they can't destroy our Culture



The Disfranchisement of the Free Persons of Color in America





The Creole Experience

from Freedom by birth during The French period to Near slavery conditions after the Civil War )


Thomy Lafon

Thomy Lafon.

. Free Man Of Color

Creole Captain L.A.Snaer


  • Historian Henry E. Sterkx discovered a Louisiana in which free mulattoes and whites lived easily together into the 1850’s; then radical agitation began against the “free people of color.” He saw the whites as activated by a new fear of abolitionism and insurrection.

The great fear of slaveholders “grew into unrequited hatred as the decade preceding the Civil War” progressed. In 1856 the very influential New Orleans Picayne urged the removal of all free Negroes from the state as “a plague and a pest in our community, besides containing the elements of mischief to the slave population.” Many whites pressed passage of a bill before the legislature that would simply expel free people of color from the state by a certain date and enslave those who refuse to go.

In Louisiana several hundred mulatto farmers and artisans, some of whom were wealthy and took their capital with them, moved to Haiti at the invitation of the Emperor and in flight from the lash of public opinion.

Where there had been eight mulattoes among the large slaveholders in the state in 1830, there were only six in 1860 in spite of a general increase in the population. Mulattoes who were not slaves were definitely losing visibility in the South during the decade. Quite literally they were fleeing the country, or they were going underground where the mobs could not find them and not even the census taker persued.





Passing and Racism in America.......... view videos


As the war began, the mulatto elite was ambivalent. At first, almost by reflex it seems, its members tried once again to join hands with white leadership in the face of danger. Whites accepted that response, this time with some evidence of misgivings. Shortly, however, the mulatto elite turned against the white world. As it did so, it was closely in step with the great mass of Southern Negroes. Invariably in the South, when Union armies drew near, vast numbers of Negroes, slave and free, black and mulatto, swarmed to their protection.

The changeover was rather dramatic in Louisiana, that richest of the large communities. The approach of war brought from the free mulattoes at least the appearance of a great rush to support the state and the Confederacy. The free persons of color who were veterans of the battle of New Orleans, now somewhat older but no less brave, offered their services yet again in the defense of their state.


In May 1861 the governor accepted an entire regiment of younger free gens de couleur into the state’s military organization under Negro officers. Shortly, the governor thought better of the idea and disarmed the regiment. A year later it was enlisted again—this time, ironically, in the Union army it was originally designed to oppose. Indeed, under General Benjamin F. Butler three regiments of free men of color were soon enrolled and organized as the Louisiana Native Guards.

The line officers (captains and below) in two of the regiments were Negroes, most of whom were mulattoes.

The white officers were from older New England regiments. However, Yankee racism proved hardly less vicious than rebel racism. Shortly the conquerors squeezed the mulatto officers out of the service on charges of incompetence and reassigned the men to darker regiments where their lightness of skin lost its institutional focus.

This was no isolated incident; Negro troops generally were horribly abused by the Union army in Louisiana. One can easily understand that when freedom came, the mulatto elite in Louisiana was more inclined to place their trust in black people than white, either Southern or Northern.

Even before the war was over, the mulatto elite of Louisiana assumed its posture as defender of the freedom. Through its two newspapers in New Orleans, the Union and the Tribune, mulatto leaders labored very effectively to maintain the self-image of the gens de couleur as cultured people, fight discrimination at the hands of the occupying forces, resist white slaveholders of the old order, and build an alliance with the freedmen to insist upon full rights of citizenship for all people of color.


One of these leaders was Louis Charles Roudanez, a well-to-do physician who had attended Dartmouth College and founded the Tribune, the first black newspaper in America to be published daily.

In February 1865 his paper declared the independence of the Negro elite by asserting that “it is not the time to follow in the path of white leaders; it is the time to be leader ourselves.” After the war, the mulatto elite of Louisiana steadfastly supported the causes of the black mass, at one point even opposing a measure called “quadroon” bill pressed by the Democratic legislature that would have enfranchised only those of lighter color, specifically themselves, and would have defused pressure to enfranchise all Negro men.


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