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  The Quadroons Con't






Mariah Carey


Unrestricted by the social code of the French, the quadroons could be coquettish and flirtatious in the streets and cabarets. As early as 1786 a law was passed in an effort to subdue them; any woman of color appearing in a hat on the streets of the city was subject to arrest and imprisonment.

As a woman had to have her head covered in public, the free women of color were reduced to wearing a tignon- also called chignon, a scarf wrapped about their heads in the style of the slave women. Not to be outdone, the free women of color soon devised bright madras cloths that they wrapped high on their heads and decorated with jewels and flowers.

The children born of the first generation of placage were called mulattoes, those of the second quadroons, of the octoroons and so on, according to the fraction of black blood. They did not consider themselves black but Creoles of color, they spoke French, had French names and developed their own customs. For some reason the word "quadroon" became the term applied to light-skinned mistresses in general.

The first quadroon ball to introduce Frenchmen to available young ladies was held in 1805. It became a tradition for the mother to chaperone her daughter to the ball; the Frenchmen, after making his pick, negotiated with the young woman's mother as to how he was going to support her daughter, and then given permission to claim her as his mistress. Many of these balls it is believed were held at 717 Orleans in the Quadroon Ballroom which today is part of a hotel.

Because marriage between white Creole men and women was often arranged to keep the blood lines pure and the fortunes within the family, real romance for the man was sometimes experienced only with his quadroon mistress, who knew of each other's existence, can only be imagined.


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The quadroons have been the subject of many novels, stories and anecdotes about New Orleans, but no written history has survived regarding the names and the lives of these women. It is known how many could read or write. Mementos from them that might have been kept by their white lovers would have been destroyed upon the man's death so as to hide his liaison from future generations of his wife family. During the Civil War the quadroons, along with the community of Creoles of color, lost their identity as a separate group and had to survive as best they could. Many are believe to have gone north where in some cases they passed for white.

The Creoles of color surfaced again in New Orleans at the turn of the century with many of their French customs and language intact. They figured strongly in the civil rights movement of the 1060s

Because the men were generally well educated, they have become political and social leaders of the city. Sybil Kein, a Creole of color today, still writes poetry in the Creole language, and her brother, musician Deacon John, performs Creole songs.

Not all daughters of quadroons became mistresses. Some exceptions are Marie Laveau, Rose Nicaud and Henriette Delille who appear elsewhere in this book.
Novels dealing with the quadroons include Feast of All Saints by Anne Rice, Old Creole Days by George Washington Cable, and Toucoutou by Edward Larocque Tinker.

Taken from:
"Women and New Orleans"
by Mary Gehman and Nancy Ries


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