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Black Medical Students Pose in White Coats in Front of Former Slave Quarters at Louisiana Plantation in Viral Photo

Mary Scott
Dec 20, 2019
06:00 P.M.
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A photo showing black medical students posing in front of former slave quarters at a Louisiana plantation has gone viral and is drawing praise from thousands on social media. The students spoke out about paying tribute to their ancestral history.

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When 15 students from Tulane University's School of Medicine gathered for a historic snapshot at a former Louisiana plantation, they might not have envisaged how far-reaching the impact would be.

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According to PEOPLE, the idea was born after Dr. Russell Ledet, a second-year med student at Tulane, visited the Whitney Plantation in Edgard, which now operates as a slavery museum.

"We could've just failed and said, 'We don't have it in us,' but we're here. We're gonna all be MDs, and we gonna all be MDs in our brown skin."

Ledet's first visit to the site had been with his friend and eldest daughter, and after witnessing the impact, he felt it would be a good idea for his classmates to gather for an inspirational photo.

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Taking to Twitter on Sunday, Ledet posted the snapshot, which shows all 15 participants wearing their white coats and posing in front of the building. "We are our ancestors' wildest dreams," the 33-year-old declared.

Classmate Sydney Labat also posted more pictures from the shoot on Instagram. One image showed the medical students with their fists raised high in front of the former slave quarters while another saw them gathered on the porch.

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Recalling her first reaction upon arriving at Whitney Plantation on Saturday, Labat told PEOPLE:

"Initially, I didn't understand what was going on because the emotions rushed through me. I started to cry thinking about [how] these people who we're 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've told a number of my classmates that I think we did something right, and 50 years from now, people will still talk about this image," added Ledet. "It's a visceral reaction to 'Here is what our country essentially started with and here’s how far we come.'"

Per ABC News, Ledet also said on "Good Morning America" that "the idea of the photo was to illustrate our presence essentially, and the history behind where we are today."

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While thousands of internet users across the world have had positive reactions to the iconic image, some have had something negative to say. But Ledet and his classmates are not perturbed.

"We want people to see our hearts and to see that resilience is possible, to see that success is possible, whatever that may look like," Labat said. "Obstacles are there, but obstacles will be overcome."

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According to ABC News, Labat explained that the 15 participants in the photo wore jackets from the white coat ceremony. The length of the coat signifies that they are medical students, and once they graduate, each will get a longer coat.

"It's an illustration of our ancestral resiliency," Ledet added of the photo's significance. "We could've just failed and said, 'We don't have it in us,' but we're here. We're gonna all be MDs, and we gonna all be MDs in our brown skin."

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