Black medical students depict ‘the dream and the hope of the slaves’ in powerful photo on plantation

Inspired by his 8-year-old daughter, Dr. Russell Ledet gathered his Tulane classmates to take epic photograph on the grounds of a former Louisiana plantation

A group of Black students from Tulane University’s School of Medicine posed for photos at the Whitney Plantation, a former slave plantation in Louisiana.

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A group of Black students from Tulane University’s School of Medicine posed for photos at the Whitney Plantation, a former slave plantation in Louisiana, according to PEOPLE magazine.

Dr. Russell Ledet, who has a Ph.D. and an MBA and is now working on his MD, came up with the idea to bring his medical school classmates after he visited the former plantation in Edgard with his friend and eldest daughter. The plantation is now a museum.

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“My 8-year-old daughter was like, ‘Dad, it means a lot to be a Black doctor in America. If you think about where we started… we made it pretty far,’” Ledet told PEOPLE. “I was like ‘You’re right, I think more of us should see this.’”

Ledet pitched his idea to his classmates, who are all part of the Student National Medical Association (SNMA) at Tulane. He told them the photoshoot at Whitney Plantation would connect “America’s past and America’s present,” and told them the photoshoot would “be iconic and a lot of people will relate to it — this idea of how far we’ve come and how far we’ve gotta go,” he told PEOPLE. “For us, the struggle in medical school is real.”

So 15 Black medical students donned their white coats and headed out to Whitney Plantation on Saturday. One student, Sydney Labat, told PEOPLE that she was overcome with emotion.

“Initially, I didn’t understand what was going on because the emotions rushed through me,” Labat said. “I started to cry thinking about (how) these people who were descendants of had the harshest life and the harshest conditions and wanted nothing but better for themselves and better for their children.”

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“I am grateful that they were resilient because that allows me to be resilient and that allows me to be in this position that I am today,” Labat added in the PEOPLE interview. “It was really overwhelming. I hope that I make them proud even in the smallest ways by living out my dream and being able to exercise my freedoms. A lot of us felt that way.”

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