My Family Passed for White (A Hidden Secret)

Posted in Articles, Louisiana, Media Archive, United States on 2014-11-12 03:37Z by Steven

My Family Passed for White (A Hidden Secret)

Jambalaya Magazine & Clothing
2014-11-02

Julia Dumas, Culture Blogger

One Culture, Many Colors

One of my earliest memories is attending church with my Dumas family in Saint John the Baptist Parish. It was a small, white building of the Protestant denomination. Us children were gathered together in the front learning to sing, “Jesus Loves the Little Children”. For those that do not know, it goes a little something like this:

Jesus loves the little children
All God’s children of the world
Red and yellow, black, and white
They are precious in his sight
Jesus loves the little children of the world.

One of the greatest flaws in humanity is our need to create hierarchies. We separate, then judge one another to make ourselves feel better. Early humans differentiated themselves based on religious beliefs and royal birth status. Today, class and color makes one person feel superior to another based on our social order. Most people know this is lunacy, but some truly believe people of different colors are a different type of people. There are prejudices so ingrained in our society that we often do not detect the bias until irreparable harm has been done. Sadly, the Creole community is not immune.

I would like you to meet my cousin Paula.

Paula, like myself and most other Creoles, has the blood of people from the four corners of the world flowing their her veins. She likes to say, “I am every woman!” Her family’s story was once considered scandalous. In the 1930s, her grandparents, who were Creoles of Color, left Louisiana and chose to live as white for the rest of their days. Remember the movie Imitation of Life?

In Creole country, we call this passe blanc (passing for white). It is a choice many people made, but very few have been willing to speak of. It is a subject full of shame. Some people are ashamed of their African heritage, while others are ashamed of the choices their ancestors made by passing. There is no shame here, only a longing to reconnect to a family and culture stripped away…

Read the entire article here.

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Making Race in the Courtroom: The Legal Construction of Three Races in Early New Orleans

Posted in Books, History, Law, Louisiana, Media Archive, Monographs, United States on 2014-09-22 17:53Z by Steven

Making Race in the Courtroom: The Legal Construction of Three Races in Early New Orleans

New York University Press
September 2014
272 pages
1 figure, 2 tables illustrations
Cloth ISBN: 9780814724316

Kenneth R. Aslakson, Associate Professor of History
Union College, Schenectady, New York

No American city’s history better illustrates both the possibilities for alternative racial models and the role of the law in shaping racial identity than New Orleans, Louisiana, which prior to the Civil War was home to America’s most privileged community of people of African descent. In the eyes of the law, New Orleans’s free people of color did not belong to the same race as enslaved Africans and African-Americans. While slaves were “negroes,” free people of color were gens de couleur libre, creoles of color, or simply creoles. New Orleans’s creoles of color remained legally and culturally distinct from “negroes” throughout most of the nineteenth century until state mandated segregation lumped together descendants of slaves with descendants of free people of color.

Much of the recent scholarship on New Orleans examines what race relations in the antebellum period looked as well as why antebellum Louisiana’s gens de couleur enjoyed rights and privileges denied to free blacks throughout most of the United States. This book, however, is less concerned with the what and why questions than with how people of color, acting within institutions of power, shaped those institutions in ways beyond their control. As its title suggests, Making Race in the Courtroom argues that race is best understood not as a category, but as a process. It seeks to demonstrate the role of free people of African-descent, interacting within the courts, in this process.

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Creoles and Melungeons: More Important Than Ever to America

Posted in Articles, History, Louisiana, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, Slavery, Tri-Racial Isolates, United States on 2014-09-12 19:42Z by Steven

Creoles and Melungeons: More Important Than Ever to America

Melungeon Heritage Association: One People, All Colors
2014-08-22

Nick Douglas

The unique origins of Creoles and Melungeons parallel and complement each other. Their genesis is a uniquely American phenomenon.

Creoles, like Melungeons, are a race of black, white and Native American people. Most Creoles and Melungeons have a long history of freedom. For Melungeons, freedom dated back to pre-colonial America. In my family, the first Creoles were free people born in Sante Domingue and Haiti, who emigrated to New Orleans in the 1700s and 1800s.

