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The Cajuns

Americanization of a People

Publication Year: 2003

History -- Southern Studies--> The past sixty years have shaped and reshaped the group of French-speaking Louisiana people known as the Cajuns. During this period they have become much like other Americans and yet have remained strikingly distinct. The Cajuns: Americanization of a People explores these six decades and analyzes the forces that had an impact on Louisiana's Acadiana. In the 1940s, when America entered World War II, so too did the isolated Cajuns. Cajun soldiers fought alongside troops from Brooklyn and Berkeley and absorbed aspects of new cultures. In the 1950s as rock 'n' roll and television crackled across Louisiana airwaves, Cajun music makers responded with their own distinct versions. In the 1960s, empowerment and liberation movements turned the South upside down. During the 1980s, as things Cajun became an absorbing national fad, "Cajun" became a kind of brand identity used for selling everything from swamp tours to boxed rice dinners. At the dawn of the twenty-first century, the advent of a new information age launched "Cyber-Cajuns" onto a worldwide web. All these forces have pushed and pulled at the fabric of Cajun life but have not destroyed it. A Cajun himself, the author of this book has an intense personal fascination in his people. By linking seemingly local events in the Cajuns' once isolated south Louisiana homeland to national and even global events, Bernard demonstrates that by the middle of the twentieth century the Cajuns for the first time in their ethnic story were engulfed in the currents of mainstream American life and yet continued to make outstandingly distinct contributions. Shane K. Bernard serves as historian and curator to McIlhenny Company, maker of Tabasco brand products since 1868, and Avery Island, Inc. He is the author of Swamp Pop: Cajun and Creole Rhythm and Blues (University Press of Mississippi). His work has been published in such periodicals as Louisiana History, Louisiana Folklife, Louisiana Cultural Vistas, and the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

Published by: University Press of Mississippi


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pp. xi-xii

This study resulted from personal exploration: I am a descendant of Acadian exiles who settled in Louisiana in the eighteenth century, who intermarried with other ethnic groups on the semitropical frontier, and who in the process became a new ethic group—the Cajuns. I am, however, an Americanized...

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pp. xiii- xvi

I wish to thank Professors Terry H. Anderson, John H. Lenihan, Albert S. Broussard, Rogelio Saenz, and Richard Furuta of Texas A&M University and Professor Carl A. Brasseaux of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, who helped to prepare the dissertation on which this study is based. I also extend my gratitude to Professors Barry Jean Ancelet and James H. Dormon of the...

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pp. xvii- xxiv

The Americanization of the Cajuns took place after decades of intense, scornful Anglo-Saxonism, the belief that Anglo-Saxon culture is superior and therefore should be imposed on other ethnic groups. Both the Cajuns and the Acadian exiles from whom they descended had been slandered as backward, ignorant...

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ONE: Cajuns during Wartime

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pp. 3-22

Four thousand miles from his hometown of Breaux Bridge, Ralph LeBlanc, or “Frenchie,” as Navy pals called the twenty-year-old sailor, sat reading comics in Kingfish Hangar’s ready room. Usually occupied by pilots receiving orders and briefings, the room this morning, as every Sunday morning, served as a hangout where...

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TWO: Atomic-Age Cajuns

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pp. 23-57

Around 10 P.M. on March 15, 1957, a fiery meteor emitting a shower of red sparks hurtled over south Louisiana, turning darkness to broad daylight before slamming into West Côte Blanche Bay. Windows rattled, some shattered, and police throughout central Acadiana fielded calls from hundreds of frantic citizens. No, they replied, it wasn’t a midair collision, an oil-rig blowout, a “space ship from...

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THREE: Cajuns and the 1960s

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pp. 58-84

In June 1971 as many as one hundred thousand hippies invaded Acadiana to attend the Celebration of Life rock festival at Cypress Point, a two-hundred year- old sugar plantation in rural Pointe Coup

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FOUR: From Coonass to Cajun Power

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pp. 85-111

On May 9, 1972, Edwin Washington Edwards went to morning Mass looking like “the best-dressed pimp to ever strut through a whorehouse,” according to one observer. Afterward, Edwards reigned as grand marshal of his own Mardi Gras-style parade. Mobs cheered, marching bands strutted, beauty queens waved...

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FIVE: Exploitation and Revitalization

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pp. 112-145

Something peculiar happened to Cajun culture in the late twentieth century. Once derided as backward, it suddenly became associated with words such as hot, chic, and trendy . Mainstream society not only discovered Cajun culture but embraced it, usurped it, and reshaped it almost beyond recognition into a highly marketable...

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pp. 146-150

Along with the expulsion from Nova Scotia and the Civil War, the last sixty years of the twentieth century represented one of the most crucial periods in Cajun history. During this time, the ethnic group, like other American minorities, experienced a fundamental change in character—one that actually redefined the meaning...


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pp. 151-182


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pp. 183- 196

E-ISBN-13: 9781604734966
E-ISBN-10: 1604734965
Print-ISBN-13: 9781578065233
Print-ISBN-10: 1578065232

Publication Year: 2003