Maroon – On the Trail of Creoles in North America

Posted in Arts, Canada, History, Louisiana, Media Archive, United States, Videos on 2011-07-26 04:57Z by Steven

Maroon – On the Trail of Creoles in North America

National Film Board of Canada
2005
Running Time: 01:15:08

André Gladu, Director

Colette LoumĂšde, Producer

Louisiana’s Creole culture helped shape the New World and contributed to the emergence of jazz. But what remains of this unique, mixed-race society, with roots in France, Africa, the Caribbean, Spain and America? Maroon searches for the origins of this little-understood and endangered culture and show how it is doing today. In this second part of his La piste AmĂ©rique series, documentary filmmaker AndrĂ© Gladu continues his exploration of the Francophone presence in North America. Maroon is a vibrant travelogue that goes back into history in order to shed light on the present. In French with English subtitles.

For more information, click here.

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White Skin, White Masks: The Creole Woman and the Narrative of Racial Passing in Martinique and Louisiana

Posted in Caribbean/Latin America, Dissertations, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Louisiana, Media Archive, Passing, United Kingdom, Women on 2011-07-07 21:33Z by Steven

White Skin, White Masks: The Creole Woman and the Narrative of Racial Passing in Martinique and Louisiana

University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
2006
83 pages

Michael James Rulon

A thesis submitted to the faculty of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in the Curriculum of Comparative Literature

Through an examination of two Creole passing subjects from literary passing narratives of the twentieth century, this thesis simultaneously treats two problems that have been largely overlooked by contemporary scholarship: the role of the Creole racial identity in the genre of the passing narrative, as well as the possibility of racial passing within the context of a Creole society. In Walter White’s 1926 novel, Flight, and Mayotte CapĂ©cia’s 1950 novel, La nĂ©gresse blanche, the protagonists’ difficulties in negotiating a stable racial identity reveal the inherent weakness of the racial binary that is essential to the very notion of racial passing, and they also show that Creoleness has failed to establish itself as a stable racial identity in the societies represented in both novels.

Table of Contents

  • 1. PawĂČl Douvan/Some Opening Words
  • 2. NwĂš, Blan Ăšk KrĂ©yĂČl/Black, White, and Creole
  • 3. Mimi Ăšk Isaure/Mimi and Isaur
  • 4. PasĂ© pou Blan, PasĂ© pou NwĂš/Passing for White, Passing for Black
  • 5. OvwĂš tĂš krĂ©yĂČl/Goodbye, Creole Land
  • 6. Conclusion: Èk alĂČs… /And so
  • WORKS CITED

Read the entire dissertation here.

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Black, White, Light, and Bright: A Narrative of Creole Color

Posted in Anthropology, History, Louisiana, Media Archive, Papers/Presentations, United States on 2011-03-25 20:35Z by Steven

Black, White, Light, and Bright: A Narrative of Creole Color

Past Narratives/Narratives Past Graduate Conference
Stanford University, Stanford, California
2001-02-16 through 2001-02-18
20 pages

Christopher N. Matthews, Associate Professor of Anthropology
Hofstra University

Much of the world of life is made real through the symbolic application of color, shade, hue, and other features of visual meaning to the physical matter around us. This interplay of light and dark gives shape to form and place to space. This same mode also works discursively allowing forms and spaces to be recognized not only physically but culturally as representations of the social construction of reality. This paper explores this issue by seeing color both in fact and symbol in the development of the Creole cultures of New Orleans. A city steeped in multiple traditions, New Orleans is a spectrum of colors which act out the tensions of past and present. At the root is a conflict between that which is Creole and that which is not. The archaeology here is a story about this story.

Race cannot allow ambiguity, fluidity, or mixture, for it then ceases to refer to something pure, something distinct. The absolute strength of mestizaje is the power it has—by its even being able to be thought—of dissolving race and everything associated with it, ultimately dissolving even itself.

Rainier Spencer, Race and Mixed-Race: A Personal Tour

Introduction: race and color

The discussion of color is simultaneously at the heart of American historical archaeology and left out altogether. Without doubt archaeologies of race and racism, of cultures of alterity framed by these social issues, and the relatively new yet established sub-field of African-American Archaeology are a center of concern and productivity for the field. It goes without saying that these archaeologies are concerned with exploring the dimensions of social life driven by color and the implied social and cultural differences that existed among past people. It is also agreed that because color continues to elicit deep social significance in contemporary society that the search through archaeology for its constructions and expressions carries some extra special resonance for archaeology today.

