Pre-Civil War New Orleans Essay, Research Paper
HistoryPre-Civil War New OrleansNew Orleans is a city in southern Louisiana, located on the Mississippi River. Most of the city issituated on the east bank, between the river and Lake Pontchartrain to the north. Because it was built on agreat turn of the river, it is known as the Crescent City. New Orleans, with a population of 496,938 (1990census), is the largest city in Louisiana and one of the principal cities of the South. It was established onthe high ground nearest the mouth of the Mississippi, which is 177 km (110 mi) downstream. Elevationsrange from 3.65 m (12 ft) above sea level to 2 m (6.5 ft) below; as a result, an ingenious system of waterpumps, drainage canals, and levees has been built to protect the city from flooding.New Orleans was founded in 1718 by Jean Baptiste Le Moyne, sieur de Bienville, and named for theregent of France, Philippe II, duc d’Orleans. It remained a French colony until 1763, when it wastransferred to the Spanish. In 1800, Spain ceded it back to France; in 1803, New Orleans, along with theentire Louisiana Purchase, was sold by Napoleon I to the United States. It was the site of the Battle of NewOrleans (1815) in the War of 1812. During the Civil War the city was besieged by Union ships underAdm. David Farragut; it fell on Apr. 25, 1862. And that’s what it say’s in the books, a bit more, but nothing else of interest. This is too bad, New Orleans , as a city, has a wide and diverse history that reads as if it were a utopian society built tosurvive the troubles of the future. New Orleans is a place where Africans, Indians and European settlersshared their cultures and intermingled. Encouraged by the French government, this strategy forproducing a durable culture in a difficult place marked New Orleans as different and special from itsinception and continues to distinguish the city today. Like the early American settlements along Massachusetts Bay and Chesapeake Bay, New Orleansserved as a distinctive cultural gateway to North America, where peoples from Europe and Africa initiallyintertwined their lives and customs with those of the native inhabitants of the New World. The resultingway of life differed dramatically from the culture than was spawned in the English colonies of NorthAmerica. New Orleans Creole population (those with ancestry rooted in the city’s colonial era) ensured notonly that English was not the prevailing language but also that Protestantism was scorned, publiceducation unheralded, and democratic government untried. Isolation helped to nourish the differences.From its founding in 1718 until the early nineteenth century, New Orleans remained far removed from thepatterns of living in early Massachusetts or Virginia. Established a century after those seminal Anglo-Saxon places, it remained for the next hundred years an outpost for the French and Spanish untilNapoleon sold it to the United States with the rest of the Louisiana purchase in 1803. Even though steamboats and sailing ships connected French Louisiana to the rest of the country,New Orleans guarded its own way of life. True, it became Dixie’s chief cotton and slave market, but italways remained a strange place in the American South. American newcomers from the South as well asthe North recoiled when they encountered the prevailing French language of the city, its dominantCatholicism, its bawdy sensual delights, or its proud free black and slave inhabitants; In short, its deeplyrooted Creole population and their peculiar traditions. Rapid influxes of non-southern populationcompounded the peculiarity of its Creole past. Until the mid-nineteenth century, a greater number ofmigrants arrived in the boomtown from northern states such as New York and Pennsylvania than from theOld South. And to complicate its social makeup further, more foreign immigrants than Americans cameto take up residence in the city almost to the beginning of the twentieth century. The largest waves of immigrants came from Ireland and Germany. In certain neighborhoods,their descendants’ dialects would make visitors feel like they were back in Brooklyn or Chicago. From1820 to 1870, the Irish and Germans made New Orleans one of the main immigration ports in the nation,second only to New York, but ahead of Boston, Philadelphia, and Baltimore. New Orleans also was thefirst city in America to host a significant settlement of Italians, Greeks, Croatians, and Filipinos. THE AFRICANS:African Americans compile about half of the city of New Orleans population to date. How didthis come about? Well, during the eighteenth century, Africans came to the city directly from WestAfrica. The majority passed neither through the West Indies nor South America, so they developedcomplicated relations with both the Indian and Europeans. Their descendants born in the colony werealso called Creoles. The Spanish rulers (1765-1802) reached out to the black population for supportagainst the French settlers; in doing so, they allowed many to buy their own freedom. These free blacksettlers along with Creole slaves formed the earliest black urban settlement in North America. BlackAmerican immigrants found them to be quite exotic, for the black Creoles were Catholic, French orCreole speakers, and accustomed to an entirely different lifestyle. The native Creole population and the American newcomers resolved some of their