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Cover image of Race, Sex, and Social Order in Early New Orleans
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Race, Sex, and Social Order in Early New Orleans

Jennifer M. Spear

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Winner, 2009 Kemper and Leila Williams Prize in Louisiana History, The Historic New Orleans Collection and the Louisiana Historical Association

A microcosm of exaggerated societal extremes—poverty and wealth, vice and virtue, elitism and equality—New Orleans is a tangled web of race, cultural mores, and sexual identities. Jennifer M. Spear's examination of the dialectical relationship between politics and social practice unravels the city’s construction of race during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

Spear brings together archival evidence from three different languages and the…

Winner, 2009 Kemper and Leila Williams Prize in Louisiana History, The Historic New Orleans Collection and the Louisiana Historical Association

A microcosm of exaggerated societal extremes—poverty and wealth, vice and virtue, elitism and equality—New Orleans is a tangled web of race, cultural mores, and sexual identities. Jennifer M. Spear's examination of the dialectical relationship between politics and social practice unravels the city’s construction of race during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

Spear brings together archival evidence from three different languages and the most recent and respected scholarship on racial formation and interracial sex to explain why free people of color became a significant population in the early days of New Orleans and to show how authorities attempted to use concepts of race and social hierarchy to impose order on a decidedly disorderly society. She recounts and analyzes the major conflicts that influenced New Orleanian culture: legal attempts to impose racial barriers and social order, political battles over propriety and freedom, and cultural clashes over place and progress. At each turn, Spear’s narrative challenges the prevailing academic assumptions and supports her efforts to move exploration of racial formation away from cultural and political discourses and toward social histories.

Strikingly argued, richly researched, and methodologically sound, this wide-ranging look at how choices about sex triumphed over established class systems and artificial racial boundaries supplies a refreshing contribution to the history of early Louisiana.

Reviews

Reviews

Break[s] fresh analytical and methodological ground and respond[s] intelligently to alternative explanatory models pertaining to [its] respective subject. [It is a] significant contribution that will elicit scholarly engagement.

A sophisticated navigation of the intersections of race, status, and sexuality and the permeability of each boundary.

This thoroughly researched, extremely well-documented study gives us a clear understanding of how rulers constantly had to negotiate between what would ensure stability in the colony, what morality commanded, and what their perception of races suggested.

An impressive study of the role played by race and sex in creating the familiar racial hierarchy of early New Orleans. Among Spear’s many contributions is her detailed uncovering of the competing definitions of race as well as arguments about just what relationships between the various races should look like.

Spear opens a window into New Orleanians' legal affairs regarding race under different regimes with distinct legal traditions.

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Book Details

Publication Date
Status
Available
Trim Size
6
x
9
Pages
352
ISBN
9781421415734
Illustration Description
7 halftones
Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction
1. Indian Women, French Women, and the Regulation of Sex
2. Legislating Slavery in French New Orleans
3. Affranchis and Sang-Mêlé
4. Slavery and Freedom in Spanish New Orleans
5

Acknowledgments
Introduction
1. Indian Women, French Women, and the Regulation of Sex
2. Legislating Slavery in French New Orleans
3. Affranchis and Sang-Mêlé
4. Slavery and Freedom in Spanish New Orleans
5. Limpieza de Sangre and Family Formation
6. Negotiating Racial Identities in the 1790s
7. Codification of a Tripartite Racial System in Anglo-Louisiana
Epilogue
Notes
Glossary
Essay on Sources
Index

Author Bio