I contend, however, that historical archaeologists have yet to reveal the depth of meaning behind color differences that their subjects, collaborators, colleagues, institutions, and living social formations represent, struggle with and against, and perhaps too quickly assume. The historical archaeology of race and racism in particular has yet to explicitly consider how race becomes identity, choosing instead to employ racial identities as givens and produce archaeologies of their expression rather than their construction. To work against this, we must not produce archaeologies about race which assume its existence, but archaeologies that explain the material of racing and the materialities of racism (see also Orser 1998, Mullins 1999, Epperson 1999, Matthews et al n.d.)…

…Culture to Race

During this era of Creolization, however, the undoing of Louisiana’s Creole culture was literally born. Issued from the union of natives, settlers, and slaves, “mixedrace” children were regularly born in New Orleans after 1730. Their numbers were not large and to be sure they were not always planned, chosen, nor welcome. Nevertheless, throughout the 18th century their population grew with each decade (Hanger 1997, Bell 1997). A growing population, however, was not their problem. Rather, new influences emerged in Louisiana towards the end of the century that challenged the Creole tradition by redefining Creole in the terms of race….

Read the entire paper here.

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Cast From Their Ancestral Home, Creoles Worry About Culture’s Future

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Louisiana, Media Archive, United States on 2010-11-11 18:39Z by Steven

Cast From Their Ancestral Home, Creoles Worry About Culture’s Future

New York Times
2005-10-11

Susan Saulny, National Correspondent

NATCHITOCHES PARISH, La., Oct. 9 – It is peaceful here on the Cane River, beyond the fluffy tops of high cotton and towering magnolia trees, but it is not home. For the New Orleans Creoles living in exodus here and elsewhere around Louisiana, their city was far more than home – it was homeland, the capital of an ethnic nation unique in this country.

“New Orleans was our womb and for most of us, it was going to be our grave,” said Timothy Bordenave, who is living in a cottage here, a five-hour drive away from the city, describing the deep sense of lifelong connection felt to New Orleans by many of the city’s Creoles, the population of mixed-race families who trace their roots to the city’s French and Spanish colonial era…

…Many Creoles trace their roots to immigrants and slaves from the former French and Spanish colonies in the Caribbean, particularly Cuba and what is now Haiti. Historians say it was New Orleans’s position as a crossroads and port town that allowed for the easy mingling of races and nationalities that in turn gave birth, in the 18th century, to a part-European, part-Afro-Caribbean society that grew to an estimated 20,000 people in Louisiana by the mid-1800’s.

The Creole culture that developed over generations—known for a distinctive cuisine, language and music—contributed to New Orleans’s singular identity and helped define Louisiana to the world. Before Hurricane Katrina, experts estimated that 10 to 20 percent of black people in New Orleans—30,000 to 60,000 people—considered themselves Creole by way of ancestry, but even more lived lives influenced by the culture because of their proximity to it…

Read the entire article here.

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Making Race: The Role of Free Blacks in the Development of New Orleans’ Three-Caste Society, 1791-1812

Posted in Dissertations, History, Louisiana, Slavery, United States on 2010-11-01 18:33Z by Steven

Making Race: The Role of Free Blacks in the Development of New Orleans’ Three-Caste Society, 1791-1812

University of Texas, Austin
May 2007
219 pages

Kenneth Randolph Aslakson, Assistant Professor of History
Union College, Schenectady, New York

Dissertation Presented to the Faculty of the Graduate School of The University of Texas at Austin in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy The University of Texas at Austin May, 2007

