it a rest!”
A Haile resident responded.
“I don’t feel guilty about things people did 100 years ago,
but I am trying to be cognizant of the pain and frustration
people are still feeling due to generations of slavery,” she
said. “We should be able to see that severe trauma from
something like slavery will cause problems in descendants
The main sign leading into the Haile Plantation
neighborhood off Southwest 75th Street and Southwest 46th Boulevard.
Rsidents of the large planned development are debating whether its
name should be changed.
Haile has homeowners associations for different parts of the subdivision and the
Haile Village Center business section.
Michael Ciccarone of Leland Management, which covers the Haile Plantation West
association, said in an email Tuesday that the board “will be consulting
association legal counsel to fully understand the process and costs for changing
Lisa Hawkins mentioned the potential cost in an email to The Sun. Hawkins said
renaming the subdivision could also have an impact on businesses that bear the
“I suggest instead that we build a monument to the 60-plus humans that worked as
slaves on the original plantation as a way to honor their contribution,” Hawkins
said. “I imagine that the names of many if not all could be obtained from the
Haile homestead archives.”
Karen Kirkman knows all about life on the original Haile plantation. She’s
president and historian of Historic Haile Homestead — a nonprofit owned by
Alachua Conservation Trust and the Haile family trust.
Kirkman has documented the family’s move from South Carolina, bringing about 56
enslaved people with them. Documents show they had as many as 66 at one point.
The homestead is on Archer Road west of the subdivision and is open for tours on
Saturday and Sunday or by appointment. A museum has exhibits and other
information about enslaved labor.
Descendants of some of the enslaved still live in Alachua County, including the
Chestnut family. They own Chestnut Funeral Home and several members have held
various elected offices.
Another descendant, Tatanya Peterson of Gainesville, was able to trace her
ancestry to the homestead with Kirkman’s assistance. The historic homestead has
an exhibit on Peterson’s family.
Peterson said changing the name of the subdivision will not change the history
and may result in fewer people learning about that history, including the
descendants of the enslaved.
“We can’t change the past. Going forward, we want to try to educate and inform
people about what we are trying to do today,” Peterson said. “With me being a
descendant, it’s important to learn and reach out to more descendants of Haile
plantation. If you change the name, they might not know it was a plantation and
be able to find the resources to learn that is where their ancestors were
The land stayed with the Haile family and remained idle for 100 years. In 1978,
developers Bob Rowe and Bob Kramer petitioned the Haile family to build a Gaines
Plantation. After seeing the details of the architecture and landscaping plans,
the Haile family decided to allow Rowe and Kramer to use the Haile name for the
Kirkman said concerns over the name of Haile Plantation have arisen in the past.
“It was really disheartening to see that people just didn’t know history,”
Kirkman said. “There are people now who are disturbed by the word ‘plantation’
and I’m sitting there thinking ‘When you closed on your house, you didn’t notice
the word and think about whether that was a real plantation?’”
Alachua County had many other plantations that used enslaved people.
The Dudley Farm Historic State Park on Newberry Road used enslaved labor. Family
members were involved in the Newberry Six lynching of several African Americans
that is the focus of a truth and reconciliation process in Newberry.
Other familiar names of areas in the county, including Serenola off Williston
Road and U.S. 441.
Patricia Hilliard-Nunn, a senior lecturer in the University of Florida African
American Studies Program, has done extensive research into lynching,
particularly the Newberry Six.
Developers and business people in the south have put the word “plantation” in
projects because they believe it conjures a romanticized version of history.
In some cases the use of the word is used intentionally as a dog whistle from
which different people will take different meanings.
“When you add that little ‘plantation’ on there ... it is hinting to the earlier
period. By adding it, you do eliminate certain people from wanting to live
there,” Hilliard-Nunn said. “They need to think about what message they want to
put out in terms of making a statement about the values they have. Are they
trying to cling to some romanticized past that was not romantic for most of the
people living there?”