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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News Alert | Four new theses in Europe explore Louisiana history

Posted in Articles, Campus Life, History, Louisiana, Media Archive, United States on 2016-06-17 17:40Z by Steven

News Alert | Four new theses in Europe explore Louisiana history

Louisiana Historic and Cultural Vistas
2016-06-17

Christophe Landry

For immediate release

European theses explore Louisiana history

In 2015 and 2016, students in England and the Netherlands finalized research on Louisiana history, culminating in dissertations (called theses in the United Kingdom and Holland). It probably will sound far-fetched, but there’s good reason behind it. The University of Sussex in Brighton, England, has a scholar named Richard Follett. Richard conducted his doctoral research at LSU in Bâton Rouge and has written and spoken extensively on the sugarcane industry in Louisiana, especially on race and emancipation in Louisiana’s sugarcane-growing parishes. The University of Leiden, in Leiden, Holland, has Adam Fairclough. Adam’s career also hinges on US history, specifically on race, racism and the African American experiences in the US South.

Richard supervised 3 theses on Louisiana. Carin Peller-Semmens’s thesis discusses issues preventing Reconstruction from materializing its intended goals on a longterm basis in Louisiana’s Anglo Red River valley (northwest Louisiana). Darryl Barthé and I both wrote on 20th century transformations in the Creole community of New Orleans and southwest Louisiana.

Mark Leon de Vries, like Carin, explored Reconstruction in Louisiana’s Red River valley.

Below is a summary of each of those theses, as well as a URL where they can be downloaded free of charge. I’ve grouped them in Creole and Red River, since they present different periods, cultural milieux, ethnic groups, realities and experiences in Louisiana’s Latin and Anglo communities…

Read about the four theses here.

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“[She] Passed Down Orleans Street, a Polished Dandy”: The Queer Race Romance of Ludwig von Reizenstein’s The Mysteries of New Orleans

Posted in Articles, Gay & Lesbian, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Louisiana, Media Archive, United States on 2016-06-09 00:40Z by Steven

“[She] Passed Down Orleans Street, a Polished Dandy”: The Queer Race Romance of Ludwig von Reizenstein’s The Mysteries of New Orleans

Studies in American Fiction
Volume 43, Issue 1, Spring 2016
pages 27-50
DOI: 10.1353/saf.2016.0005

Lauren Heintz, Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow
Department of English Department
Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana

Ludwig von Reizenstein’s sensational, serialized novel, The Mysteries of New Orleans (1854–1855), opens with the lament that in New Orleans, “the chains of a maligned race rattle day and night” because “no angels have yet appeared to our Negritians to announce the birth of a Toussaint L’Ouverture!” Foreshadowing what is to come at the end of Reizenstein’s five-volume text, the prologue provides the first and only glimpse of the prophetic child, the “sun-god” Toussaint. The reincarnated revolutionary leader will deliver the entire U.S. South from the “evils” of slavery, instigating a bloody race war at the future date of 1871. Shortly after this auguration, we meet the couple that is to give birth to the new Toussaint. Much of the novel hinges on the fact that Toussaint L’Ouverture is to be born of a light-skinned mulatto woman (Lucy) and an effeminate, white German aristocrat (Emil), both of whom are introduced as an eroticized, cross-dressing couple. Curiously, it is when they are masquerading in each other’s clothes that the text’s revolutionary design is announced: an anachronistic and anatopistic re-imagination of the Haitian revolution led by the now interracial Toussaint.

Reizenstein is somewhat of a self-professed rogue novelist. In a spat between the newspaper that Reizentein’s text was published in, Louisiana Staats Zeitung, and its rival newspaper, the Deutsche Zeitung, the editors of the latter denounce the “wanton wiles” of Reizenstein’s text as “betraying a lack of propriety that borders on moral decadence,” a decadence that “should not be brought into the family for a few cents” (Mysteries xxi). Reizenstein returns the stab to mock the kind of domestic, sentimental piety in fiction that “will only be read by shy, superannuated virgins” (Mysteries xx). Rejecting the genre of sentimentality, Reizenstein takes his rebuttal one step further as he, too, separates himself from the “disreputable novelist Ned Buntline,” who Reizenstein claims “launched the literature of mysteries on American soil and thereby utterly killed all their enchantment” (Mysteries 1). Whether or not Reizenstein was attempting to revamp the sensational “mysteries” genre or distance himself from it, and despite Reizenstein’s all out refusal of sentimentality, he still predominantly employs the trope of the “race romance” that remains typical to both sensational “mysteries of the city” novels as well as sentimental domestic fiction. Yet in Mysteries, the cross-dressing, extramarital race romance between Lucy and Emil is certainly bawdy enough for an illicit readership searching for something beyond the sentimental romance.

