restricted access “Midnight Scenes and Orgies”: Public Narratives of Voodoo in New Orleans and Nineteenth-Century Discourses of White Supremacy

This article examines “public narratives” of Voodoo in newspapers, travel narratives, magazines, and scholarly journals as a register of the shifting anxieties and discourses of white patriarchal supremacy across the second half of the nineteenth century. These popularized narratives authenticated the hegemonic narrative of white supremacy by offering “proof” of black criminality and hypersexuality. Post–Civil War public Voodoo narratives served as forerunners and companions to the myth of the black rapist, which was prominent by the 1880s and justified disenfranchisement, racial violence, and segregation. Together, these public narratives revealed widespread angst about black political power, interracial marriage, and virtually any form of consensual intimacy, especially involving white women, across the color line.