Les Gens De Couleur Libres, The Free People of Color in New Orleans
1278 Words6 Pages
Shattered dreams. Broken promises. They were hung between freedom and slavery. They struggled to find a different kind of freedom and independency where justice has yet to exist and racism wasn’t just a part of life, but what life was all about.
New Orleans is a city in southern Louisiana, located on the Mississippi River. Most of the city is situated on the east bank, between the river and Lake Pontchartrain to the north. Because it was built on a great turn of the river, it is known as the Crescent City.
New Orleans was founded in 1718 by Jean Baptiste Le Moyne, sieur de Bienville, and named for the regent of France, Philippe II, duc d'Orleans. It remained a French colony until 1763, when it was surrendered to the Spanish. In 1800, Spain ceded it back to France; in 1803, New Orleans, along with the entire Louisiana Purchase, was sold by Napoleon I to the United States.
Like the early American settlements along Massachusetts Bay and Chesapeake Bay, New Orleans served as a distinctive cultural gateway to North America, where people from Europe and Africa initially intertwined their lives and customs with those of the native inhabitants of the New World. The resulting way of life differed dramatically from the culture than was spawned in the English colonies of North America. New Orleans is a place where Africans, Indians and European settlers shared their cultures and blended together. Encouraged by the French government, this strategy for producing a tough, durable culture in a difficult place, marked New Orleans as different and special and it still continues to distinguish the city today.
African Americans make up about half of the city of New Orleans population to date. How did this come about? Well, during the eighteenth century, Africans came to the city directly from West Africa. The majority passed neither through the West Indies nor South America, so they developed complicated relations with both the Indian and Europeans.
The Spanish rulers (1765-1802) reached out to the black population for support against the French settlers; in doing so, they allowed many to buy their own freedom. These free black settlers along with Creole slaves formed the earliest black urban settlement in North America.
A Creole is a person born in the West Indies or Spanish America but of European, usually Spanish, ancestry. And it...
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...dren, noisy with tinkling bells and dressed in masks and gay dominoes, come out of their houses and visit from door to door in their neighborhood. Later in the day there is a street parade, and another one at night. The Mardi Gras gayeties end with the most brilliant ball of the season.
In conclusion I would like to repeat that from the earliest days of New Orleans history, free persons of color have coexisted with those of European extraction. They didn’t have to get along fine, but that was just a way of life, which many, had to either accept or fight against. The free people of color, although free, did not have all of the rights of their white counterparts.
As Charles E. O’Neill, in Our People and Our History, defined it “They shared neither the privileges of the master class nor the degradation of the slave. They stood between -- or rather apart -- sharing the cultivated tastes of the upper caste and the painful humiliation attached to the race of the enslaved”.
Our People and Our History by Rodolphe Lucien Desdunes and Dorothea Olga McCants.
Creole New Orleans: Race and Americanization by Arnold R. Hirsch Joseph Logsdon.