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"Caribbean New Orleans: Empire, Race, and the Making" Topic

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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP16 Sep 2020 2:17 p.m. PST

…of a Slave Society

"In Caribbean New Orleans Cécile Vidal has brought together a prodigious volume and range of archival research in what is the most detailed social history of the city during the French period. This book asserts that New Orleans was a "slave society", with race as the defining social factor from its foundation, and this is argued through eleven chapters of deep microhistorical analysis of social interactions and relationships, ranging across race, gender, class, labour, identity, and geography which juxtapose and intertwine the social formation of the white and enslaved and free black sections of the population.

Addressing the titular premise in Chapter One, Vidal argues for both a "top down" or "bottom up" phenomenon of race formation from the city's inception, with a distinct Caribbean influence. The legal basis of racialisation through codes and directives of the French state was based almost entirely upon laws concerning Caribbean plantation slavery colonies, whilst the only previous lived experiences of race and slavery for Atlantic arrivals in the colony was gained in Caribbean ports, where each arrival in the city had first called. Saint Domingue, in particular, "exhorted a profound influence on New Orleans society" (p. 9) as the closest and most frequent source of Caribbean mercantile, travel, and correspondence contact.

By bringing together scattered archival references, Vidal also argues for a higher rate of importation of enslaved labourers from the Caribbean after 1740 than previously attested, a trade encouraged by slave-owners desperate to acquire any additional labourers following the cessation of direct slave trading with Africa. According to the author, this led to an increased "Caribbeanization" of the local enslaved population, which has previously been viewed as more stable in composition. In reaction to this, a ban was placed on the importation of enslaved people to Louisiana from Saint Domingue and Martinique in the 1760s, amid fears that these arrivals were a destabilising element to local order, suggesting a sizeable contingent of enslaved persons who had been removed from the Antilles because of high levels of resistance to discipline and labour…"

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Extrabio1947 Supporting Member of TMP16 Sep 2020 3:51 p.m. PST

To understand the complex and often confusing attitudes regarding slavery in French Louisiana, you need to also understand The Code Noir.

"No code has such a complicated history as Louisiana's Black Code. The Code noir was introduced in Louisiana in 1724, based on earlier codes developed in French Caribbean colonies. The French laws about slavery gave greater rights to enslaved persons than their British and Dutch counterparts. Owners of enslaved persons were required to baptize them in the Catholic faith and to give them Sundays off for worship. They were forbidden from severe mistreatment. Enslaved persons were allowed to marry and separation of families was not permitted. However, Louisiana's law differed from the law in the Caribbean in several negative ways. Interracial marriage was prohibited. Enslaved persons could no longer be freed at their master's discretion; instead, the Superior Council's approval was required to grant all requests for freedom. Freedom could not be granted out of mere generosity. The Council required an extraordinary reason for freedom"

Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP17 Sep 2020 11:04 a.m. PST



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