The Notorious, Mixed-Race New Orleans Madam Who Turned Her Identity Into a Brand

Posted in Articles, Biography, Communications/Media Studies, History, Louisiana, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2018-10-08 02:42Z by Steven

The Notorious, Mixed-Race New Orleans Madam Who Turned Her Identity Into a Brand

ZĂłcalo Public Square
2018-10-01

Emily Epstein Landau, Teacher [and author of Spectacular Wickedness: Sex, Race, and Memory in Storyville, New Orleans]
Georgetown Day School, Washington, D.C.


Lulu White, the most notorious madam in the turn-of-the-century Big Easy. Courtesy of the Collections of the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University. All rights reserved.

By Repackaging the Myths of the Tragic Octoroon and the Self-Made Woman, Lulu White Crafted a Persona That Haunts BeyoncĂ©’s “Formation

In 2016, music and pop-culture idol Beyoncé released the album Lemonade to rapturous reviews. As a historian of New Orleans, I was especially intrigued by the video for one of the songs on the album, “Formation.” The video includes iconic images of the city: Katrina flood waters and post-flood graffiti; “second-lines”; marching bands; crawfish eating; and even a dancing “Mardi Gras Indian.” As we move through various neighborhoods, we visit a church service, a St. Charles Avenue mansion, and, in what appears to be a move through time into the city’s past, a bordello.

The bordello scenes in the video recall famous photographs from Storyville, New Orleans’s notorious red-light district, which flourished from 1898 to 1917. And while the song is clearly about Beyoncé, the persona she embodies in it resonates with an earlier iconic black female: Lulu White, the self-styled “Diamond Queen” of New Orleans’s turn-of-the-century demimonde. Knowing Lulu White’s story helps us see Beyoncé’s artistic creation within a complex historical framework, for in it are woven together threads of American history: stories of sexual slavery and prostitution; revolution and exile; and, not least, capitalism and the American Dream.

Lulu White was the most notorious madam in Storyville. She earned fame and fortune as the “handsomest octoroon” in the South, and her bordello, Mahogany Hall, featured “octoroon” prostitutes for the pleasure of wealthy white men during one of America’s most virulently—and violently—racist periods. It was also the dawn of consumer culture and the beginning of modern advertising. Thus, Lulu White crafted a persona for herself through stories that had long circulated in New Orleans; she repackaged those stories to create what today we would recognize as her brand…

Read the entire article here.

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White Creole Identity on Trial: The Haitian Revolution and Refugees in Louisiana

Posted in Articles, History, Law, Louisiana, Media Archive, United States on 2018-04-03 19:56Z by Steven

White Creole Identity on Trial: The Haitian Revolution and Refugees in Louisiana

Age of Revolutions
2018-03-26

Erica Johnson, Assistant Professor of History
Francis Marion University, Florence, South Carolina


Louisiana, c. 1814

The flight of refugees from the Haitian Revolution intertwined the histories of Louisiana and Saint-Domingue. The story of one refugee, Pierre Benonime Dormenon illustrates how perceptions of the Haitian Revolution and racial prejudices within Louisiana affected an emerging white Creole identity. In Louisiana, Dormenon was the Point Coupée parish judge, but political opposition forces sought his disbarment based on alleged activities in the Caribbean. According to the Louisiana Superior Court Case court report, accusers contended that Dormenon “aided and assisted the negroes in Santo Domingo in their horrible massacres, and other outrages against the whites, in and about the year 1793.” What role Dormenon played in the Haitian Revolution is not clear, nor is it clear how slaves and free people perceived him. Nonetheless, claims of Dormenon’s actions during the Haitian Revolution called into question his own racial identity.

Dormenon’s accusers focused heavily on his racial sympathies. The most shocking portrayal of Dormenon as black was in the testimony of Antoine Remy. Remy recounted a discussion with an innkeeper, a Mr. Prat, in a southern parish of Saint-Domingue. “He [Prat] heard him [Dormenon] say several times that he hated whites and was ashamed to be one of them,” testified Remy. He added, “He [Dormenon] believed that by opening a vein he could take in some black blood.” This testimony is questionable, because Remy based it upon hearsay. However, it was still significant within Dormenon’s case, because it deepened Dormenon’s connection to and sympathy for people of color…

Read the entire article here.

