Creole Folklore
Today is:
Les Cenelles Calinda Dance Tignon
The Cordon Bleu
and Les Cenelles


One of the most interesting groups that evolved from the mixed society of New Olreans was labeled the Cordon Bleu, a class of wealthy people of color who were products of French and their mullatoe mistresses.

Many of the Creole women, left fortunes by their French lovers, used their newfound wealth to send their children to France for an education and to acquire large plantations and slaves. Creoles were noted for not working their slaves as hard as Americans, but also had a reputation for not feeding or clothing them as generously.

The offspring of these french/mulatto affairs became known as Cordon Blues- were ostracized by New Orleans society, scorned by whites, and alienated from other blacks largely because of their education. When they returned from Paris, they therefore tended to gravitate toward one another.

Armand Lanusse gathered a group of them together and became known as their unofficial leader and spokesmen. They called themselves Les Cenelles; or the hollyberries. In 1845, Lanusse' group published the first creole poetry anthology in the United States titled, appropriately enough, Les Cenelles.



Les Cenelles
Pour Ulysse Richard
The Holly Berries
for Ulysse Richar

 Creole French

  Destin donnein toi
  L'ouvrage de ramasser   encore
  Les cenelles pour garder ye   fleurs
  Pour tout le monde.
  Pour longtemps ye reste en
  Comme le noble Coeur de
  La Louisiane Francaise.
  Ca sera to courage-la
  Qui va guidar nous l'histoire
  A champs plus fertiles.
  Les cenelles. Ye repousse
  Ferme et beau, comme
  to fidele, amour Creole.

English translation

Fate gave you
The work of gathering again
The holly berries to keep their
Flowers for all the world.
For a long time they lay
In darkness like the noble
Heart of French Louisiana.
It will be your courage
that will guide our history
to more fruitful fields.
The holly berries. They grow
Once again, strong and beautiful
Like your faithful Creole love.

The Writings of the gens de couleur libre are often ignored but nonetheless have a long and successful history. The very first collection of works by African Americans was published by Armand Lanusse in New Orleans in 1845. Les Cenelles contains poetry in French y 17 writers of the 19th Century in his Les ecrits de langue francais en louisiane aux XIXe siecle. (MacDonald, Kemp, Haas, 63)

The poems are reflective of the French Romantic Movement in literature and do not contain references to the social problems of the day because of the strict laws prohibiting publication of anything that could be suspected of causing racial unrest.


Les Cenelles


Armand Lanusse named his anthology "cenelles" after the highly prized fruit of Louisiana's thorny hawthorn shrub. The title evoked the image of the hawthorn's berries of varying shades that flourished in the midst of a harsh environment.

The book presented eighty-five poems written by seventeen black Louisianans. Several contributors, including Victor Séjour and Haitian descendant Camille Thierry, chose to leave the state for France rather than live in an environment that was becoming increasingly restrictive to free people of color.


Image ID:
Les Cenelles. Choix de Poésies indigènes. [Title page]
Les Cenelles. Choix de Poésies indigènes.
Lanusse, Armand () - Author
General Research and Reference Division, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
Free Blacks
Immigrants -- Haitian -- United States
Poetry -- Black authors

Lanusse, Armand
Les Cenelles
Sejour, Victor
Thierry, Camille


Lanusse edited Les Cenelles and included some of his own work. As a poet he was well respected by his peers and by the community. He also devoted a great amount of his energy to education as headmaster of the Convent School. Poet / playwright Victor Sejour was born in New Orleans in 1844 and 1870 twenty-one of his plays were staged in Paris theaters. (MacDonald, Kemp, Haas, 70) Fr. Charles O'Neill says of his plays:

Sojourn loved the swirl of passionate feeling. His characters meet head on in love or in hate. Their debates swell in a crescendo of emotion. His plots and dialog often smack of Shakespeare, intricately woven, full of dark intrigue and clever interplay. Potions, poisons, and discovery of unknown family relationships also make us think of the Bard of Avon.

There are recurring themes in Sojour's plays that show us his philosophy of life. The most pervasive and salient are family ties, religious faith, national loyalty, dignity of labor, and respect for the human person regardless of status. (Macdonald, Kemp, Haas, 70)

The writers of Les Cenelles were skilled poets and educated men who won the respect of many.

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