Haile Plantation residents debate name change

Article Courtesy of  The Gainesville Sun

By Cindy Smirko

Published June 23, 2020


Southwest Gainesville community drew its name in the 1970s from a slave-owning family.

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 family.

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 generation later.”

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 the name.”

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 name.

“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 enslaved.”

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 new development.

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?”