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Multicultural Cities in Frank Yerby

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Louisiana, Media Archive, United States on 2018-03-08 00:12Z by Steven

Multicultural Cities in Frank Yerby

Interminable Rambling
2018-03-16

Matthew Teutsch, Instructor
Department of English
Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama

Throughout his oeuvre, Frank Yerby works to deconstruct myths of the Old South and historical misinformation. Along with these goals, he also dismantles the dichotomy of Black and White; instead, he populates his works with individuals and scenes that defy a simplistic characterization. In this manner, Yerby shows that race is not a biological fact; rather, it is a social construct. One of the key ways that Yerby accomplishes this, especially in regard to the commingling of individuals, is through his descriptions of cities and the multitude of different people that populate the space. Today, I want to look at a couple of scenes where he does this from his first novel The Foxes of Harrow (1946) and his seventh novel The Saracen Blade (1952). I chose these two texts because the first takes place in antebellum New Orleans and the second occurs in thirteenth century Italy. Both, though, comment on issues of class and race during the mid-twentieth century.

Walking through the Vieux Carre to catch a glimpse of the Marquis de Lafayette in The Foxes of Harrow, Andre LeBlanc gives Stephen Fox an education in the rules, customs, and racial stratification of New Orleans, a stratification that does not fall easily into the dichotomy of Black and White…

Read the entire article here.

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Grappling With the Memory of New Orleans

Posted in Articles, Biography, History, Louisiana, Media Archive, Slavery, United States on 2018-01-07 23:01Z by Steven

Grappling With the Memory of New Orleans

The Atlantic
2015-10-25

Mark Charles Roudané


Christian Senger / Flickr

A family’s story traces the roots of the eclectic city, the country’s first black daily newspaper, and the evolution of racial injustice.

My father is listed as white on his birth certificate. His great-grandfather was the founder of America’s first black daily newspaper. But when I tell the story of my family, inextricably linked to the narrative of New Orleans and, in fact, to the country, I do not start with either of them.

AimĂ©e Potens, my third great-grandmother, stares at me. Holding a daguerreotype from the 1840s, I am transfixed by her eyes. I try to imagine what they had seen. AimĂ©e’s eyes are my window to the world that made New Orleans, a world that seems impenetrable, lost somewhere in a gauzy historical memory of tangled white, free-black, and enslaved cultures…

…I was raised to be a white person in Jim Crow New Orleans. The past was hidden from me, and I grew up not knowing that this history was my history, too. When Reconstruction collapsed, the loss of hope for people of color was devastating. As I reflect on the ways the past has shaped the social construct of race and my own identity, I wonder what my story would be like had the Tribune’s crusade succeeded. Would my family have claimed its remarkable heritage instead of passing as white?…

Read the entire article here.

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My mother spent her life passing as white. Discovering her secret changed my view of race — and myself.

Posted in Articles, Biography, Louisiana, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2017-11-21 03:34Z by Steven

My mother spent her life passing as white. Discovering her secret changed my view of race — and myself.

The Washington Post
2017-11-20

Gail Lukasik


The author’s mother, Alvera Fredric, was born into a black family in New Orleans but spent her life passing as white. (Family photo)

I’d never seen my mother so afraid.

“Promise me,” she pleaded, “you won’t tell anyone until after I die. How will I hold my head up with my friends?”

For two years, I’d waited for the right moment to confront my mother with the shocking discovery I made in 1995 while scrolling through the 1900 Louisiana census records. In the records, my mother’s father, Azemar Frederic of New Orleans, and his entire family were designated black.

The discovery had left me reeling, confused and in need of answers. My sense of white identity had been shattered.

My mother’s visit to my home in Illinois seemed like the right moment. This was not a conversation I wanted to have on the phone.

