Abstract

Eliza Potter, a northern-born free African American, chronicled her experiences in antebellum New Orleans in her 1859 narrative, A Hairdresser's Experience in High Life. In black fugitive-and ex-slaves’ and white travelers’ narratives, antebellum New Orleans evoked charged descriptions that marked the city an exceptional space in the United States. Black writers emphasized the brutality of the city's slave markets, and white travelers described antebellum New Orleans as a space where free black women enjoyed an agency otherwise unimaginable in a slave society. By rewriting the geography of New Orleans, Potter consistently reminds her readers of the terror faced by any black woman, slave or free, traveling across the antebellum United States. Her disruption of popular inscriptions of New Orleans underscores the crucial role New Orleans played and continues to play in maintaining a stable U.S. racial order.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1080-6490
Print ISSN
0003-0678
Pages
pp. 455-475
Launched on MUSE
2009-09-23
Open Access
No
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