Feminist icon Ani DiFranco's "Righteous Retreat" seemed like a good idea: for just over $1,000, fans could spend four days hanging out with DiFranco and learning how to "develop one's singular creativity" through various workshops held in a "captivating setting." Unfortunately, it turned out that that "captivating setting" used to be one of the largest plantations in the South, with hundreds of slaves working its fields.
But don't worry! According to Nottoway Plantation's version of its history, life was awesome for them:
Ever the astute businessman, Randolph knew that in order to maintain a willing workforce, it was necessary to provide not only for his slaves’ basic needs for housing, food and medicine, but to also offer additional compensation and rewards when their work was especially productive. Every New Year’s Day, John Randolph would give the field slaves a hog to cook and the Randolph family would eat with them in The Quarters. There would be music and dancing, and the Randolphs would give the slaves gifts of clothing, small toys and fruit, as well as a sum of money for each family. In addition, the workers received an annual bonus based on their production. It is difficult to accurately assess the treatment of Randolph’s slaves; however, various records indicate that they were probably well treated for the time.
Nottoway is now owned by the Paul Ramsay Group. Ramsay is an Australian billionaire who has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to right wing political campaigns in his country.
For some reason, DiFranco's fans weren't all that comfortable spending time in a place that was built by slaves and giving their money to a man who sponsors conservative causes. After a great deal of outcry, DiFranco decided to cancel the event. Her long blog entry offers up a variety of excuses and justifications but little by way of an apology.