Les Gens De Couleur Libres, The Free People of Color in New Orleans

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Shattered dreams. Broken promises. They were hung between freedom and slavery. They struggled to find a different kind of freedom and independency where justice has yet to exist and racism wasn’t just a part of life, but what life was all about.

New Orleans
New Orleans is a city in southern Louisiana, located on the Mississippi River. Most of the city is situated on the east bank, between the river and Lake Pontchartrain to the north. Because it was built on a great turn of the river, it is known as the Crescent City.
New Orleans was founded in 1718 by Jean Baptiste Le Moyne, sieur de Bienville, and named for the regent of France, Philippe II, duc d'Orleans. It remained a French colony until 1763, when it was surrendered to the
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Many free women of color were highly skilled seamstresses, hairdressers, and cooks while some owned property and kept boarding houses. Some of them were planters before and after the Civil War and owned slaves. Although shocking and incomprehensible to many people today, the fact that some free people of color owned slaves must come to light.

While financial prosperity was common, discrimination was also. Although business was performed between whites and Creoles of color in public houses, they did not socialize outside of business arrangements. Striking of a white person by a free person of color could mean arrest. Free people of color could not vote, no matter how white they may have looked. Women by law were forced to cover their hair with a scarf in the early part of the 19the century. Being clever, they soon sported sophisticated headgear complete with feather and jewels. Opera and theatre going was a favorite pastime of both white and the gens de couleur, although they were not seated together.

American immigrants found them to be quite exotic, for the black Creoles were Catholic, French or Creole speakers, and accustomed to an entirely different lifestyle.
Placage was an arrangement between a free woman of color and a white “protector”. As it was illegal for a woman of color to marry a white man. The arrangements benefited both parties involved.

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