To a Dark Girl

Posted in Biography, History, Louisiana, Media Archive, Religion, United States, Videos, Women on 2022-01-12 01:13Z by Steven

To a Dark Girl

North Star
Louisiana Public Broadcasting
Source: Louisiana Digital Media Archive


  • Genevieve Stewart, Host
  • Sister Barbara Marie, Interviewee
  • Leslie Williams, Interviewee
  • Michelle Diaz, Interviewee

This episode of the series “North Star” from 1985 focuses on two intertwined stories related to the history of New Orleans in the 19th century: the quadroon balls held at the Orleans Ballroom, clandestine events where white men met free women of color, who would become their mistresses; the founding of the Sisters of the Holy Family, an African American congregation of Catholic nuns, by Henriette DeLille; and a visit to St. Mary’s Academy, the school run by the Sisters of the Holy Family, which was once located at the Orleans Ballroom. Host: Genevieve Stewart

Watch the video (00:14:20) here.

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Quadroon Balls | LFOLKS (1985)

Posted in History, Louisiana, Media Archive, United States, Videos, Women on 2022-01-11 19:26Z by Steven

Quadroon Balls | LFOLKS (1985)

Louisiana Public Broadcasting

This segment from the February 10, 1985, episode of the series “Folks” features Genevieve Stewart’s report on the history of the quadroon balls in 19th century New Orleans, clandestine events where white men met free women of color, who would become their mistresses. She visits the Orleans Ballroom at the Bourbon Orleans Hotel in the French Quarter, one of the possible sites of the quadroon balls. Stewart also interviews Clive Hardy, the archivist at the University of New Orleans, who discusses his research into the history of the quadroon balls. Host: Rob Hinton

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Know Your Black History: Deconstructing the Quadroon Ball

Posted in Articles, History, Louisiana, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2017-04-30 21:03Z by Steven

Know Your Black History: Deconstructing the Quadroon Ball


Nick Douglas, AFROPUNK Contributor

“The swooning woman of color” This was an advertisement from 1858 New Orleans and is the first proof I had ever seen of a Quadroon Ball. I had never come across any proof that these balls actually happened. I fully believed these balls were the creation of Southern white male fantasies about needy, swooning, sexual women of color hoping to have the opportunity to have a relationship with them—i.e., a white male privilege fantasy. But as I looked in wonder at the very first proof I had ever seen of a Quadroon Ball, everything about the advertisement struck me as wrong and contradicted every bit of history I knew about New Orleans and Louisiana society. Then I did something that too few consumers of history do: I began deconstructing the advertisement in the context of the history of Louisiana and New Orleans. When I did this it crushed and destroyed the mythical ideals behind Quadroon balls.

Quadroon” Referred to women of color whose ancestry was supposedly mixed with only one quarter black blood. The term was popularized by President Jefferson, a slaveholder who never arranged to free his own black children, borne by his slave Sally Hemmings, or any of the other 200 slaves he held at his death.

Grand, Fancy, Superior” In the myth of Quadroon Balls women of color attended lavish dances with the hope of forming a plaçage relationships with eligible white men. But the historic practice of plaçage relationships between white men and free women of color were legally binding contractual agreements, drawn up in the presence of a notary public. In these arrangements for monogamous or extramarital relationships, women were typically set up with a house and income, and any children were financially provided for by the white father. Americans had outlawed marriages between races and made it very difficult for children of color to inherit from their colonial fathers. Plaçage agreements were a logical alternative; couples also simply cohabited.

Free women of color in Louisiana were a powerful group in their own right…

Read the entire article here.

