Collecting: My special focus on Louisiana’s Free People of Color.

Posted in Articles, Arts, History, Louisiana, Media Archive, United States on 2016-11-03 01:06Z by Steven

Collecting: My special focus on Louisiana’s Free People of Color.

Louisiana Historic and Cultural Vistas
2016-10-31

Jeremy K. Simien

It’s been said that collecting is a sickness and that a great collector will never stop collecting. I don’t know why, but I’ve always collected things. It started with fossilized rocks on the gravel playground at school, and it continued with other miscellaneous school yard obsessions, some now too embarrassing to admit. Although I will share that at the age of eleven, I was quite serious about finding rare Beanie Babies. No matter the age, I always enjoyed finding and collecting things…

…My personal desire to find and collect portraits of Free people of African descent/Creoles of color is simple. I feel that these pieces act as a crucial visual cue for a story and a message that must be told. The story of the so-called “Free People of Color” goes well beyond my personal family history and any narcissistic need for ancestral gratification. The desire to share and spread this story comes from my need to present a narrative that offers encouragement to not only people of African descent, but also other marginalized groups and persons. The narrative that I hope to present will hopefully be a message of resistance, persistence, and survival…

Read the entire article here.

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TriPod Mythbusters: Quadroon Balls And Plaçage

Posted in Articles, Audio, History, Louisiana, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2016-10-25 19:12Z by Steven

TriPod Mythbusters: Quadroon Balls And Plaçage

Tripod
WWNO 89.9 FM
New Orleans, Louisiana
2016-09-22

Laine Kaplan-Levenson, Host

There is a common myth told about 19th-century New Orleans. It goes something like this: Imagine you’re in an elegant dance hall in New Orleans in the early 1800s. Looking around, you see a large group of white men and free women of color, who were at the time called quadroons, meaning they supposedly had ¼ African ancestry. The mothers play matchmakers, and introduce their daughters to these white men, who then ask their hand in a dance.

The ballroom is fancy, and the invited guests look the part. When a match is made, a contract is drawn up. The white man agrees to take care of the young woman and any children she may have with him. This arrangement was called “plaçage.”

Charles Chamberlain teaches history at the University of New Orleans. “Plaçage is defined historically as where a white man would basically have a relationship with a free woman of color where she would be kept, so that he would provide her with a house and some form of income so that she could maintain a lifestyle.”

What Chamberlain is describing is basically a common-law marriage. And those did happen. But the idea of Quadroon Balls is way sexier, which helps explain why they get talked about so much. French Quarter tour guides walk by the Bourbon Orleans hotel and talk about the famous quadroon balls that took place inside. But try to find proof of plaçage Chamberlain says, and it’s not there…

Listen to the story here.

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Jane Doe v. State of Louisiana (1985)

Posted in Law, Louisiana, Media Archive, Statements, United States on 2016-10-08 01:50Z by Steven

Jane Doe v. State of Louisiana (1985)

Justice Ward delivered the opinion of the Court.

This appeal is brought by several members of the Guillory family, children and grandchildren of Simea Fretty and Dominique Guillory, both deceased. Six of the appellants, Marie Bernice Guillory Rougeau, Armet Guillory Fontenot, Lucy Elizabeth Guillory Parker, Suzy Elizabeth Rita Guillory Phipps, Regina Rougeau, and Tex Adam Rougeau, contend that their birth certificates, issued between the years 1919 and 1941, erroneously designate their parents as “colored”, when in fact they were white. These appellants seek a mandamus that would compel the Louisiana Department of Health and Human Resources to correct the alleged error. Two of the appellants, Theresa Guillory Rougeau and Mildred Rougeau, were never issued birth certificates. They seek a mandamus compelling the state to issue delayed birth certificates designating their parents as white. The Trial Court found that the evidence presented by appellants was insufficient to justify a mandamus.

As an alternative to their suit for mandamus, appellants challenged the constitutionality of former La. R.S. 42:267 which provided that a person having one-thirty second or less of Negro blood shall not be described or designated as “colored” by any state official. The Trial Court rejected the constitutional challenge solely on the grounds that 42:267 was held constitutional in State ex rel. Plaia v. Louisiana State Board of Health (1974).

