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1 People of Color in Louisiana ALICE MOORE DUNBAR-NELSON PART I The possible title of a discussion of the Negro in Louisiana presents difficulties , for there is no such word as Negro permissible in speaking of this State. The history of the State is filled with attempts to define, sometimes at the point of the sword, oftenest in civil or criminal courts, the meaning of the word Negro. By common consent, it came to mean in Louisiana, prior to 1865, slave, and after the war, those whose complexions were noticeably dark. As Grace King so delightfully puts it, "The pure-blooded African was never called colored, but always Negro." The gens de couleur, colored people, were always a class apart, separated from and superior to the Negroes, ennobled were it only by one drop of white blood in their veins. The caste seems to have existed from the first introduction of slaves.To the whites, all Africans who were not of pure blood were gens de couleur. Among themselves, however, there were jealous and fiercely guarded distinctions: "griffes, briques, mulattoes, quadroons, Editor's note: Although this is an early-twentieth-century essay, Alice DunbarNelson 's history seems to me to be a rich source that warrants inclusion in the present collection. It is also interesting to note that at the time the essay was written , Dunbar-Nelson was forbidden by law to use the libraries and archives in Louisiana because of her race. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Lester Sullivan and Irwin Lachoff of Xavier University Archives for their help in locating the full names of Dunbar-Nelson's references.—S. K. 3 ALICE MOORE DUNBAR-NELSON octoroons, each term meaning one degree's further transfiguration toward the Caucasian standard of physical perfection."1 Negro slavery in Louisiana seems to have been early influenced by the policy of the Spanish colonies. De las Casas, an apostle to the Indians, exclaimed against the slavery of the Indians and finding his efforts of no avail proposed to Charles V in 1517 the slavery of the Africans as a substitute .2 The Spaniards refused at first to import slaves from Africa, but later agreed to the proposition and employed other nations to traffic in them.3 Louisiana learned from the Spanish colonies her lessons of this traffic, took over certain parts of the slave regulations and imported bondmen from the Spanish West Indies. Others brought thither were Congo, Banbara,Yaloff, and Mandingo slaves.4 People of color were introduced into Louisiana early in the eighteenth century. In 1708, according to the historian, Gayarre, the little colony of Louisiana, at the point on the Gulf of Mexico now known as Biloxi, in the present State of Mississippi, had been in existence nine years. In 1708, the population of the colony did not exceed 279 persons. The land about this region is particularly sterile, and the colonists were little disposed to undertake the laborious task of tilling the soil. Indian slavery was attempted but found unprofitable and exceedingly precarious . So Bienville, lacking the sympathy of De las Casas for the Indians, wrote his government to obtain the authorization of exchanging Negroes for Indians with the French West Indian islands. "We shall give," he said, "three Indians for two Negroes. The Indians, when in the islands, will not be able to run away, the country being unknown to them, and the Negroes will not dare to become fugitives in Louisiana, because the Indians would kill them."5 Bienville's suggestion seems not to have met with a very favorable reception. Yet, in 1712, the King of France granted to Anthony Crozat the exclusiveprivilege for fifteen years of trading in all that immense territory which, with its defined limits, France claimed as Louisiana. Among other privileges granted Crozat were those of sending, once ayear, a ship 1. Grace King, New Orleans, the Place and the People, 333. 2. Luis de las Casas, "Historia General," Louisiana History, XX, 320. 3. Antonio de Herrera, Tordesillas, "Historia General," Louisiana History, XIX, 146. 4. B. F. French, Historical Collections of Louisiana, Part V, 119 et seq. 5. Charles Gayarre, History of Louisiana, 4th edition, I, 242,254. 4 PEOPLE OF COLOR IN LOUISIANA to Africa for Negroes.6 When the first came, is not known, but in 1713 twenty of these Negro slaves from Africa are recorded in the census of the little colony on the Mississippi.7 In 1717 John Law flashed meteor-wise across...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780807142059
Related ISBN
9780807126011
MARC Record
OCLC
703156104
Pages
368
Launched on MUSE
2013-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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