“Making Race: The Role of Free Blacks in the Development of New Orleans’ Three-Caste Society, 1791-1812” excavates the ways that free people of African descent in New Orleans built an autonomous identity as a third “race” in what would become a unique racial caste system in the United States. I argue that in the time period I study, which encompasses not only the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, but also the rise of plantation slavery and the arrival of over twelve thousand refugees from the revolution torn French West Indies, New Orleans’s free blacks took advantage of political, cultural and legal uncertainty to protect and gain privileges denied to free blacks elsewhere in the South. The dissertation is organized around three sites in which free blacks forged and articulated a distinct collective identity: the courtroom, the ballroom, and the militia. This focus on specific spaces of racial contestation allows me to trace the multivalent development of racial identity. “Making Race” brings together the special dynamism of the Atlantic world in the Age of Revolution with the ability of individuals to act within structures of power to shape their surroundings. I show that changing political regimes (in the time period I study New Orleans was ruled by the Spanish, the French and the Americans) together with the socio-economic, ideological and demographic impact of the Haitian Revolution created opportunities for new social and legal understandings of race in the Crescent City. More importantly, however, I show how members of New Orleans’s free black community, strengthened numerically and heavily influenced by thousands of gens de couleur refugees of the Haitian Revolution, shaped the racialization process by asserting a collective identity as a distinct middle caste, contributing to the creation of a tri-racial system.

Table of Contents

  • Introduction
    • Free Blacks in Slave Societies
    • Race and Revolution in the Atlantic World
    • The Laws and Legal Systems in Racially Based Slave Societies
    • Organization of the Dissertation
  • Chapter 1 Racial Identity Formation in a Burgeoning Port City
  • Chapter 2 “When the Question is Slavery or Freedom:” The Legal Construction of Three Races in Early New Orleans
    • New Orleans in the Age of Slavery and Revolution
    • Making Slavery: The Precariousness of Freedom
    • Making Freedom: Status Suits in the New Orleans City Court
    • Making Race: The Legal Resolution of the Slave-Free Paradox
    • Conclusion
  • Chapter 3 The Power of Weakness: Free Black Women in the New Orleans City Court
    • Black Litigation in Spanish Louisiana and the Impact of the Louisiana Purchase
    • Escape From Marriage Law: The Litigiousness of Free Women of African Descent
    • The Power of Weakness: Fraud and Assault Cases in the New Orleans City Court
    • The New Racial Order: Changing Color and Changing Laws
    • Conclusion
  • Chapter 4 The Politics of Dancing: Control, Resistance, and Identity in the Early New Orleans Ballroom
    • Fear of Black Dancing and the Origins of the Public Ball
    • Vice, Violence, and the Origins of the (Tri-) Colored Balls
    • The Great Purchase, Immigration, and the Segregation of Dancing Centers
    • Control, Resistance, Identity and the Origins of the Quadroon Balls.143
    • Conclusion
  • Chapter 5 “We Shall Serve with Fidelity and Zeal:” The Citizen-Soldiers of the Free Colored Militia
    • The Demographics of Defense: Free Colored Militias in New World Slave Societies
    • Fear and Opportunity: the Free Colored Militia in Spanish Louisiana During the Age of Revolution
    • “Free Citizens of Louisiana:” The Free Colored Militia in Territorial New Orleans
    • The Militia’s Swansong: Andrew Jackson and the Battle of New Orleans
    • Conclusion
  • Conclusion “In [and Outside] the Eye of Louisiana Law:” Creole of Color Identity Before and After Plessy
  • Bibliography
  • Vita

Introduction

In October of 2003, having recently arrived in New Orleans to do research for this dissertation, I attended the “Creole Studies Consortium” held at Tulane University. Most of the people attending this gathering (which was part academic conference, part genealogical convention, and part family reunion) called themselves “Creoles of color” or simply “Creoles,” though it soon became clear to me that there was some disagreement as to the precise meaning of this term. For some, a Creole is someone whose ancestors were free people of color when slavery still existed in Louisiana. For others, the European ancestors of Creoles must have been of Spanish or (preferably) French descent. The most exclusive definition holds that a true Creole can trace his or her French and African ancestry back to the colonial period in Louisiana before the Louisiana Purchase. Nevertheless, all agreed that a Creole is a person whose ancestors were free and of mixed European and African descent with roots in pre-Civil War Louisiana. While they do not deny their partial African ancestry, most of Louisiana’s present day Creoles do not self identify as “black” or even “African-American,” even though most people from outside of the state Louisiana (and many within) would consider them to be such.