We affirm the Trial Court judgment…

…As to the six appellants who presently have birth certificates, we find that they failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that their parents’ racial designations are incorrect. Expert testimony indicated that the very concept of the racial classification of individuals, as opposed to that of a group, is scientifically insupportable. Individual racial designations are purely social and cultural perceptions, and the evidence conclusively proves those subjective perceptions were correctly recorded at the time appellants’ birth certificates were issued. There is no proof in the record that Simea or Dominique Guillory preferred to be designated as white. They might well have been proud to be described as colored. Indeed, we have no evidence that during their lifetimes they objected to the racial designations in dispute in this case. Accordingly, we hold that the defendant state officers have no legal duty to alter the birth certificates…

Read the entire opinion here.

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The “Birther” Movement: Whites Defining Black

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, History, Louisiana, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Slavery, United States, Virginia on 2016-10-08 01:36Z by Steven

The “Birther” Movement: Whites Defining Black

Racism Review
2016-09-18

Dr. Terence Fitzgerald, Clinical Associate Professor
University of Southern California

Hallelujah I say, Hallelujah! Did you hear the news? Did ya? After sending a team of investigators to Hawaii, drawing the attention of the national and international media, and leading an almost six year charge of infesting the mind of those already under the influence of the white racial frame into a catnip type psychological and emotional frenzy; the “benevolent one,” Donald J. Trump, has publically and emphatically acknowledged that our President of the United States of America is—get this, “an American!” Yes it is true. Republican presidential nominee and town jester, Trump on Friday, September 16, 2016 recognized in a public forum for the first time in eight years that President Obama was indeed born in the U.S. After not only leading, but becoming synonymous with what many have described as the “birther movement,” Trump has conceded and given up on furthering the conspiracy theory that our President is not an American citizen.

…One cannot forget the history behind the 1662 Virginia law that in particular focused on the behavior directed toward mixed-race people. The notion of the ‘one drop rule’ was consequently constructed. This legal means for identifying who was Black was judicially upheld as recent as 1985 “when a Louisiana court ruled that a woman with a black great-great-great-great-grandmother could not identify herself as ‘white’ on her passport.” …

Read the entire article here.

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This Movie Was Nearly Lost. Now They’re Fighting to Save It.

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Communications/Media Studies, History, Louisiana, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2016-09-25 21:44Z by Steven

This Movie Was Nearly Lost. Now They’re Fighting to Save It.

The New York Times
2016-09-23

John Anderson


Richard Romain in the 1982 film “Cane River.”
Credit IndieCollect

When it debuted in 1982, “Cane River” was already a rarity: a drama by an independent black filmmaker, financed by wealthy black patrons and dealing with race issues untouched by mainstream cinema. Richard Pryor had even tried to take it to Hollywood.

But since a negative resurfaced two years ago, it has attained a certain mythic quality, connecting a disparate group of people across the country: New York preservationists dedicated to restoring it; a cultural historian in Louisiana devoting an academic paper to it; an archivist in Los Angeles fascinated with it. And the director’s son, the music journalist and filmmaker Sacha Jenkins, who knew about the film but has never seen it, and who has been left with a question no small number of sons have asked about their fathers.

“Who was this guy?”…

Cane River itself is a historically multicultural area in Natchitoches Parish in Louisiana, and the movie, in addition to being a Romeo-Juliet romance, deals with land swindles perpetrated against people of color, and “colorism”— that is, social hierarchy as dictated by skin tone.

“It’s a common issue, because there was a lot of intermarriage and, of course, slavery,” said Carol Balthazar, who was Horace Jenkins’s partner, and whose family history provided the movie’s historical backdrop…

…Ms. Spann watched a bootleg DVD of “Cane River.” “I can’t think of any film that dealt with colorism in such a serious way,” she said. She is writing a paper on “Cane River” for the Louisiana Historical Society, and said some of the scenes seemed too long. Debra I. Moore, who edited the film in 1980, said there’s a good reason for that…

Read the entire article here.

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A Luminous Brotherhood: Afro-Creole Spiritualism in Nineteenth-Century New Orleans

Posted in Books, History, Louisiana, Media Archive, Monographs, Religion, United States on 2016-09-19 00:06Z by Steven

A Luminous Brotherhood: Afro-Creole Spiritualism in Nineteenth-Century New Orleans

University of North Carolina Press
September 2016
280 pages
6.125 x 9.25, 6 halftones, notes, bibl., index
Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4696-2878-3

Emily Suzanne Clark, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies
Gonzaga University, Spokane, Washington

In the midst of a nineteenth-century boom in spiritual experimentation, the Cercle Harmonique, a remarkable group of African-descended men, practiced Spiritualism in heavily Catholic New Orleans from just before the Civil War to the end of Reconstruction. In this first comprehensive history of the Cercle, Emily Suzanne Clark illuminates how highly diverse religious practices wind in significant ways through American life, culture, and history. Clark shows that the beliefs and practices of Spiritualism helped Afro-Creoles mediate the political and social changes in New Orleans, as free blacks suffered increasingly restrictive laws and then met with violent resistance to suffrage and racial equality.