But my mother’s fearful plea for secrecy only added to my confusion about my racial identity. As did her birth certificate that I obtained from the state of Louisiana, which listed her race as “col” (colored), and a 1940 Louisiana census record, which listed my mother, Alvera Frederic, as Neg/Negro, working in a tea shop in New Orleans. Four years later, she moved north and married my white father…

Read the entire article here.

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We Are Who We Say We Are: A Black Family’s Search for Home Across the Atlantic World

Posted in Biography, Books, Caribbean/Latin America, Europe, History, Louisiana, Media Archive, Monographs, Passing, United States on 2017-11-18 00:56Z by Steven

We Are Who We Say We Are: A Black Family’s Search for Home Across the Atlantic World

Oxford University Press
2014-12-01
224 Pages
32 illustrations
5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches
Paperback ISBN: 9780199978335

Mary Frances Berry, Geraldine R. Segal Professor of American Social Thought and Professor of History
University of Pennsylvania

This colored Creole story offers a unique historical lens through which to understand the issues of migration, immigration, passing, identity, and color-forces that still shape American society today. We Are Who We Say We Are provides a detailed, nuanced account of shifting forms of racial identification within an extended familial network and constrained by law and social reality.

Author Mary Frances Berry, a well-known expert in the field, focuses on the complexity and malleability of racial meanings within the US over generations. Colored Creoles, similar to other immigrants and refugees, passed back and forth in the Atlantic world. Color was the cause and consequence for migration and identity, splitting the community between dark and light. Color could also split families. Louis Antoine Snaer, a free man of color and an officer in the Union Army who passed back and forth across the color line, had several brothers and sisters. Some chose to “pass” and some decided to remain “colored,” even though they too, could have passed. This rich global history, beginning in Europe–with episodes in Haiti, Cuba, Louisiana, and California–emphasizes the diversity of the Atlantic World experience.

Contents

  • Preface
  • Chapter I: Becoming Colored Creole
  • Chapter II: Becoming Americans
  • Chapter III: Family Troubles
  • Chapter IV: Fighting for Democracy
  • Chapter V: Becoming “Negroes”
  • Chapter VI: Opportunity and Tragedy in Iberia Parish
  • Chapter VII: Mulattoes and Colored Creoles
  • Chapter VIII: Just Americans
  • Chapter IX: At Home or Away: We Are Who We Say We Are
  • Epilogue: Becoming “Black”
  • Notes
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Secret heritage

Posted in Articles, Biography, Louisiana, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2017-11-12 04:32Z by Steven

Secret heritage

The Herald-Argus
La Porte, Indiana
2017-10-26

Matt Christy, Staff Writer
Telephone: (219) 326-3870


Secret heritage
White Like Her: My Family’s Story of Race and Racial Passing” is on book shelves now and available for check-out at the La Porte County Public Library.

Author tells story behind new book

Looks can be deceiving.

To look at a photograph of Alvera Frederic Kalina, you wouldn’t know the secret she was hiding. Hiding from her husband, hiding from her children, hiding from everyone but those she cut all ties to when she left her New Orleans roots far, far behind.

Alvera avoided the sun. She had no photos of her family. She was obsessed with makeup, even wearing it when she slept.

“I can’t even imagine the fear she lived with, which I later understood was why she did (those mysterious things),” said Alvera’s daughter, author Gail Lukasik.

Lukasik is a mystery writer, but her newest book “White Like Her” is a mystery of another sort. Unlike the female driven detective novels Lukasik is known to pen, “White Like Her” tells the story of a true mystery, one Lukasik — not one of her fictional protagonists — unraveled. It was the mystery her mother made her swear to carry to her grave.

It began with Lukasik wanting to know more about her mother’s father, Azemar Frederic. She knew nothing of her grandfather and when asked, her mother would only say her parents divorced when she was young and her father didn’t raise her.

“The one time I asked her if we could visit New Orleans, where she grew up, she said it would depress her to go home, so I let it go. But in the back of my mind I always wondered about Azemar Frederic. What did he look like? What did he do for a living? What kind of man was my grandfather?” she said.

The answers would shock her and would change everything she thought she knew…

Read the entire article here.