Both Creoles and Melungeons claimed Native American heritage in oral history but had little documented proof. Creole oral history is infused with Choctaw, Seminole and Natchez relationships and kinships. Melungeon oral history is infused with Cherokee, Tuscarora, Lumbee and Croatan relationships and kinships. DNA testing is now confirming Native American heritage for many Melungeons and Creoles.

Many of the first families classified as Melungeons were started by indentured white women who had children with black indentured servants, free men of color or slaves. This fact complements Creole stories of white fathers in New Orleans having children with free women of color or slaves.

Melungeon history directly contradicts a Southern taboo on relationships between white women and men of color. Among New Orleans and Louisiana Creoles, white men claimed to be black or free people of color to be able to leave wealth and property to their Creole of color children. These early examples of Melungeons and Creoles show how extensive and intertwined the relationships between blacks, white and Native Americans were, before racial designation became of paramount importance in the U.S…

Read the entire article here.

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“Where a Man is a Man”?: Ancestral Possibilities in Charles Chesnutt’s Paul Marchand, F.M.C.

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Louisiana, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2014-08-06 18:46Z by Steven

“Where a Man is a Man”?: Ancestral Possibilities in Charles Chesnutt’s Paul Marchand, F.M.C.

African American Review
Volume 46, Numbers 2-3, Summer/Fall 2013
pages 397-411
DOI: 10.1353/afa.2013.0048

Susan M. Marren, Associate Professor
University of Arkansas

This essay reads Charles Chesnutt’s Paul Marchand, F.M.C. not as a historical romance (as Chesnutt’s contemporaneous publishers deemed it) but rather as a peculiarly modernist passing novel. It argues that the novel’s hybrid possibilities stage a confrontation between an eighteenth-century standard of impartial “right reason” and the racially pluralistic world of nineteenth-century New Orleans.

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Search through own heritage leads evangelist to story about enslaved mixed-race pastor

Posted in Articles, History, Louisiana, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, Religion, Slavery, United States on 2014-06-18 19:50Z by Steven

Search through own heritage leads evangelist to story about enslaved mixed-race pastor

The Advocate
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
2014-06-16

Mark H. Hunter, Special to The Advocate

If local school district officials knew then what Sammy Tippit knows now, he might not have been allowed to attend Istrouma High School.

Tippit, 66, is a world-renowned evangelist who grew up in Baton Rouge and now lives in San Antonio. He was a prominent Istrouma High student government leader and proudly represented the Indians at statewide high school meetings and debates.

“I truly am an Istrouma Indian,” Tippit said with a big smile and a twinkle in his blue eyes. And he means that in more ways than one.

As a youthful “Jesus freak” in the late 1960s, he boldly preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ in dangerous nightclubs on the west side of the Mississippi River. He was arrested and deported from Communist Romania and risked arrest in the Soviet Union for preaching in underground churches in the 1970s and ’80s.

Just a few months ago, Tippit said, he preached in Pakistan where a large portion of the 10,000-member audience — many of them Muslim men, — prayed for salvation in Jesus Christ. A suicide bomber, perhaps on his way to the service, exploded a few blocks away.

But one of Tippit’s most unnerving experiences came 10 years ago when a man in Portugal, researching his own family roots, told him they were related by Native American blood going back to Revolutionary War times.

“All of a sudden I didn’t know who I was,” Tippit said during an interview at a local coffee shop. “I have fair skin and blue eyes, but my bloodline is a mixture of English, Native American and African.”…

Read the entire article here.

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Louisiana Ordered to Provide Voucher Data to U.S.

Posted in Articles, Campus Life, Louisiana, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2014-04-09 23:01Z by Steven

Louisiana Ordered to Provide Voucher Data to U.S.

Education Week
2014-4-09

Mark Walsh, Contributing Writer

A federal judge has ordered Louisiana to provide annual data to the federal government on the students participating in the state’s private school voucher program.

The April 7 order by U.S. District Judge Ivan R. Lemelle of New Orleans appears to bring to a conclusion months of skirmishing between the state and President Barack Obama’s administration over the voucher program and whether it will affect racial balance in the school districts still under court supervision for desegregation.

The judge largely sided with the U.S. Department of Justice, ordering the state to provide data about the racial background of students enrolling in the voucher program…

…The judge sided with the federal government in a skirmish over race classifications. The state had sought to exclude data on students who marked “black” as one of several race or ethnic categories they meet.