Drawing on fascinating records of actual séance practices, the lives of the mediums, and larger citywide and national contexts, Clark reveals how the messages that the Cercle received from the spirit world offered its members rich religious experiences as well as a forum for political activism inspired by republican ideals. Messages from departed souls including François Rabelais, Abraham Lincoln, John Brown, Robert E. Lee, Emanuel Swedenborg, and even Confucius discussed government structures, the moral progress of humanity, and equality. The Afro-Creole Spiritualists were encouraged to continue struggling for justice in a new world where “bright” spirits would replace raced bodies.

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Spiritualism in Nineteenth-Century New Orleans: The Life and Times of Henry Louis Rey

Posted in Biography, Books, Family/Parenting, History, Louisiana, Monographs, Religion, United States on 2016-09-07 21:12Z by Steven

Spiritualism in Nineteenth-Century New Orleans: The Life and Times of Henry Louis Rey

University Press of Mississippi
January 2017
208 pages
25 b&w illustrations, 1 map, chronology, bibliography, index
6 x 9 inches
Hardcover ISBN-13: 978-1496810083

Melissa Daggett

Modern American Spiritualism blossomed in the 1850s and continued as a viable faith into the 1870s. Because of its diversity and openness to new cultures and religions, New Orleans provided fertile ground to nurture Spiritualism, and many séance circles flourished in the Creole Faubourgs of Tremé and Marigny as well as the American sector of the city. Melissa Daggett focuses on Le Cercle Harmonique, the francophone séance circle of Henry Louis Rey (1831–1894), a Creole of color who was a key civil rights activist, author, and Civil War and Reconstruction leader. His life has so far remained largely in the shadows of New Orleans history, partly due to a language barrier.

Spiritualism in Nineteenth-Century New Orleans focuses on the turbulent years between the late antebellum period and the end of Reconstruction. Translating and interpreting numerous primary sources and one of the only surviving registers of séance proceedings, Daggett has opened a window into a fascinating life as well as a period of tumult and change. She provides unparalleled insights into the history of the Creoles of color and renders a better understanding of New Orleans’s complex history. The author weaves an intriguing tale of the supernatural, of chaotic post-bellum politics, of transatlantic linkages, and of the personal triumphs and tragedies of Rey as a notable citizen and medium. Wonderful illustrations, reproductions of the original spiritual communications, and photographs, many of which have never before appeared in published form, accompany this study of Rey and his world.

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The Great New Orleans Kidnapping Case

Posted in Articles, Audio, History, Interviews, Law, Louisiana, Media Archive, United States on 2016-06-18 20:36Z by Steven

The Great New Orleans Kidnapping Case

Tripod: New Orleans At 300
89.9 FM WWNO
New Orleans, Louisiana
2016-06-16

Laine Kaplan-Levenson, Producer


The Provost Guard in New Orleans taking up Vagrant Negroes. (1974.25.9.190)
THE HISTORIC NEW ORLEANS COLLECTION

It was June. It was hot. Kids were out of school, keeping busy outdoors. Parents were inside. Kind of like how it is now, except it was 146 years ago.

“It is a world turned upside down,” says Michael Ross, historian and author of ‘The Great New Orleans Kidnapping Case: Race, Law, and Justice in the Reconstruction Era.’ He’s talking about the year 1870, at the height of reconstruction. “You have five cities in the South that have integrated their police forces, at a time when not a single police force in the North had integrated.

It’s true. The NOPD first hired black officers in the 1860s. New York City didn’t have an African American in their ranks until 1911. This is one of the many things that makes New Orleans a stage for social change in the U.S. after the Civil War. One crime in particular brought these changes into focus.

Molly Digby is 17 months old and playing outside with her older brother. Two women of color walk up to the kids and start talking to them, until they’re all interrupted by a loud noise down the street. The women tell the boy he can go see what all the excitement is about, and they’ll watch the baby. He runs off, and when he comes back, the women, and baby Molly, are gone.

