“Créolité in Louisiana is manifested in the new modes of interaction that emerged among the Africans, Amerindians, Europeans, Afro-Amerindians, Euro-Amerindians, Afro-Europeans, and Afro-Euro-Amerindians who settled there.”
Darryl Barthé Jr. introduces his new book with this statement to describe Louisianians. The book covers the origins, geography, language and more of local people.
Published by LSU Press, “Becoming American in Creole New Orleans 1896-1949” is Barthé’s explanation of how people in Louisiana adapted to the American racial caste system. White people capitalized on opportunities and Black people connected with previous generations and families.
The importance of a racial dialogue at this time in our history helps us understand not just the genetic inheritances of Louisiana’s people but the choices that created a separatist and white supremacist history.
As people denied the less “pure” parts of themselves, the history of racial intermingling and mutual dependency that existed in the early years of the Louisiana colony disappeared, leaving us today with realities that must be revised. Barthé’s account dispels a number of myths with his well-researched and in-depth book.
Barthé, a lecturer in history at Dartmouth University, was born and raised in New Orleans. He has taught in New Orleans, Brighton, New York City, and Amsterdam.
“The Slave Community: Plantation Life in the Antebellum South, Black New Orleans, 1860-1880” by John W. Blassingame is a classic of research into the Reconstruction period and the events that took place in New Orleans. The book was published originally by the University of Chicago in 1976. Blassingham, who died in 2000, was an early scholar of American slavery.
His research predated electronic search engines so he scoured local libraries and archives and interviewed professors when he visited New Orleans. “Black New Orleans” was reissued more than 30 years after its appearance to continued good reviews. I am still delighted to see my father’s name in the footnotes. Blassingham used Mohamed Shaik’s Ph.D. thesis, “The Development of Public Education for Negroes in Louisiana,” as one of the resources for his book and I can remember the excitement when the hardcover first edition of “Black New Orleans” came into our home.
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