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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New Orleans II: the Halloween Ghost Post

Posted in Articles, History, Louisiana, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2016-05-29 21:53Z by Steven

New Orleans II: the Halloween Ghost Post

The History Tourist

Susan Kalasunas

My first chance to encounter a ghost at the Bourbon Orleans Hotel in New Orleans came not long after check-in.

“Can we see the ballroom?” I asked the receptionist.

“Yes. We don’t have an event tonight, but the doors should be open. It’s right up those stairs.” That would be the grand one with the double staircase that swept up to the second floor.

The doors were unlocked but the only light in the room was from street lights peeking through large, heavily draped windows. We wandered in the dark. There’s a ghost associated with the ballroom: a woman who dances, alone, or who hides behind the curtains. I searched for the woman while Mr. History Tourist searched for the light switches. Mr. HT found the switches first and set the chandeliers alight.

This was once the Orleans Ballroom. Says the Bourbon Orleans website: “In 1817, entrepreneur John David…built the Orleans Ballroom: the oldest, most historic ballroom in New Orleans. When it opened, the ballroom became the setting for…the forever famous Quadroon Balls.”…

Read the entire article here.

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The quadroon concubines of New Orleans on Wanton Weekends

Posted in Articles, History, Louisiana, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2015-11-28 20:05Z by Steven

The quadroon concubines of New Orleans on Wanton Weekends

Jude Knight

Jude Knight

In New Orleans at the end of the 18th Century, a wealthy white man would generally live on his plantation with his wife and children, but he would also have a townhouse in New Orleans where his other family lived: his quadroon mistress and the children he had made with her.

To the men and women involved, these marriages de la main gauche (left-handed marriages) were honourable arrangements. The women were faithful to their protectors, and the men were expected to provide for their children. It was what a gentleman did…

Read the entire article here.

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‘It’s no disgrace to a colored girl to placer’: Sexual Commodification and Negotiation among Louisiana’s “Quadroons,” 1805-1860

Posted in Dissertations, History, Louisiana, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2015-08-22 01:13Z by Steven

‘It’s no disgrace to a colored girl to placer’: Sexual Commodification and Negotiation among Louisiana’s “Quadroons,” 1805-1860

Ohio State University
284 pages

Noel Mellick Voltz

Doctor of Philosophy in History

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 balls, limited to white men and light-skinned, free “Quadroon” women, became an interracial rendezvous that provided evening entertainment and the possibility of forming sexual liaisons in exchange for financial “sponsorship.” At these balls, money and other forms of payment were exchanged for the connubial placement of free women of color with wealthy white men.

My dissertation entitled, “‘It’s no disgrace to a colored girl to placer’: Sexual Commodification and Negotiation Among Louisiana’s “Quadroons,” 1805-1860” seeks to understand how free women of color used sex across the colorline as a tool of negotiation in various spaces, like the Quadroon Ballroom, in antebellum Louisiana. More specifically, utilizing contemporary travelers’ journals, newspapers, poems, songs, letters, notarial and ecclesiastical records, court cases and other legal documents, my dissertation examines the sexual agency exerted by Louisiana’s free women of color in four sites of contestation – the body, the ballroom, the courtroom and the sanctuary.

Free women of color occupied a precarious position in antebellum Louisiana, often subjugated because of their race, gender and class; yet, this very positioning also afforded them a space in which to maneuver socially and economically. I contend that in these literal and figurative spaces, these women drew upon their sexuality to make strategic claims to their freedom advancing themselves socially and economically. This work pushes the boundaries of current scholarship engaging questions of sexual agency and trauma, race and identity, hegemonic myth and cultural reappropriation. In so doing, I build upon and push beyond historiographic discussions of the fetishizing and fanticizing gaze of white men and the overly simplistic dichotomous images of the hypersexualized jezebel and the totally victimized yet “respectable” free woman of color. Ultimately, this research illuminates a more nuanced understanding of black female agency in the antebellum era.

For more information, click here.

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Quadroons for Beginners: Discussing the Suppressed and Sexualized History of Free Women of Color with Author Emily Clark

Posted in Articles, History, Interviews, Louisiana, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2013-09-07 16:42Z by Steven

Quadroons for Beginners: Discussing the Suppressed and Sexualized History of Free Women of Color with Author Emily Clark

The Huffington Post

Stacy Parker Le Melle

“As a historian, I knew that mixed race women and interracial families were everywhere in America from its earliest days. And I knew that most of the free women of color in antebellum New Orleans bore no resemblance to the quadroons of myth.” —Dr. Emily Clark

As an American, I follow my roots like trails across the globe. My mother is from Kansas and is of German descent, and my deceased father was black with roots in North Carolina, and before then, Africa. Arguably you can trace all of us back to Africa. But my parents’ union created me: a black American woman, a woman of color, a mixed kid, a mulatta, maybe an Oreo, definitely a myriad of identities and categories to embrace or resist.

