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View Diary: Louisiana's multi-colored history and hypocrisy (298 comments)

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    at one time, the city and the French Quarter contained 18,000 Creoles. Anne Rice wrote a fairly factual book called "The Feast of All Saints" (also a movie), that describes Creole life pretty well. Check it out.

    Some Creoles were slaves and some had slaves, some worked their way out of slavery, and some bought others out of slavery. As a culture, they were very successful, sending their children to France for education and upbringing. As it always seems to be in the US, New Orleans had a distinct culture until the Anglos came down the MS river and forced their Anglo based ways on the city. The Creoles stayed in the Quarter and on Esplanade, where their mansions were, while the Anglos moved to the other side of Canal st. This is why the street names change at Canal- the Anglos did not want to use the French street names for "their" part of the city. The feds shut down Storyville, and forced segregation upon the city, classifying anyone with any Negro blood as black. The Feds tried to force seating segregation upon the streetcars by making blacks sit in the back of the car, behind a movable barrier, but the locals would have none of it.

    "Creole" was the original name for anyone born in La., but this morphed into a Louisianne of mixed blood, French, African, Haitian, Spanish, American Indian, Italian, but founded upon French culture and language. The Creoles had what became to be known as "the paper bag test" - if your skin was any darker than a brown paper bag then you were not allowed in, and it is their social organizations, - social aid and pleasure clubs that became "Krewes" that Mardi Gras is founded upon. The Creoles has a scale of "blackness" depending on your percentage of Negro blood: Quadroon, Octaroon, etc., but you had to have Negro blood in your veins to become one. At one time they Creole society was so powerful that some whites tried to pass to get in, claiming they were a sixteenth black. In truth, it became hard to tell who was of what Blood line, especially with people who had Spanish or Italian parentage.

    An interesting tidbit: when the Italian immigration to New Orleans happened, the Italians took over the Quarter and mixed with the Creole culture. There was a labor wanted sign that read, "whites- $1.00 dollar per day, blacks, 50 cents, Italians 25 cents. And the largest mass lynching in the US happened in New Orleans, to 11 Italians

    The rest of La is very different from New Orleans, hence this guy in Hammond who won't wed a mixed race couple. (BTW, have you seen pix of Mr. McKay? He is about as Creole as they come.). I lived and worked there for quite some time, and found that the rest of the state was odd- some Cajuns, with their isolated culture and history of accepting runaway slaves into their midst would turn around and become racist, while others didn't care at all. One only needs to look at the development of Zydeco music to see this- blacks, descendants of freedmen and runaway slaves who grew up in the Cajun culture, speaking basically 18th Century French, playing accordion and dancing the two step. But it seems to me that the Anglos- those of Scots - Irish, and English descent, were the worst racists. Heck, I am mostly Italian and when I wanted to marry a woman of Scots Irish descent, her father had a fit, and this was in the mid 70's. And I've worked with people there who call themselves black, but have Italian last names and had lighter skin than I do.

    So you can't judge the state as a whole- La. has to be taken in as two or more entities: New Orleans, the rest of the state, which can be subdivided into Cajun, white and black.

    The post does raise the question, and this cuts both ways- "how much blood does a person have to have to be called "black"? I have seen black resentment against Creole people and black women getting mad at white women, for "Stealing out men" so it is a two sided sword.  So. at what point does a person with Negro blood become grouped as white? It still bothers me that Obama is called black, even though he could be white, just as easily. Where do we delineate?

    I think America needs to go learn some New Orleans history, and accept the fact that there are no sharp lines between the races anymore, and the number of people of mixed race heritage are growing. We have a Creole president. And those who still keep to the ways of racism are dinosaurs, futilely fighting to keep their hate for blacks alive. And the GOP is doing it's best to keep racism alive for its political advantage.

    Skunks Stink. Republicans Lie. It's their nature.

    by azureblue on Wed Oct 21, 2009 at 07:25:42 AM PDT

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    •  Yes have read Rice (15+ / 0-)

      and its a good read - but this isn't just NOLA history.  I lived in Baton Rouge. Perhaps it would be better to speak of parishes with large sugar plantation based economies.  The northern part of the state is different.

      Be careful not to conflate those who call themselves true Creoles (white) and the "beige aristocracy" of  families descended from gens de colour.

      Dominguez' work is important in this regard.

      "If you're in a coalition and you're comfortable, you know it's not a broad enough coalition" Bernice Johnson Reagon

      by Denise Oliver Velez on Wed Oct 21, 2009 at 07:32:10 AM PDT

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    •  Anne Rice's books (7+ / 0-)

      are incredible.  I was just going to ask if anyone had read "The Feast of All Saints".  The story is a great picture of what it must have been like back then.  What I think we all forget is that, fundamentally, some people felt that blacks were their property, to do with what they would.  And, believe me, that's exactly what happened.

      Great diary!

      "Life's a bitch and then you die; that's why we get high Cause you never know when you're gonna go" -- Nas & AZ the Visualizer

      by avamontez on Wed Oct 21, 2009 at 07:51:21 AM PDT

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    •  The "paper bag test" (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      sephius1, Deoliver47, James Robinson

      was at the center of an episode of "Frank's Place" (a "sitcom" with no laugh track set in NO and  examining the cultural differences between the northern and southern experiences of blackness).  

      Generally I don't take teevee shows very seriously (I don't have teevee at my house), but that series and that episode in particular delved into these issues with a depth and subtlety not found on The Cosby Show (which was a huge hit at the time --the late eighties).

      I'm just throwing that in because I never thought that series got the attention it deserved.

      I can't think of anybody who's ever changed my mind about anything by yelling at me and telling me how morally superior they are.

      by Urizen on Wed Oct 21, 2009 at 08:53:44 AM PDT

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      •  There have been numerous films (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Urizen, sephius1, RadioGirl

        and books that have touched on the subject - but it still doesn't get enough attention or push-back.

        Thanks for the mention of Frank's Place, which I had forgotten.

        "If you're in a coalition and you're comfortable, you know it's not a broad enough coalition" Bernice Johnson Reagon

        by Denise Oliver Velez on Wed Oct 21, 2009 at 08:56:16 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

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