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…

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