A Free Person of Color
Creoles of Color were by definition Afro- European (with the possibility of the presence of Native American genes
in some cases). They were not "blacks," i.e.,Africans.
they were also normally free persons, not slaves, nor had they
descended from slaves. As the historian David Rankin has
noted, so called "mulattoes" in antebellum Louisiana
enjoyed something of a prima facie claim to free status, while
blackness raised a presumption of slavery (Rankin 1978: 381-82;
Spitzer 1977: 155).
Moreover, such free persons of color, often enough "Creoles of Color,"
were deemed equal to whites in law. There was, in this
regard, a substantive, defining distinction between such Creoles
and blacks and a clear value attachment to the status
"Creole of Color" among the members of the group.
Creoles spoke French, Standard
French in the case of those who were especially advantaged,
but surely French in some form. Creoles were of course Catholic;
in New Orleans they were likely to be members of a predominantly
Creole parish and very much part of a special community, membership
in which was a source of considerable personal pride. Indeed,
pride of group; personal attachments to group values (including
values associated with their elevated status), education, a
kind of bourgeois propriety.
Creoles married one another and, to a
remarkable degree, only one another. Marriages were frequently
arranged between families, but in any case individuals chose
mates from within the community; so much so that a close student
of Louisiana genealogy has argued that the Creole population
virtually constituted a series of large, interlocked families.
defining quality of Creole status might be sought in the very
matter of their relative prosperity and in their value commitment
to work and its rewards. This
feature of their culture was described with considerable clarity
in a New Orleans Picayune editorial on July 16, 1859: "As
a general rule," the editorialist asserted, the Creole
colored people, as they style themselves, are a sober, industrious
and moral class, far advanced in education and civilization."
And there could be little doubt that this was the prevailing
attitude with regard to a "class" of people who provided
a substantial percentage of "the city's finest masons,
carpenters, tailors, shoemakers, jewelers, tradesmen, and merchants."
They also owned substantial property,
real and personal, including slaves. And, as previous
essays in this collection have suggested, in general the defining
qualities of the Creoles of Color prevailed not only in New
Orleans but also elsewhere among the various Gulf coastal communities
in which Creoles formed significant population elements. Such
was thecase at least until the coming of the Civil War.
Creoles of Color of the Gulf South (1996)
James H. Dor'mon pg. 167-168