“The state is now suggesting, for reporting purposes, a ‘new definition of black'” that would fail to take account of mixed-race students, the Justice Department said in a March court filing.

“Adopting the state’s new proposed definition would thus undermine the United States’ ability to accurately and fully count students in public and private schools by race to evaluate … whether the voucher program has an impact on segregation in those schools,” the Justice Department said in the filing.

Lemelle’s order requires the state to include data for black students “defined as any student who indicated black either alone or as one of several race/ethnic categories.”

Read the entire article here.

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Black & Jewish in New Orleans

Posted in Articles, Louisiana, Media Archive, Religion, United States on 2014-04-04 02:16Z by Steven

Black & Jewish in New Orleans

BrassyBrown.com: where women of color are first in line
2014-04-01

Marian Moore, Guest Blogger

December of 2013 found me in San Diego, California this year, attending the fiftieth Biennial of the Women of Reform Judaism. Although, this was the organization’s centennial, WRJ actually began at my synagogue in 1900 as “the Sisterhood”, the name still used by most members. When I look at our official history, I find that the Sisterhood began as a ladies auxiliary. In 1900, they took on the task of selecting the furnishings for the synagogue and maintaining the new synagogue building. In later years, they did everything from comforting the sick, funding the purchase of an organ, preparing holiday synagogue meals, and sponsoring scholarships at the rabbinical college in Cincinnati. WRJ, The Sisterhood, is still the critical heart of the synagogue. They ensure that things get done. The President of each synagogue chapter is responsible for representing the chapter on the synagogue board and responsible for defining what tasks the chapter will accept.

This was my third biennial but my first as the President of my synagogue chapter. Each time that I’ve attended these national gatherings, there are more jews of color (JOC) participants than the prior time. I attended many small panel discussions where I was the only non-white woman in the room, but when I attended the group discussions with more than one hundred attendees that was never the case. Many of our blended identities were present, from Jewish and African-American, Jewish and Asian-American, Jewish and Latina, et. al. While I was there to find out how to increase membership in my own synagogue Sisterhood, I was interested to listen as the hierarchy of both the women’s organization and the Reform movement wrestled with the recognition of the diversity of Reform Judaism and jewish life in general. I see evidence of that struggle in my life in New Orleans…

Read the entire article here.

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The Strange History of the American Quadroon: Free Women of Color in the Revolutionary Atlantic World by Emily Clark (review) [Wright]

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, History, Louisiana, United States on 2014-03-20 03:04Z by Steven

The Strange History of the American Quadroon: Free Women of Color in the Revolutionary Atlantic World by Emily Clark (review) [Wright]

Early American Literature
Volume 49, Number 1, 2014
page 257-262
DOI: 10.1353/eal.2014.0015

Nazera Sadiq Wright, Assistant Professor of English
University of Kentucky

The Strange History of the American Quadroon: Free Women of Color in the Revolutionary Atlantic World unveils the historical genealogy of the American quadroon from its invention as a by-product of the Haitian Revolution and evolution as an alluring figure of sexual desire in New Orleans to its contemporary representation in film and media. Emily Clark tells a masterful story of the quadroon’s migration from the Caribbean to the United States, surfacing in Philadelphia, and settling in New Orleans. She begins with the revolution in the French colony of Saint-Domingue, a revolt that resulted in the establishment of Haiti in 1804. The American quadroon was a socially constructed formula created after the Haitian Revolution to reduce anxiety over race revolts in the Caribbean that threatened to reach American soil. The fictional quadroon, argues Clark, aided in the imaginative construction of New Orleans as a foreign city apart from the American polity. As with Sally Hemings, Thomas Jefferson’s black, female mistress kept hidden away like a secret, so too did Americans create “a complex symbolic strategy that kept the quadroon at an imaginative distance from the nation’s heart and heartland” (6). Clark insists that scholars consider New Orleans as a foundational scene of American history, arguing that “the presumption that the history of New Orleans and its quadroons is unique diverts the gaze of the rest of the nation away from its own unattractive Atlantic past, allowing it to remain firmly fixed on less-troubling founding scenes played out on the Mayflower and in Independence Hall” (9). The Strange History of the American Quadroon corrects this sanitization by examining the “intertwined stories” of the quadroon’s evolution as a cultural symbol, the actual people whom this racial classification represents, and the myth that New Orleans is the only home of the quadroon (10).