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“You’re the one with the slaves in your family”

Posted in Articles, Biography, Louisiana, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2017-11-11 23:31Z by Steven

“You’re the one with the slaves in your family”

Salon
2017-10-28

Gail Lukasik


(Credit: Salon/Ilana Lidagoster)

I went looking for information on my mother’s side of the family. My experience was eye-opening

Excerpted with permission from “White Like Her: My Family’s Story of Race and Racial Passing” by Gail Lukasik. Copyright 2017, Skyhorse Publishing.

The windowless basement of the Buffalo Grove Family History Center had the feel of an underground bunker—fluorescent lights, cinder block walls, the musty scent of dampness. At the room’s entrance sat a gray-haired woman, birdlike and benign. With robotic precision, she meted out instructions on how to use the machines, where the microfilms were located and how to order original documents. She appeared as nondescript and gray as the walls.

I’d come to the family history center in search of my grandfather Azemar Frederic. I was between adjunct college teaching jobs, applying for tenure track teaching positions in creative writing, and working part-time as an assistant editor for a medical journal. The year before, I’d been offered a position in creative writing at a liberal arts college in Tennessee. But I turned it down. Uprooting my life at the age of forty-nine for a position that paid in the low five figures seemed foolhardy. My husband would need to obtain a Tennessee dental license to practice dentistry, and we would have to pay out-of-state tuition at the University of Illinois for our daughter Lauren. So I resigned myself to seeking positions in the Chicago area where the competition was especially rigorous and my chances for success slim.

I had time on my hands and an insatiable longing to find Azemar who over the years had become more and more unreal to me as if he never existed, was a figment of my mother’s imagination. Without a photograph of him, I had nothing physical to connect him to me. This need for a physical image of him was primal. It was an aching absence that I needed to fill…

Read the entire article here.

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My mother passed for white for most of her life. Here’s what that taught me about racial identity.

Posted in Articles, Biography, Louisiana, Media Archive, Passing, United States, Virginia on 2017-10-07 22:32Z by Steven

My mother passed for white for most of her life. Here’s what that taught me about racial identity.

Mic
2017-09-12

Gail Lukasik


Gail’s grandfather’s family that she never knew
Source: Gail Lukasik

Gail Lukasik, Ph.D. is a professional speaker, mystery novelist, and the author of the upcoming memoir, White Like Her: My Family’s Story of Race and Racial Passing (Skyhorse; Oct. 17).

For the majority of my life, I believed I was a white woman. I had no reason to question my race or my racial heritage. Why would I? I had only to look in the mirror to know the veracity of my whiteness — or so I thought.

In 1995, while scrolling through the 1900 Louisiana census records looking for my mother’s father, Azemar Frederic of New Orleans, I made a startling discovery. Azemar Frederic and his entire family were classified as black. In that split second, everything I knew about myself changed. When I walked into the Illinois family history center, I was a white woman. When I left I didn’t know who I was. My sense of identity was shattered…

Read the entire article here.

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White Like Her: My Family’s Story of Race and Racial Passing

Posted in Biography, Books, History, Louisiana, Media Archive, Monographs, Passing, United States on 2017-10-07 21:52Z by Steven

White Like Her: My Family’s Story of Race and Racial Passing

Skyhorse Publishing
2017-10-03
304 pages
Hardcover ISBN-13: 978-1510724129

Gail Lukasik, Ph.D.

Kenyatta D. Berry (foreword)

White Like Her: My Family’s Story of Race and Racial Passing is the story of Gail Lukasik’s mother’s “passing,” Gail’s struggle with the shame of her mother’s choice, and her subsequent journey of self-discovery and redemption.

In the historical context of the Jim Crow South, Gail explores her mother’s decision to pass, how she hid her secret even from her own husband, and the price she paid for choosing whiteness. Haunted by her mother’s fear and shame, Gail embarks on a quest to uncover her mother’s racial lineage, tracing her family back to eighteenth-century colonial Louisiana. In coming to terms with her decision to publicly out her mother, Gail changed how she looks at race and heritage.

With a foreword written by Kenyatta Berry, host of PBS’s Genealogy Roadshow, this unique and fascinating story of coming to terms with oneself breaks down barriers.

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