“A white baby is abducted by two mixed race women called Mulattos at the time,” Ross explains. “That story would have been just one of many terrible stories of that day that would have been buried in the third page of the newspaper. But a number of factors lead to it getting front page attention.”…

Read the story here. Listen to the episode here.

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Becoming American in Creole New Orleans: family, community, labor and schooling, 1896-1949

Posted in Dissertations, History, Louisiana, Media Archive, United States on 2016-06-18 19:22Z by Steven

Becoming American in Creole New Orleans: family, community, labor and schooling, 1896-1949

University of Sussex
May 2015
371 pages

Darryl G. Barthé, Jr.

Doctorate of Philosophy in History

The Louisiana Creole community in New Orleans went through profound changes in the first half of the 20th-century. This work examines Creole ethnic identity, focusing particularly on the transition from Creole to American. In “becoming American,” Creoles adapted to a binary, racialized caste system prevalent in the Jim Crow American South (and transformed from a primarily Francophone/Creolophone community (where a tripartite although permissive caste system long existed) to a primarily Anglophone community (marked by stricter black-white binaries). These adaptations and transformations were facilitated through Creole participation in fraternal societies, the organized labor movement and public and parochial schools that provided English-only instruction. The “Americanization of Creole New Orleans” has been a common theme in Creole studies since the early 1990’s, but no prior study has seriously examined the cultural and social transformation of Creole New Orleans by addressing the place and role of public and private institutions as instruments and facilitators of Americanization. By understanding the transformation of Creole New Orleans, this thesis demonstrates how an historically mixed-race community was ultimately divided by the segregationist culture of the early-twentieth century U.S. South.

In addition to an extensive body of secondary research, this work draws upon archival research at the University of New Orleans’ Special Collections, Tulane University Special Collections, the Amistad Research Center, The Archdiocese of New Orleans, and Xavier University Special Collections. This thesis makes considerable use of census data, draws upon press reports, and brings to bear a wide assortment of oral histories conducted by the author and others.

Most scholars have viewed New Orleans Creoles simply as Francophone African Americans, but this view is limited. This doctoral thesis engages the Creole community in New Orleans on its own terms, and in its own idioms, to understand what “becoming American” meant for New Orleans Creoles between 1896-1949.

Read the entire dissertation here.

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A Creole melting pot: the politics of language, race, and identity in southwest Louisiana, 1918-45

Posted in Anthropology, Dissertations, History, Louisiana, Media Archive, Religion, United States on 2016-06-17 18:04Z by Steven

A Creole melting pot: the politics of language, race, and identity in southwest Louisiana, 1918-45

University of Sussex
September 2015
353 pages

Christophe Landry

Doctorate of Philosophy in History

Southwest Louisiana Creoles underwent great change between World Wars I and II as they confronted American culture, people, and norms. This work examines that cultural transformation, paying particular attention to the processes of cultural assimilation and resistance to the introduction and imposition of American social values and its southern racial corollary: Jim Crow. As this work makes clear, the transition to American identity transmuted the cultural foundations of French- and Creole-speaking Creole communities. World War I signalled early transformative changes and over the next three decades, the region saw the introduction of English language, new industries, an increasing number of Protestant denominations, and the forceful imposition of racialized identities and racial segregation. Assimilation and cultural resistance characterized the Creole response, but by 1945, southwest Louisiana more closely resembled much of the American South. Creole leaders in churches, schools, and the tourism industry offered divergent reactions; some elite Creoles began looking to Francophone Canada for whitened ethnic identity support while others turned toward the Catholic establishment in Baltimore, Maryland to bolster their faith. Creoles were not the only distinct community to undergo Americanization, but Louisiana Creoles were singular in their response. As this study makes clear – in ways no historian has previously documented – Louisiana Creoles bifurcated as a result of Americanization. This study also contributes to, and broadens, the literature on Acadian identity. Previously, scholars simply assumed that whitened Latins in Louisiana had always identified with Acadia and their black-racialized brethren with Haiti. This thesis, however, suggests that Cajun and Creole are not opposites. Rather, they derive from the same people and culture, and their perceived and articulated difference emerged in response to Americanization. Through a critical analysis of that bifurcation process, this thesis demonstrates how Acadianized identity and culture emerged in the first half of the 20th century.

Read the entire dissertation here.

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