Portland State University. Department of History
David A. Horowitz
Date of Award
Master of Arts (M.A.) in History
1 online resource (2, iii, 128 pages)
Racially mixed people -- History -- 19th century, Miscegenation -- History -- 19th century, Concubinage -- Louisiana -- New Orleans -- History -- 19th century, Free African Americans -- Louisiana -- New Orleans -- History -- 19th century, New Orleans (La.) -- Race relations -- History -- 19th century
Visitors to Antebellum New Orleans rarely failed to comment on the highly visible population of free persons of color, particularly the women. Light, but not white, the women who collectively became known as Quadroons enjoyed a degree of affluence and liberty largely unknown outside of Southeastern Louisiana. The Quadroons of New Orleans, however, suffered from neglect and misrepresentation in nineteenth and twentieth-century accounts.
Historians of slavery and southern black women, for example, have written at length on the sexual experiences of black women and white men. Most of the research, however, centers on the institutionalized rape, victimization, and exploitation of black women at the hands of white males. Even late into the twentieth century, scholars largely failed to distinguish the experiences of free women of color from those of enslaved women with little nuance in regard to economic, educational, and cultural differences. All women of color -- whether free or enslaved -- continued to be viewed through the lens of slavery. Studies that examine free women of color were rare and those focusing exclusively on them alone were virtually nonexistent. As a result, the actual experiences of free women of color in the Gulf States passed unnoticed for generations. In the event that the Quadroons of New Orleans were mentioned at all, it was normally within the context of the mythologized balls or in scandalous tales where they played the role of mistress to white men, subsequently resulting in a one dimensional character that lived expressly for the enjoyment of white males.
Due to the relative silence of their own voices, approaching the topic of New Orleans’ Quadroons at length is difficult at best. But by placing these women within a wider pan-Atlantic framework and using extant legal records, the various African, Caribbean, French, and Spanish cultural threads emerge that contributed to the colorful cultural tapestry of Antebellum New Orleans. These influences enabled such practices as placage and by extension, the development of an intellectual, wealthy, vibrant Creole community of color headed by women.
McCullugh, Erin Elizabeth, ""Heaven's Last, Worst Gift to White Men": The Quadroons of Antebellum New Orleans" (2010). Dissertations and Theses. Paper 3269.