Using a dazzling array of materials carefully gleaned from archives and historical repositories, including collections at the Latin American Library at Tulane University, the Templeman Library at the University of Kent, and the Office of Archives and Records from the Archdiocese of New Orleans, Clark restores the quadroon to US cultural memory. The first chapter situates the quadroon in the American popular and political imagination through her appearance in the Philadelphia press in 1807. With Haitian refugees migrating to Philadelphia and other US cities after the Haitian Revolution, the image of the quadroon articulated white Philadelphians’ fear of a black republic as well as more generalized anxiety regarding the tenuous political landscape of a newly formed nation. The chapter begins with a detailed account of Haiti’s involvement in the quadroon’s migration to America and her embattled appearance in Philadelphia politics and print culture, arguing that the figure of the black woman “emerged as a charged rhetorical device” in the Philadelphia newspapers to represent the animosity between radical and conservative Democratic Republicans (35). This animosity resulted in the quadroon press war of 1807, which recounted Philadelphia’s unstable relationship with Saint Domingue as a conflict among political parties. The richness of this chapter rests in the way Clark synthesizes the history of the Haitian Revolution and its impact on Philadelphia commerce to demonstrate how this duality “conjured the quadroon as a political trope” (37). This chapter will be especially helpful to scholars invested in studying Haiti through the lens of early Philadelphian print culture.

In chapter 2, Clark reveals how American consciousness came to terms with the Haitian Revolution by displacing fear onto the body of the “menagere,” which Clark defines as a free black woman of color who engaged in sexual partnership with white men in New Orleans. This individual wielded significant economic influence, while being demonized as “an insatiable consumer who seduced white men, including American white men, tempting them away from their proper roles as faithful husbands and fathers” (53-54). In that the “menagere” was viewed as a dangerous, sexually irresistible figure who disrupted men’s natural attachments to white women, the free black woman of color threatened national consciousness as a “usurper of patriotic filiation” (54). Quadroon balls emerged in the context of this perceived threat. In these ballrooms, “men could take in the spectacle of quadroon…

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The Romance of Race: Incest, Miscegenation, and Multiculturalism in the United States, 1880–1930; and Spectacular Wickedness: Sex, Race, and Memory in Storyville, New Orleans [Smithers Review]

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, History, Louisiana, Media Archive, United States on 2014-03-08 06:33Z by Steven

The Romance of Race: Incest, Miscegenation, and Multiculturalism in the United States, 1880–1930; and Spectacular Wickedness: Sex, Race, and Memory in Storyville, New Orleans [Smithers Review]

The Journal of American History
Volume 100, Issue 4 (March 2014)
pages 1222-1224
DOI: 10.1093/jahist/jau065

Gregory D. Smithers, Associate Professor of History
Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia

Jolie A. Sheffer, The Romance of Race: Incest, Miscegenation, and Multiculturalism in the United States, 1880-1930. (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2013. xiv, 233 pp. Cloth, $72.00. Paper, $24.95.) Emily Epstein Landau, Spectacular Wickedness: Sex, Race, and Memory in Storyville, New Orleans. (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2013. xviii, 310 pp. $39.95.)

Since the global financial crisis in 2008 there has been a lot of discussion in newspapers and among historians about the resurgence of economic history. Major university presses have initiated book series devoted to the history of capitalism, while college classrooms across the country reportedly fill with students eager to learn about the past heroics and/or misdeeds of bankers, entrepreneurs, and Wall Street insiders. This turn in historical scholarship has productive potential, for while history is often written about the deceased, it is written for the living so they might better understand the world in which they live. At the same time, the renewed prominence that economic histories now enjoy also has the potential to sideline (and silence) the histories of racial and ethnic minorities, women, and the working classes.

In this context, Jolie A. Sheffer’s The Romance of Race and Emily Epstein Landau’s Spectacular Wickedness are welcome interventions in historical scholarship. Sheffer, whose focus is on the intersecting literary categories of incest and miscegenation, and Landau, who provides a detailed historical examination of the New Orleans vice district of Storyville, demonstrate how understanding the complex and interconnected histories of race, gender, and sexuality remains critical to comprehending the United States at the turn of the twentieth century. In an era dominated by corrupt politicians and…

Read or purchase the review of both books here.

