Date: May 2012
Creator: Foreman, Nicholas
Description: Because of its trademark racial diversity, historians have often presented New Orleans as a place transformed by incorporation into the American South following 1804. Assertions that a comparatively relaxed, racially ambiguous Spanish slaveholding regime was converted into a two-caste system of dedicated racial segregation by the advent of American assumption have been posited by scholars like Frank Tannenbaum, Gwendolyn Midlo Hall, and a host of others. Citing dependence on patronage, concubinage, and the decline in slave manumissions during the antebellum period, such studies have employed descriptions of the city’s prominent free people of color to suggest that the daily lives of non-whites in New Orleans experienced uniform restriction following 1804, and that the Crescent City’s transformation from Atlantic society with slaves to rigid slave society forced free people of color out of the heart of the city, known as the Vieux Carré, and into “black neighborhoods” on the margins of town. Despite the popularity of such generalized themes in the historiography, however, the extant sources housed in New Orleans’s valuable archival repositories can be used to support a vastly divergent narrative. By focusing on individual free people of color, or libres, rather than the non-white community as a whole, this ...
Contributing Partner: UNT Libraries