conflicts byliving in different areas of the city. Eventually, the Americans concentrated their numbers in new uptown neighborhoods. For a certain period (1836-1852), they even ran separate municipal governments to avoidsevere political, economic, and cultural clashes. Evidence of this early cleavage still survives in the city’soldest quarters. During the infamous Atlantic slave trade, thousands of Muslims from the Senegambia and Sudanwere kidnapped or captured in local wars and sold into slavery. In America, these same Muslimsconverted other Africans and Amerindians to Islam. As the great Port of New Orleans was a major pointof entry for merchant ships, holds bursting with human, African cargo, the Port was also, unbeknownst tomany, a major point of entry for captured Muslims (most often prisoners of local wars) who certainlybrought with them their only possession unable to be stripped from them by their captors, their religion,Islamic. The historical record of shipping manifests attests to the fact that the majority of slavingmerchant vessels that deposited their goods at the mouth of the Mississippi took on their cargoes fromthose areas of West Africa with significant Muslim population. As the Islamic belief system forbidssuicide and encourages patient perseverance, the middle-passage survival rate of captured AfricanMuslims was quite high. For example, one such courageous survivor was Ibrahima Abdur Rahman, sonof the king of the Fulani people of the Senegambia region, named “The Prince” by his master ThomasFoster of Natchez, Mississippi. Abdur Rahman came through the Port of New Orleans, was sold at auctionand became a man of renown on the Foster Plantation. He eventually petitioned his freedom via PresidentJohn Quincy Adams and returned to Africa after 46 years of enslavement.Free People of Color (f.p.c.) were Africans, Creoles of Color (New World-Born People of Africandescent), and persons of mixed African, European, and or Native American descent. In Louisiana, thefirst f.p.c. came from France or its Colonies in the Caribbean and in West Africa. During the FrenchColonial period in Louisiana, f.p.c. were a rather small and insignificant group. During French rule from1702-1769, there are records for only 150 emancipations of slaves. The majority of slaves freed inLouisiana’s Colonial period was during the Spanish reign from 1769-1803, with approximately 2,500slaves being freed. The majority of these slaves were Africans and unmixed Blacks who bought their freedom. Later on thisinitial group would be augmented by Haitian refugees and other f.p.c. from the Caribbean, Mexico,
Central and South America, other parts of the United States, and from around the world. Besides self-purchase and donation of freedom, slaves sometimes earned freedom for meritoriousservice in battle or saving the life of their masters. A significant amount of slaves became free becausethey were the children of white native born and European fathers who sometimes openly acknowledgedtheir mixed offspring and who also usually freed the mother of their children. It would be severalgenerations before mulatto, quadroon, and octoroon women would become the common-law wives andmistresses of white men.The reason for the high number of f.p.c. in New Orleans was largely due to the influx of Haitian Refugeesinto the city in 1809. Approximately 10,000 people arrived in New Orleans with roughly a third beingf.p.c., another third slaves, and the remaining were white. By the eve of the Civil War in 1860, thereported total population for f.p.c. in Louisiana was 18,647 people with the majority being in New Orleanswith a census tally of 10,689 people.Free People of Color were highly skilled craftsmen, business people, educators, writers, planters,and musicians. Many free women of color were highly skilled seamstresses, hairdressers, and cooks whilesome owned property and kept boarding houses. Some f.p.c. were planters before and after the Civil Warand owned slaves. Although shocking and incomprehensible to many people today, the fact that somef.p.c. owned slaves must come to light. CROLEAN SOCIETY:In eighteenth century Louisiana, the term Creole referred to locally born persons, regardless ofstatus or race, and was used to distinguish American-born slaves from African-born slaves when theytestified in court and on inventory lists of slaves. They were identified simply as Creoles if they werelocally born, or Creoles of another region or colony if they had been born elsewhere in the Americas ofnon-American ancestry, whether African or European. However, due to the racial and cultural complexityof colonial Louisiana, native Americans who were born into slavery were sometimes described as”Creoles” or “born in country.”After the United States took over Louisiana, the Creole cultural identity became a means ofdistinguishing who was truly native to Louisiana from those that were Anglo. Creole has to come meanthe language and folk culture which native to the southern part of Louisiana where African, French, andSpanish influence were most deeply rooted historically and culturally. The language too, represents these traits, whereas the vocabulary of Louisiana Creole isoverwhelmingly French in origin, its grammatical structure is largely African. The early creation of theLouisiana Creole language and its widespread use among whites as well as blacks up until World