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Plaçage and the Performance of Whiteness: The Trial of Eulalie Mandeville, Free Colored Woman, of Antebellum New Orleans

Posted in Articles, History, Law, Louisiana, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2015-01-15 22:11Z by Steven

Plaçage and the Performance of Whiteness: The Trial of Eulalie Mandeville, Free Colored Woman, of Antebellum New Orleans

American Nineteenth Century History
Volume 15, Issue 2, 2014
pages 187-209
DOI: 10.1080/14664658.2014.959818

Carol Wilson, Arthur A. and Elizabeth R. Knapp Professor of American History
Washington College, Chestertown, Maryland

Depictions of plaçage, a type of concubinage found in pre-Civil War New Orleans, have tended toward the romantic. A group of scholars have shown recently that, contrary to popular perception, many plaçage unions were no different from common-law marriages. This article takes a case-study approach to examine one such relationship in detail – one that was the subject of a legal challenge involving the fortune of perhaps the wealthiest free black woman in Louisiana. I apply Ariela J. Gross’s theory of “performance of whiteness” to demonstrate why free woman of color Eulalie Mandeville won her case over her white partner’s numerous white relatives at a time when free blacks in Louisiana and the rest of the nation were losing rights.

Read or purchase the article here.

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Problems with Plaçage: Historical Imagination and Femmes de couleurs libres in Colonial and Antebellum New Orleans

Posted in Articles, History, Identity Development/Psychology, Louisiana, Media Archive, Slavery, United States, Women on 2011-04-18 05:25Z by Steven

Problems with Plaçage: Historical Imagination and Femmes de couleurs libres in Colonial and Antebellum New Orleans

Bridges: A Journal of Student Research
Coastal Carolina University
Issue 3 (Winter 2009)

Philip Whalen, Associate Professor of History
Coastal Carolina University

This essay compares two approaches to understanding the condition of free women of color who struggled to maximize their autonomy and sustain social relations within the repressive environment of colonial and antebellum New Orleans. While recent scholarship squarely addresses how free women of color constructed and sustained a viable Creole heritage, it must reckon with a tradition of primary sources written by moralists, and itinerant observers—ranging from Fanny Trollope and Gustave de Beaumont to Amos Stoddard and Grace King—whose analysis of the daily lives of Creole women was suspect in that it drew disproportionate attentions to the sexual activities of free women of color with white men.

In Louisiana the highest position that can be held by a free woman of color is that of a prostitute… She raises herself by prostituting herself to the white man.
—Gustav de Beaumont, Marie (1835)

Free women of color, or filles de couleurs, occupied a unique and precarious social position in late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth century Louisiana. Legally defined as being of no more than ¼ African ancestry but commonly identified as belonging to a class of free persons exhibiting some degree of color (Garrigus, 1988, p. vii and Berlin, 1998), they rejected identification with black slaves and free whites in order to construct distinct identities for themselves in a racially oppressive and sexually exploitive environment (Gould, 1996, p. 193). The strategies they employed to advance and protect their interests illustrate how they tackled the circumstances and conditions that defined their struggle. These ranged from taking advantage of their slim but not inconsequential legal rights, to educating themselves, to holding and transmitting property, to developing exclusive community networks, to cornering various market activities, and engaging in a variety of legal and extra-legal personal unions.

From the first introduction of slaves to the early twentieth century, Louisiana’s efforts to legally establish a hierarchy of racial identification—especially where Creoles and “mixed bloods” were concerned—were bedeviled by competing identity claims, a disorderly population (Spear, 1999, p. 155), and an environment in which “antimiscegenation measures were flagrantly disregarded” (Lachance, 1994, p. 214). In fact, Doris Garraway notes, “the class of free people of color was quite diverse in gender, color, and circumstance. Referred to variously… the free people of color included former slaves and the descendants of all skin tones” (2005, p. 211). It should also be remembered that early nineteenth-century accounts described white creoles in terms of ethnicity and heritage rather than skin color. Amos Stoddard, for example, described the “Creoles, or native inhabitants” in his Sketches Historical and Descriptive of Louisiana as partly the descendants of the French Canadians and partly of those who migrated “intermixed with some natives of France, Spain, Germany, and the United States, and in many instances the Aborigines” (1973, p. 323). Despite contradictory evidence provided in the narratives of novelists, historians, moralists, and other chroniclers of life in New Orleans who frequently observed that Creole women resembled “the women of Cadiz and Naples and Marseilles; with a self possession, ease, and elegance which the Americans seldom possess” (King, 1920, p. 273), considerations of ethnicity, lineage or linguistic (especially French, German, Caribbean) identity rarely, in the final analysis, inhibited them from using the preferred racial schemas to taxonomize Louisiana’s gens de couleurs. The gens de couleurs, wrote Grace King:

