Imagining the Creole City: The Rise of Literary Culture in Nineteenth-Century New Orleans: Review

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One relevant reason for this book is the recently reignited protests centering on race inequities and immigration across America, a conversation that is always sadly necessary in the American South. Local historian Rien Fertel addresses it by writing about the elite Creole literary circle that, starting in the 1820s/1830s, largely created and sustained the story of the region’s “exceptionalism.” That era of virtuous manifest destiny – not just in the South of course- is largely to blame for the lack of understanding among those who continue to grow up amid their own ethnic myths in the U.S.

For New Orleans, most people know the story of Creole culture only through Creoles of color who continue to inhabit the city, partly because they are largely responsible for much of what we continue to value culturally in New Orleans such as live music, public and family culture, and informal Carnival activities. But it is also convincingly identified here as resulting from the profiled writers unapologetic and sometimes incorrect assertion of their whiteness and its embedded privileges during Reconstruction through the turn of the 20th century. Yet the historical details contained here give those actions context and perspective; Fertel’s description of the politics of post-Louisiana Purchase New Orleans and the concern from the White House on any potential allegiance to the Old World as partially responsible for the Creoles’ sensitivity about the eclipse of their history is especially informative.

By offering individual profiles of prominent writers of Creole history starting with eminent historian Charles Gayarré, “Transcendentalist” New Orleans Choctaw missionary Adrien Rouquette and through those writers who took up the “cause” in the 20th century, including Grace King, Robert Tallant and Lyle Saxon, Fertel offers a human-scaled trek through that complicated history and time. Having the book end with the profile of George Washington Cable and his more inclusive history of the city,  he shows the reordering of history that began with Cable as well as the tension among writers, which (partly) led to Cable’s self-imposed exile from the city. Fertel does his best to fairly catalogue both good and bad (or the long and the short) of that tension; for example, he shares how Grace King’s later-in-life acknowledgement of Cable’s value to the city showed the potential for change among those earlier devoted only to the “gallant” Creole story.

The details gathered by many of these writers will continue to offer us a rich tapestry of Louisiana life and cannot be entirely eclipsed by their love of heroic epics or even their insistence on racial “purity” and entitlement that belied the truth that existed in the tumultuous and complicated times of Jim Crow’s America. Yet, the dismissal of most of these writers works in the last 50 years as provincial cheerleading with either a stated or unstated allegiance to the “Lost Cause” should be a lesson in these Tea Party days and is vitally important for any writer in these times to consider.

 

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1873 description of Andrew Jackson Statue

 

Putting this here partly because of the Take Em Down movement is purported to be focusing on the Jackson Statue. As wildly supportive as I am about the others being removed from public display, I am not in favor of the removal of this statue but the hoopla around it is likely very helpful to the movement and I appreciate that as a tactic.

All of those others that City Council voted to be removed pretend to “honor” those who rose up in arms against the elected government of the US in order to continue the enslavement of many but the truth is they were put up in the years of white supremacy as defiance and in order to warp the real history. As a way to illustrate that, I ask you to tell me where else in our country have those who led a failed insurrection against the elected government been enshrined in public and done decades after their time? Or, as I have said elsewhere, if you want statues of the true historical context, then add Grant over Lee, Abraham Lincoln over Davis, and Sherman astride Beauregard’s horse and tell the ACTUAL history of the war, including the continued institutional racism that subjugates many.

This statue  was erected in thanks to a military man who fought the British on our soil and later became a US President and therefore should remain, although I agree that details of his murderous and shameful campaign against native Americans needs to be added to the base of the statue. That update would honor true history and teach future generations of his complicated Presidency.

In this excerpt from 1873, one can see how history has always been subjective based on the personal opinions and political stance of those writing it. Check out the dig against the added plaque put there by General Butler and the disagreement over the accuracy of the statue itself.

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CW Cannon says it well too.

 

DeBerry does too

Mead and Merry: Celebrate the return of Joan of Arc

Saturday Sept. 17, 5 – 6:30 p.m. Senior Commons Room, Danna Student Center, Loyola University Medieval tales and songs abound with references to ale, wine, and drunken feasts, but what were they really drinking?

Mead and Merry: Medieval Beverage Tasting Ticketed Event – Krewe de Jeanne d’ArcKrewe de Jeanne d’Arc

Stand with Standing Rock

Join the national day of solidarity with Standing Rock as they lead the movement to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline.
All Nations – All Generations – All Water – For All Generations!
The pipeline is designed to bring Bakken shale oil to refineries along the Gulf Coast. We are all living downstream.
We will gather on the steps across from Jackson Square and will perform a water ceremony.  Bring your signs.

Tuesday, September 13 at 4:30 PM – 5:30 PM Decatur Street steps side of Jackson Square

 

 

Vanishing Foodways Campaign

I have been a Slow Food member in the past and have always been a supporter of their innovative food system work. By supporting all aspects of the cultural milieu in which local farmers, foragers, and harvesters create and sustain their livelihoods, Slow Food is a key component in food sovereignty work locally and globally. Campaigns like this one illustrate the inclusive and thoughtful approach of many of their chapters.
Slow Food New Orleans is launching Vanishing Foodways  as an ongoing effort to collect stories from people and regions whose foodways and cultural traditions that are at risk of vanishing.  Please visit our GoFundMe campaign and become part of this initiative.  The GoFundMe campaign features a  fabulous video created by artist Voice Monet, who will be part of our 25-person Louisiana-Vietnam delegation to Terra Madre,  the international gathering of people from 150+ countries in Italy, September 22-26.

The Louisiana-Vietnam delegation to Terra Madre is the beginning of the the cross-cultural connections that the Vanishing Foodways seeks to create.  The Louisiana Coast and Vietnam’s Mekong Delta are two of the most abundant food producing regions in the world, yet are also two of the world’s most rapidly disappearing regions. Vanishing Foodways will video-document the Louisiana-Vietnam delegation’s experience at Terra Madre along with collecting stories from Terra Madre delegates representing regions that are experiencing the disappearance of their traditional and cultural foodways.

By collecting and sharing these stories, Vanishing Foodways aims to; 1) educate people that endangered foodways are not simply someone else’s problem,  2) engage people in the shared plight of all of our foodways & 3) empower people with simple daily choices that each of us can make to move the world towards reclaiming and preserving our vital cultural foodways that sustainably feed the world.