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New Orleans After the Civil War: Race, Politics, and a New Birth of Freedom by Justin A. Nystrom (review)

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, History, Louisiana, Media Archive, United States on 2014-01-29 17:33Z by Steven

New Orleans After the Civil War: Race, Politics, and a New Birth of Freedom by Justin A. Nystrom (review)

Register of the Kentucky Historical Society
Volume 111, Number 4, Autumn 2013
pages 617-619
DOI: 10.1353/khs.2014.0023

Aaron Astor, Associate professor of History
Maryville College, Maryville, Tennessee

Nystrom, Justin A., New Orleans after the Civil War: Race, Politics, and a New Birth of Freedom (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010).

The narrative arc between the birth of Radical Reconstruction and its final death in Jim Crow is bookended by two events in the city of New Orleans. The infamous “Riot of 1866” showcased for the nation the unwillingness of defeated Confederates to concede any political power to the black masses of the South emerging from slavery. The massacre of black Republicans at the Mechanics’ Institute would play a key role in undermining Johnsonian Reconstruction in the congressional elections of that year. Thirty years later, a mixed-race New Orleanian named Homer Plessy would challenge the Louisiana Separate Car Act, only to have the United States Supreme Court enshrine the “separate but equal” doctrine for the nation at large. But between these tragic moments of racial oppression and humiliation was a remarkably complex, multifaceted, and highly contingent struggle between myriad ethnoracial, class, regional, and partisan forces that complicated any teleological understanding of the rise and fall of Reconstruction.

Justin A. Nystrom’s lucid and colorful account of New Orleans after the Civil War explores this remarkable and ongoing battle for power and dignity among the various forces converging on the streets and in the local and state legislative halls. Nystrom’s portrait of nineteenth-century New Orleans reveals the webs of kinship that seamlessly crossed the color line and lent the city caste system a distinctive three-class character—whites, black slaves, and mixed-race Afro-Creoles. The delicate balance of New Orleans society, further complicated by sizable white ethnic immigrant populations pouring into the city in the 1850s, would explode as early as April 1862 when the Union navy captured the city with hardly a fight.

Nystrom’s study follows the interconnected lives of southern white elites like Ezekiel John Ellis and Frederick Nash Ogden, Afro-Creoles like Charles St. Albin Sauvinet and Louise Drouet, white Creoles like Arthur Toledano and Aristee Louis Tissot, white and black “carpetbaggers” like Algernon Sydney Badger, Henry Clay Warmoth, and Pinckney Benton Stewart Pinchback, and ex-slaves like Peter Joseph. The intersection of these colorfully named characters produced an entropic political culture with self-serving factions vying for power in the city, the state, and the region. Nystrom expends considerable effort detailing epic street clashes like the “Battle of Liberty Place” in 1874, when a new Democratic White League movement briefly wrested control of the city from its Republican Customs House–based leadership. Added to the paramilitary violence were competing Mardi Gras floats with explicitly political messages that inscribed new and competing racial discourses that undermined the legitimacy of the mixed-race political order. Nystrom’s analysis reveals a tumultuous era of intraparty factionalism that simultaneously complicated revisionist accounts of postwar Republicanism, while also showcasing the difficulty that “Redeemer” factions faced in shaping a white supremacist order long after 1877.

This is an important book for understanding postwar urban politics in the largest city in the South. It is deeply researched, splendidly written, and well contextualized within the larger historiography of Reconstruction. There are some limitations to the personality and kin-based methodology, however. The two infamous bookending moments—the 1866 riot and the Plessy case—ironically receive only cursory treatment in this book. Nystrom’s central characters were mostly bystanders to these events, which meant that they appeared only in the narrative shadows despite their national significance. Another problem, of course, is the exceptionalism of New Orleans itself. For several obvious reasons, New Orleans was (and is) simply atypical as a southern locale. As such, a study of the city is going to have limited implications for understanding the national drama of Reconstruction. Still, Nystrom manages to extrapolate from the complex and contingent history of New Orleans to make the convincing case that the racial politics of the post–Civil War South was much more unpredictable and contested than even post–Foner historians have appreciated…

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