persons of color" are found in French colonial
Louisiana as early as 1725. on August 14, 1725 Jean Raphael,
a free Negro from Martinique, married MarieGaspart from Brugues
On November 27, 1727, Jean Mingo, free Negro,
married Therese, a Negro slave belonging to M. de Cantillo
with permission of plantation manager Darby.
From then on church records and civil archives mention the
presence of the free persons of color.
Some entered the colony
as free people, some were freed in recognition or merit and
loyalty. Some had been slaves, but had been given freedom
by their white lover or parent; some had purchased their freedom
by extra work during leisure hours.
to the Code Noir, the free person of color had the rights
of any citizen of French Louisiana, except for marriage with
and legacies from whites.
In a society where a black
slave could sue a white the position of the free person of
color was more solid indeed. Yet the social pressure of custom
maintained the superior position of the white over the person
of color however free and "equal."
During the Spanish regime,
easy emancipation prevailed and the free population of color
continued to grow. In the Spanish era (1766-1803) the free
Negro enjoyed a lively social life in New Orleans. The city's
first theater had mulatto stars.
The average white accepted
this middle layer of society between himself and the black
slaves, and dealt easily with its members. Yet the white population
had two complaints.
They suspected that the free mulatto might
promote slave discontent and revolt. They admired the beauty
of the café-au-lait quadroons and octaroons, but felt
that the liaisons constantly undermined the morals of young
Revolution in Saint-Domingue
sent refugees fleeing to Louisiana, white and black and mixed,
slave and free, young and old. Cuba also sent emigrants to
New Orleans in the first decade of the nineteenth century.
In 1812 Louisiana's Battalion
of Free Men of Color was unique in theUnited States, the "only
Negro volunteer militia with its own line officers."
Andrew Jackson welcomed the free Negro troops who fought heroically
at the Battle of New Orleans (1815). The state legislature
gratefully praised their patriotism and bravery.