War IIis strong evidence for the strength of the African ingredient in Louisiana Creole culture. The widespreadsurvival of Louisiana Creole until very recent times and its use by whites of various social positions aswell as by blacks and mixed-bloods had, no doubt, a great impact upon Africanizing Louisiana culture.The Louisiana Creole language became an important part of the identity, not only of African-Creoles, butof many whites of all classes who, seduced by its rhythm, intoxicating accent, humor and imagination,adopted it as their preferred means of communication. There is still a significant number of whites whoonly speak Louisiana Creole. MARDI GRAS:Many locals begin with a party on January 6 that includes a King Cake, a cake baked in theshape of a large doughnut, covered with icing and colored sugar of green, gold, and purple, the traditionalMardi Gras colors. Purple represents justice, green representing faith, and gold representing power. Insidethe cake is a tiny plastic baby, meant to represent the Baby Jesus. Whoever gets the piece with the baby iscrowned King or Queen … and is expected to throw a party on the following weekend. Parties with KingCake continue each weekend until Mardi Gras itself finally arrives. The name Mardi Gras means Fat Tuesday in French. The day is known as Fat Tuesday, since it isthe last day before Lent. Lent is the season of prayer and fasting observed by the Roman Catholic Churchand other Christian denominations during the forty days and seven Sundays before Easter Sunday. Eastercan be on any Sunday from March 23 to April 25, since the exact day is set to coincide with the firstSunday after the full moon following the Spring Equinox. Mardi Gras occurs on any Tuesday fromFebruary 3 through March 9. The Gregorian calendar, setup by the Catholic Church, determines the exactday for Mardi Gras.The celebration started in New Orleans around the seventeenth century, when Jean BaptisteLeMoyne, Sieur de Bienville, and Pierre LeMoyne, Sieur de Iberville founded the city. In 1699, the groupset up camp 60 miles south of the present location of New Orleans on the river’s West Bank. They namedthe site Point du Mardi Gras in recognition of the major French holiday happening on that day, March 3.The late 1700’s, saw pre-Lenten balls and fetes in the infant New Orleans. The masked balls continueduntil the Spanish government took over and banned the events. The ban even continued after NewOrleans became an American city in 1803. Eventually, the predominant Creole population revitalized theballs by 1823. Within the next four years, street masking was legalized.But it must be remembered that although costumes are worn for both, Mardi Gras is not Halloween. Goreand mayhem may work for All Hallow’s Eve, but for Mardi Gras, glamour is de rigour. Feathers, beads,glitter, spangles — all work well on Mardi Gras. Tuxedoes, ball gowns, and boas work. Fake blood andFreddie Krueger gloves do not. The early Mardi Gras consisted of citizens wearing masks on foot, in carriages, and onhorseback. The first documented parade in 1837 was made of a costumed revelers. The Carnival seasoneventually became so wild that the authorities banned street masking by the late 1830’s. This was anattempt to control the civil disorder arising from this annual celebration. This ban didn’t stop the hard core celebrators. By the 1840’s, a strong desire to ban all publiccelebrations was growing. Luckly, six young men from Mobile saved Mardi Gras. These men had beenmembers of the Cowbellians, a group that performed New Years Eve parades in Mobile since 1831. Thesix men established the Mystick Krewe of Comus, which put together the first New Orleans Carnivalparade on the evening of Mardi Gras in 1857. The parade consisted of two mule-driven floats. Thispromoted others to join in on this new addition to Mardi Gras. Unfortunately, the Civil War caused thecelebration to loose some of its magic and public observance. The magic returned along with several othernew krewes after the war.Rituals and traditions have also evolved with non-krewe members as well. Those in the heart ofCarnival often begin their celebrating on January 6, and don’t let up until Ash Wednesday , remember,Mardi Gras is the peak of the Carnival Season, but it ’s only one day. Therefore, New Orleans hasofficially established Lundi Gras on the Monday before Fat Tuesday because no one can get any workdone as of the Friday before anyway. NEAT FACT:Senegambia, where I noted earlier that a lot of the original blacks had come from, had long beena crossroads of the world where peoples and cultures were assimilated in warfare and the rise and fall ofgreat empires. An essential feature of the cultural materials brought from Senegambia as well as fromother parts of Africa was a willingness to add and incorporate useful aspects of new cultures encountered. This attitude was highly functional in a dangerous and chaotic world. New Orleans became anothercrossroads where the river, the bayous and the sea were open roads; where various nations ruled but thefolk continued to reign. They turned inhospitable swamplands into a refuge for the independent, thedefiant, and the creative “unimportant” people who tore down all the barriers of language and cultureamong peoples throughout the world and continue to sing to them of joy and the triumph of the humanspirit.Put your paper here.