While the race romance in Mysteries between Lucy and Emil is caught up in gender-play, adultery, licentiousness, and scandal, the race romance as a predominant trope in nineteenth-century sensational and sentimental fiction most commonly dramatizes the scenario of a white man falling in love with a woman of color, who is often described as being tragically light skinned. The race romance seeks to advance the promise of incorporating the person of color into the imagined white republic of the United States. But also, the race romance most often hinges on the quintessential sensationalist promise of the mixed-raced child, one who is born of an interracial union that ushers in a type of racialized utopianism. The intent of the race romance is to instigate the dissolution of the races through the appropriation and incorporation of the interracial child into whiteness. Yet, while the above is the idealized scenario of the race romance introduced in nineteenth-century fiction, more often than not the race romance unravels as an all out doomed enterprise by the end of the novel. In Dion Boucicault’s The Octoroon (1859), for example, in the U.S. version of the play, the story ends with the tragic death of the octoroon heroine Zoe in the arms of her white lover George; in Lydia Maria Child’s Hobomok (1824), the “noble savage” Hobomok leaves his white lover, Mary, and their son, Hobomok, for the sake of white domesticity as Mary nurtures her…

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The Mysteries of New Orleans

Posted in Books, Louisiana, Media Archive, Novels, United States on 2016-06-08 21:47Z by Steven

The Mysteries of New Orleans

Johns Hopkins University Press
June 2002
600 pages
3 halftones
Paperback ISBN: 9780801868825

Baron Ludwig von Reizenstein (1826-1885)

translated and edited by:

Steven Rowan, Professor of History
University of Missouri, St. Louis

“Reizenstein’s peculiar vision of New Orleans is worth resurrecting precisely because it crossed the boundaries of acceptable taste in nineteenth-century German America and squatted firmly on the other side… This work makes us realize how limited our notions were of what could be conceived by a fertile American imagination in the middle of the nineteenth century.”—from the Introduction by Steven Rowan

A lost classic of America’s neglected German-language literary tradition, The Mysteries of New Orleans by Baron Ludwig von Reizenstein first appeared as a serial in the Louisiana Staats-Zeitung, a New Orleans German-language newspaper, between 1854 and 1855. Inspired by the gothic “urban mysteries” serialized in France and Germany during this period, Reizenstein crafted a daring occult novel that stages a frontal assault on the ethos of the antebellum South. His plot imagines the coming of a bloody, retributive justice at the hands of Hiram the Freemason—a nightmarish, 200-year-old, proto-Nietzschean superman—for the sin of slavery. Heralded by the birth of a black messiah, the son of a mulatto prostitute and a decadent German aristocrat, this coming revolution is depicted in frankly apocalyptic terms.

Yet, Reizenstein was equally concerned with setting and characters, from the mundane to the fantastic. The book is saturated with the atmosphere of nineteenth-century New Orleans, the amorous exploits of its main characters uncannily resembling those of New Orleans’ leading citizens. Also of note is the author’s progressively matter-of-fact portrait of the lesbian romance between his novel’s only sympathetic characters, Claudine and Orleana. This edition marks the first time that The Mysteries of New Orleans has been translated into English and proves that 150 years later, this vast, strange, and important novel remains as compelling as ever.

Baron Ludwig von Reizenstein (1826-1885) was born in Bavaria and emigrated to America in 1848. By 1851 he had established himself as a civil engineer, architect, journalist, amateur naturalist, and publisher in New Orleans, where he lived until his death.

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On Becoming Black, Becoming White and Being Human: Rachel Dolezal and the Fluidity of Race

Posted in Articles, History, Law, Louisiana, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2016-06-05 01:22Z by Steven

On Becoming Black, Becoming White and Being Human: Rachel Dolezal and the Fluidity of Race

Truthdig
2015-06-18

Channing G. Joseph


Library of Congress

For decades, no one knew my cousin Ernest Torregano was black. At least, no one who mattered in his new life.

Not the clients or associates of the prominent bankruptcy law firm with which he had built his reputation and his fortune. Not the other members of the San Francisco Planning Commission, of which he had been president. And certainly not the mayor, Elmer Robinson, with whom Ernest had been close since their days as fresh new lawyers in the city. It is quite likely, I think, that Ernest never admitted, even to Pearl, his second wife of 30 years, that she had married an African-American man.

Few understood the true extent of my cousin’s labyrinth of secrets until he was already dead and buried. By then, he had successfully “passed for white” for more than 40 years.

When his only child, Gladys Stevens, learned that her father had not died in 1915 but had been alive until 1954, she filed suit to claim her share of his estate—worth about $300,000 then, or about $2.6 million today. After a protracted legal battle to prove she really was Ernest’s daughter, she won. Meanwhile, her story—and Ernest’s—made national headlines for nearly seven years. One Oklahoma newspaper announced: “Widow Claims Rich Lawyer Was Really Her Negro Father.” A Connecticut paper proclaimed: “Daughter’s Suit Reveals Double Life of Man Who Passed Over Color Line.” But Newsweek magazine’s headline captured the essence of the story in just three words: “The Second Man.”

Born into a mixed-race family in New Orleans in 1882, the First Man was the fair-skinned son of a white father and a mixed-race mother. And because he so loved to sing and to laugh and to travel, he joined a touring minstrel troupe, performing in blackface makeup for cheering crowds across the South. In that show, he met Viola, who played the guitar, and they married. After their daughter, Gladys, was born, the First Man took a job as a Pullman porter on the Southern Pacific Railroad line from New Orleans to San Francisco—to make a better living for his new family. But at some point along the way—perhaps as he gazed through a train car window at the countryside rolling by or as he wandered along Market Street among white people who did not sneer at him or call him “boy”—he decided he would never return home. (According to one account, his mother, who supported the idea of his passing, convinced him that Viola and Gladys had been killed and that he should forget them forever.)…

Read the entire article here.

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