were a class apart, separated from and superior to the negroes, ennobled, were it by only one drop of white blood in their veins…. To the whites, all Africans who were not of pure blood were gens de couleurs. Among themselves, however, there were jealous and fiercely guarded distinctions; mulattoes, quadroons, octoroons, griffes, each term meaning one more generation’s elevation, one degree’s further transfiguration in the standard of racial perfection; white blood. (1920, p. 333)

This inferior racial identity projected onto gens de couleurs was compounded by moral and social prejudices. Assumptions hardened into received opinion—easily detected in contemporary literature, memoirs, and histories—as racial prejudices were translated into laws designed to increase the legal distinctions between different racial groups were legislated when Louisiana became part of the Unites States (including the reestablishment, by the Louisiana Legislature of the French Code Noir of 1724 as the Black Code in 1806), and New Orleans Creoles evolved into a separate and more self-conscious ethnic caste with fewer exogamous marriages by the mid nineteenth century (Spear, 1999, pp. 101-153 and Lachance, 1994, p. 213, p. 229 and pp. 233-35)…

Read the entire article here.

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Black Female Agency and Sexual Exploitation: Quadroon Balls and Plaçage Relationships

Posted in Dissertations, History, Louisiana, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2010-06-24 17:25Z by Steven

Black Female Agency and Sexual Exploitation: Quadroon Balls and Plaçage Relationships

Ohio State University
May 2008
81 Pages

Noël Voltz
The Ohio State University

A Senior Honors Thesis Presented in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for graduation with research distinction in the undergraduate colleges of The Ohio State University

In 1805, a New Orleans newspaper advertisement formally defined a new social institution, the infamous Quadroon Ball, in which prostitution and plaçage–a system of concubinage–converged. These elegant balls, limited to upper-class white men and free “quadroon” women, became interracial rendezvous that provided evening entertainment and the possibility of forming sexual liaisons in exchange for financial “sponsorship.” It is the contention of this thesis such “sponsored” relationships between white men and free women of color in New Orleans enabled these women to use sex as a means of gaining social standing, protection, and money. In addition, although these arrangements reflected a form of sexual exploitation, quadroon women were able to become active agents in their quest for upward social mobility.

Until recently, historians have overlooked the lives of Louisiana’s free women of color during the colonial and antebellum eras. My research, therefore, expands historical knowledge about the unique social institution of Quadroon Balls and plaçage relationships in order to give greater breadth to scholarly understandings of quadroon women’s sexual and economic choices. This research formally began in summer 2006, during my participation in the Summer Research Opportunities Program (SROP) at the Ohio State University. Through this experience, I was able to begin analyzing the institution of Quadroon Balls and I have discovered the immense possibilities of this topic. While there are many directions that this research can take, I have decided to focus my undergraduate research and honors thesis on the history of the balls and quadroon women’s agency in antebellum New Orleans. In order to research these concepts, I have utilized a combination of primary sources and secondary sources written about women of color. In winter 2006, I was awarded an Undergraduate Research Scholarship and, with this money, I visited New Orleans and Baton Rouge to conduct archival research. My most recent trip to New Orleans and Baton Rouge has augmented my understanding of the topic by providing a large quantity of primary source materials, including court cases and other legal documents, as well as affording me an opportunity to experience archival research first hand in the actual historical environment in which the balls took place. Ultimately, I plan to continue my current research as my dissertation topic.

Table of Contents

“The Quadroon Ballroom” Poem by Rixford J. Lincoln
Introduction and Historiographic Review
Chapter 1. A Historical Background of New Orleans’ Free Women of Color
Chapter 2. Plaçage Relationships
Chapter 3. Quadroon Balls
Chapter 4. Case Study: Five Generations of Women

Read the entire paper here.

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