This dissertation examines the origins of the distinct racial identity of the group of people who today call themselves Louisiana “Creoles” (or “Creoles of Color”) by excavating the ways in which free people of color in early New Orleans built an autonomous identity as a third “race” in what would become a unique racial caste system rise of plantation slavery and the arrival of over twelve thousand refugees from the revolution-torn French West Indies, New Orleans’s free people of color took advantage of political, cultural and legal uncertainty to protect and gain privileges denied to free blacks elsewhere in the South. I show that changing political regimes (in this time period New Orleans was ruled by the Spanish, the French and the Americans), a transforming economy, and the ideological and demographic impact of the Haitian Revolution combined to create opportunities for new cultural and legal understandings of race in the Crescent City. More importantly, however, I show how members of New Orleans’s free colored community, strengthened numerically and heavily influenced by thousands of gens de couleur refugees, shaped the racialization process by asserting a collective identity as a distinct middle caste, contributing to the creation of a tri-racial system. In other words, the emergence of a three tiered racial caste system in the Crescent City was not the necessary product of global structures. Rather, the free people of color of New Orleans made their own distinct racial identity, and protected the relative rights and privileges that went with it.

Read the entire dissertation here.

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Creoles of Color in the Bayou Country

Posted in Books, History, Louisiana, Media Archive, Monographs, Slavery, United States on 2009-12-04 22:41Z by Steven

Creoles of Color in the Bayou Country

University Press of Mississippi
1994
192 pages
Paper ISBN: 0878059490, ISBN 13: 9780878059492

Carl A. Brasseaux, Professor of History and Director of the Center for Cultural and Eco-Tourism
University of Louisiana, Lafayette

Claude F. Oubre

Keith P. Fontenot

Creoles of Color are rightfully among the first families of south-western Louisiana. Yet in both antebellum and postbellum periods they remained a people considered apart from the rest of the population. Historians, demographers, sociologists, and anthropologists have given them only scant attention.

This probing book, focused on the mid-eighteenth to the early twentieth centuries, is the first to scrutinize this multiracial group through a close study of primary resource materials.

During the antebellum period they were excluded from the state’s three-tiered society–white, free people of color, and slaves. Yet Creoles of Color were a dynamic component in the region’s economy, for they were self-compelled in efforts to become and integral part of the community.

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Creole Crossings: Domestic Fiction and the Reform of Colonial Slavery

Posted in Books, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs, Slavery, United States on 2009-11-13 04:47Z by Steven

Creole Crossings: Domestic Fiction and the Reform of Colonial Slavery

Cornell University Press
2005
254 pages, 6 x 9
ISBN: 978-0-8014-4384-8 

Carolyn Vellenga Berman
Department of Humanities
The New School, New York

The character of the Creole woman—the descendant of settlers or slaves brought up on the colonial frontier—is a familiar one in nineteenth-century French, British, and American literature. In Creole Crossings, Carolyn Vellenga Berman examines the use of this recurring figure in such canonical novels as Jane Eyre, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and Indiana, as well as in the antislavery discourse of the period. “Creole” in its etymological sense means “brought up domestically,” and Berman shows how the campaign to reform slavery in the colonies converged with literary depictions of family life.

Illuminating a literary genealogy that crosses political, familial, and linguistic lines, Creole Crossings reveals how racial, sexual, and moral boundaries continually shifted as the century’s writers reflected on the realities of slavery, empire, and the home front. Berman offers compelling readings of the “domestic fiction” of HonorĂ© de Balzac, Charlotte BrontĂ«, Maria Edgeworth, Harriet Jacobs, George Sand, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and others, alongside travel narratives, parliamentary reports, medical texts, journalism, and encyclopedias. Focusing on a neglected social classification in both fiction and nonfiction, Creole Crossings establishes the crucial importance of the Creole character as a marker of sexual norms and national belonging.