Living in Harlem, I see so many mixed marriages, mixed kids everyday all the time. Traveling the South, I see so many kids with the telltale curly locks. Growing up in Metro Detroit in the 80s, I knew there were other black & white mixes like me. I just didn’t know them. Only at college in Washington, DC, did I meet mixed girls and have them as friends. And not until my English, women’s studies, and African-American history courses did I learn any American history about women like me.

Before college, maybe I’d encounter a definition of “miscegenation” – that very special crime of racemixing in segregated America. And maybe an explanation of the “one drop rule” that went on to create the classifications of “mulatto” and “quadroon” and “octaroon“—your label dependent upon which fraction of African was in your genealogy. But that was it. In my high school American History texts, I don’t remember any acknowledgement of centuries of rape and consensual relationships between whites and blacks. None of my suburban history teachers lingered on the taboo. Maybe I didn’t either. When I think of the mania around racemixing, and of the cultural trope of the “tragic mulatta“—the woman doomed because she is too white for the blacks, too black for the whites—it was easy to assume that the history of mixed-race women in America was simple in its sadness and injustice.

Yet there is nothing simple about the American Quadroon. Once she was the picture of irresistible beauty, the symbol of a city thought of as irredeemably “other”, an earthbound goddess who conjured so much desire that white men made her concubines, and slavetraders scoured the states for enslaved girls that fit her description to fulfill buyer demand. That was the myth, the dominant story. But as Tulane historian Emily Clark writes in her richly-researched and compelling The Strange History of the American Quadroon: Free Women of Color in the Revolutionary Atlantic World (UNC Press), she was also a family-woman, marrying men of color, living the propriety dream in her New Orleans society. If her myth was simple in its power, her reality was rich and complicated—by no means a single story…

How do you define an “American Quadroon”?

Dr. Clark: There are really two versions. One is the virtually unknown historical reality, the married free women of color of New Orleans who were paragons of piety and respectability. The other is the more familiar mythic figure who took shape in the antebellum American imagination. If you asked a white nineteenth-century American what a quadroon was, they would answer that she was a light-skinned free woman of color who preferred being the mistress of a white man to marriage with a man who shared her racial ancestry. In order to ensnare white lovers who would provide for them, quadroons were supposedly schooled from girlhood by their mothers to be virtuosos in the erotic arts. When they came of age, their mothers put them on display at quadroon balls and negotiated a contract with a white lover to set the young woman up in a house and provide enough money to support her and any children born of the liaison. The arrangement usually ended in heartbreak for the quadroon when the lover left her to marry a white woman. If this sounds like a white male rape fantasy, that is exactly what it was. There is one other key characteristic of the mythic American Quadroon: she was to be found only in New Orleans…

Read the entire interview here.

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Historian Unmasks Quadroon Myth

Posted in Articles, History, Louisiana, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2012-03-29 01:25Z by Steven

Historian Unmasks Quadroon Myth

New Wave
Tulane University News

Carol J. Schlueter

Historian Emily Clark has been here before, plowing through New Orleans archival documents from the early 1800s, handwritten in French. Her latest search has unveiled truths about a group of women that Clark says history has maligned: free women of color.

“I want to bring them to the attention of history again,” says Clark, an associate professor who holds the Clement Chambers Benenson Professorship in American Colonial History at Tulane.

Funding from a state Awards to Louisiana Artists and Scholars (ATLAS) grant has allowed Clark to extend a sabbatical and work on a new book, The Strange History of the American Quadroon.

Myths abound about “quadroon balls” in early-19th-century New Orleans in which quadroons—described by Clark as “a name for any woman who seemed to be of mixed race”—were presented to groups of white men. With marriages between the two groups forbidden, what supposedly resulted was plaçage, a contractual living-together arrangement.

But when Clark went looking in the archives, she found something else…

Read the entire article here.

