…And even then, you still may not understand. But at least I know I tried to make you understand.
I want you, or someone, to really appreciate my care giving experience, and therefore must provide the whole picture.
New Orleans’ History & Black Caste System
New Orleans has a most interesting and eclectic history that dates back further than the United States itself. This year New Orleans celebrates its 300 year anniversary, its Tricentennial, having been ‘discovered’ in 1718. The United States, on the other hand, was founded almost 60 years later. Therefore, its history is rich, having been ruled both by France, and by Spain. I put the word ‘discovered’ in quotes because we know how that goes in American History. New Orleans’ first residents were actually recorded to be Native American Indians, dating back to the mid 1500’s, over 200 years prior to the founding of the United States.
You best believe that slaves, the use of their labor, talent, and bodies are embedded in this rich history. This is the foundation of much of the black divide, black-on-black crime, and the black caste system formed to survive the struggle of black oppression, and that exists in New Orleans today.
I kid you not, in the black community, New Orleans has a multitude of classes, used by whites, and blacks, ‘to keep a brother down’. Blacks in New Orleans regularly judge each other, mainly secretly, along lines of skin color, education, socioeconomic status, neighborhood, high school, religion, whether you’re from the Caliope Project (where my cousins lived), or any project. Furthermore, blacks in New Orleans discriminate against each other because of being of non-Creole decent, on last name, job title, and a host of other senseless reasons. But they do it privately, often smiling in your face, while stabbing you in their minds.
The people in these cliches, particularly the older ones, who escaped from the ‘crab barrel’, had a network of cohorts and friends, who regularly helped them to maneuver out of tough situations. They were often quick to brag about people they knew in high places.
This cliche society even helped me, as when my sister would arrange for New Orleans police to speak to the judge to have my moving violations vaporized. But this same network could destroy, if you’re on their ‘bad list’. I was.
I refer to this as the ‘Crab-on-Crab’ mentality.
I mention this because this thinking was embedded in my family, as with most black New Orleans families. It was embedded in the community, and amongst the people who I befriended, and who I went to in search of support, assistance, and senior services for me and my mother.
Since being an outsider, as I was handled, after having to returned, some 30 years later, all well-educated, and travelled, living in ‘an alternative reality’ (to most of them), made the resistance that I encountered all more difficult to endure. But, I did!
Here are brief facts on the history of New Orleans from NewOrleans.Com, the history in which I was born, and later that I struggled in, as an advocate for my dear mother:
- New Orleans first residents were Indians in approximately 1542
- New Orleans’ access to Gulf of Mexico made it the busiest northern port since the early 1700s.
- New Orleans is known for its distinct Creole culture and vibrant history.
- In 1762 and 1763 France signed treaties ceding Louisiana to Spain. For 40 years New Orleans was a Spanish city, trading heavily with Cuba and Mexico and adopting the Spanish racial rules that allowed for a class of free people of color.
- The city was ravaged by fires in 1788 and 1794 and rebuilt in brick with buildings and a cathedral that still stand today.
- In 1803 Louisiana reverted to the French, who sold it to the United States 20 days later in the Louisiana Purchase.
- During the first half of the 19th century, New Orleans became the United States’ wealthiest and third-largest city.
- Thousands of slaves were sold in its markets, but its ‘free’ black community thrived.
- In the mid-1800s, the highest concentration of millionaires in America could be found between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, fortunes fueled by to slave economy and massive sugar plantations along the Mississippi River.
- Until 1830, the majority of its residents still spoke French.
- During the Reconstruction era race became a potent political force, as emancipated slaves and free people of color were brought into the political process and, with the 1870s rise of the White League and the Ku Klux Klan, forced back out of it.
- After the civil war, a legacy of poverty, racial tension and a government in chaos would become the new normal.
- But, as in many U.S. cities after World War II, suburbanization and white flight added to conflicts over school integration, leaving some African-American neighborhoods impoverished and underserved.
- On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina struck a haphazardly evacuated New Orleans. The Category 5 storm’s winds tore away roofs and drove a storm surge that breached four levees, flooding 80 percent of the city.
- New Orleans remains a city of rich culture, proud people and entrenched neighborhoods that have survived and thrived against odds. New Orleanians have always held tight to their unique culture, pride of place, music, cuisine and festivals and tourists from around the world can’t stay away.
New Orleans Documentary for History 474 – 48,868 views – Zachary Rush – Published on Mar 10, 2014
Documentary project made for History 474 at CSULB. I DO NOT OWN THE RIGHTS TO THESE SONGS. All songs used in this video belong to the Preservation Hall Jazz Band.
A Hidden Legacy: The Creoles of Color – 34,717 views – Jordan Richardson – Published on May 27, 2017
A uniquely Southern city, New Orleans had one of the largest populations of Free People of Color before the American Civil War. French & Spanish influences birthed a multi-ethnic, skilled black community whose legacy remains part of the heartbeat of the Crescent City.
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