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‘No Such Thing as a Mulatto Slave’: Legal Pluralism, Racial Descent and the Nuances of Slave Women’s Sexual Vulnerability in the Legal Odyssey of Steyntje van de Kaap, c.1815-1822

Posted in Articles, History, Law, Media Archive, Slavery, South Africa, United Kingdom on 2009-11-06 18:15Z by Steven

‘No Such Thing as a Mulatto Slave’: Legal Pluralism, Racial Descent and the Nuances of Slave Women’s Sexual Vulnerability in the Legal Odyssey of Steyntje van de Kaap, c.1815-1822

Fiona Vernal
Department of History
University of Connecticut

Slavery & Abolition
Volume 29, Issue 1
January 2008
pages 23 – 47
DOI: 10.1080/01440390701841034

In 1815, a contentious case came before the Court of Justice in the Cape Colony. Steyntje Van de Kaap, a creole slave, claimed manumission for herself and four children based on her status as a concubine. Harkening back to the Dutch period at the Cape, her suit resurrected a little-known 1772 statute, which, upon the death of slave owners, granted freedom to their concubines and any children from such unions. So indicative was the case of sexual relations at the Cape that one contemporary observer declared that the outcome could threaten one-third of the local slave property, while a Privy Councilor in England who heard the case on appeal, predicted grave consequences if the case should set a precedent. The protracted suit became enmeshed in the nineteenth-century struggle between slaveholders, abolitionists and colonial administrators at the Cape, and in Great Britain. On the eve of amelioration in British colonies like the Cape, Steyntje’s case demonstrated how white paternity and the status of concubine became legal grounds for freedom. This article explores how one woman’s sexual relations with her masters transcended the boundaries of her personal life to challenge the local system of matrilineal descent, to complicate the issue of consent in slave-master sexual relations, and to invoke the worst fears of slaveholders as they confronted a new imperial legal regime interested in reforming slavery.

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Louisiana Creoles: Cultural Recovery and Mixed-Race Native American Identity (review)

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Louisiana, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, United States on 2009-11-02 18:46Z by Steven

Louisiana Creoles: Cultural Recovery and Mixed-Race Native American Identity (review)

The American Indian Quarterly
Volume 33, Number 4
Fall 2009
E-ISSN: 1534-1828
Print ISSN: 0095-182X
DOI: 10.1353/aiq.0.0078

Gary C. Cheek Jr.

Jolivétte, Andrew J., Louisiana Creoles: Cultural Recovery and Mixed-Race Native American Identity, Lexington Books, 2006.

“Who is white?” JolivĂ©tte asks in the first chapter of his recent Louisiana Creoles, posing a controversial question that concerns both racial and ethnic identity. Part of the issue, he states, is a matter of family history, and the other is based on choice. Here he explores ideas about racial and ethnic identity, mixing and definition. At its core the book discusses the internal struggle of Louisiana Creoles with mixed heritage to define themselves among family and friends, within local communities, and among Americans at large. The author then explores how members of Creole communities have fought to acknowledge their unique blend of cultural traditions and heritage, particularly by including Native American lineage, to forge a multiracial ethnic identity and why they choose to define themselves as such.

The study approaches questions about race, ethnicity, and choice both sociologically and anthropologically. JolivĂ©tte includes portions of his research tools in the appendices. These include a survey, interview questions, and a list of Creole organizations, periodicals…

Purchase or read the entire review here.

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Exiles at Home: The Struggle to Become American in Creole New Orleans

Posted in Books, History, Louisiana, Media Archive, Monographs, United States on 2009-08-30 04:48Z by Steven

Exiles at Home: The Struggle to Become American in Creole New Orleans

Harvard University Press
2009
400 pages
6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
19 halftones in 20 p mock insert
Hardcover ISBN: 9780674023512

Shirley Elizabeth Thompson, Associate Professor in American Studies
University of Texas, Austin

New Orleans has always captured our imagination as an exotic city in its racial ambiguity and pursuit of les bons temps.  Despite its image as a place apart, the city played a key role in nineteenth-century America as a site for immigration and pluralism, the quest for equality, and the centrality of self-making.

In both the literary imagination and the law, creoles of color navigated life on a shifting color line. As they passed among various racial categories and through different social spaces, they filtered for a national audience the meaning of the French Revolution, the Haitian Revolution of 1804, the Civil War and Reconstruction, and de jure segregation.

Shirley Thompson offers a moving study of a world defined by racial and cultural double consciousness. In tracing the experiences of creoles of color, she illuminates the role ordinary Americans played in shaping an understanding of identity and belonging.

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