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The “Quadroon-Plaçage” Myth of Antebellum New Orleans: Anglo-American (Mis)interpretations of a French-Caribbean Phenomenon

Posted in Articles, History, Louisiana, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2012-01-17 18:37Z by Steven

The “Quadroon-Plaçage” Myth of Antebellum New Orleans: Anglo-American (Mis)interpretations of a French-Caribbean Phenomenon

Journal of Social History
Published Online: 2011-11-13
DOI: 10.1093/jsh/shr059

Kenneth Aslakson, Assistant Professor of History
Union College, Schenectady, New York

Although Thomas Jefferson’s likely affair with his slave, Sally Hemmings, has sparked controversy since James Callender first made it public in 1802, no place has attracted more attention with regard to miscegenation than Louisiana, and particularly its chief city of New Orleans. The general consensus holds that the inhabitants of New Orleans were unusually open about interracial relationships (or at least heterosexual ones in which the man was white), due to the cultural influence of the French and Spanish, and nothing epitomized this more than the city’s famed “quadroon balls,” dances open to young free women of mixed ancestry and white gentlemen of means. According to lore, the “lovely and refined” quadroon woman came to the ball “dressed in the most fashionable gown and chaperoned by her mother” looking for a wealthy white gentleman. “After dancing with a man, if the girl were attracted, he would be allowed to speak with her mother to make ‘arrangements’… [which] would include a furnished home that [the woman of color] would own and financial arrangements for her and any children.” The relationship thus established was called plaçage and the woman une placée. The relationship was temporary and ended when the man took a white wife. Nevertheless, a woman of color greatly benefitted from the patronage of an elite white man and often used the money bestowed upon her to establish herself in business “usually as a dressmaker, milliner, or by operating a boarding house.” Thus, the “quadroon balls” and plaçage relationships “provided a comfortable lifestyle for the quadroon ladies who had very limited options during the period.”

While this story of the quadroon balls and plaçage is enticing, it is based on scanty evidence, and, therefore, this paper will refer to it as the quadroon-plaçage myth. To be sure, something like the…

Read or purchase the article here.

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Quadroon Balls

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes, History, Slavery, United States on 2010-09-18 04:09Z by Steven

Quadroon Balls functioned as a form of entertainment but also served a meeting space for its participants to enter into plaçage/sexual relationships. It was at these dances that free young women of color, guided by their mothers, charmed their way into the hearts and pockets of Louisiana’s white males. At the balls, quadroon women “show their accomplishments in dancing and conversation to the white men.” Upon finding a quadroon to his liking, a man would negotiate with the quadroon woman’s mother. If both mother and daughter were satisfied with his financial and social ranking, she would be “placed” as his placée. According to literary traveler George William Featherstonhaugh,

When one of them [a quadroon] attracts the attention of an admirer, and he is desirous of forming a liaison with her, he makes a bargain with the mother, agrees to pay her a sum of money, perhaps 2000 dollars, or some sum in proportion to her merits, as a fund upon which she may retire when the liaison terminates. She is now called “une placée;” those of her caste who are her intimate friends give her fetes, and the lover prepares “un joli appartement meuble.”

 Each quadroon had a “value” which “depended on the attractiveness of the subject, the fairness of her complexion, and her mother’s ability to show her off against the competition.” This “value” was derived through negotiations between the quadroon’s mother and the white suitor. If an agreement was reached, the quadroon would become a concubine or placée for the white man in exchange for financial support for the woman. These exchanges frequently meant that the quadroon woman would receive housing, a sum of money, and promised financial support for any children that would come from these relationships. The “price” for a quadroon varied, but could be as much as $2,000. Often times, the quadroon woman would be set up in an apartment (“un joli appartement meuble”) located on Ramparts Street in New Orleans that was rented by the white gentleman for their use. These plaçage relationships could last for weeks, months, years, and, much less frequently, a life-time. In these exchanges, sexual exploitation by both parties is particularly noticeable; the quadroon exploited the pocketbook and the man exploited her body.

Quadroon women who participated in the balls had been groomed from early childhood by their mothers to take advantage of this unique opportunity to become the exploiters, using their bodies, beauty and assumed exotic sexuality to enter into contracts with wealthy white men. Monique Guillory discusses this exchange that gives women some power when she states, “Through this strategic commodification of the quadroon body, which I have called the commercial, women of color seized an opportunity beyond the confines of slavery to set the price for their own bodies.” These quadroon women chose to use their bodies as leverage to raise their own social status above the “negro” slave and the dark-skinned free people of color. This population of women became agents who exploited themselves and white men in an effort to transcend the racist system of antebellum Louisiana.

Noël Voltz, “Black Female Agency and Sexual Exploitation: Quadroon Balls and Plaçage Relationships” (PhD dissertation, Ohio State University, 2008).

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