African Americans in New Orleans:
Les Gens de Couleur Libres
Page 2

The cottage displayed here once stood in the 700 block of Franklin Avenue. It was designed ca. 1840s by Louis Nelson Fouche (1824-1886), a free man of color from Jamaica. According to Sally Kittredge Evans, Fouche was a trained mason, architect, and mathematician. He also designed and built the substantial brick structure at the corner of Chartres and Mandeville Streets.

[Betsy Swanson Photograph Collection (original drawing
in the New Orleans Notarial Archives, Bk. 36a, fol. 29)]

Rodolphe Desdunes notes that Fouche "busied himself mostly with painting, surveying, and the arts." Fouche's 1882 work displayed here is a collection of quotations and maxims from various writers and philosophers.

[L. N. Fouche, Nouveau recueil de pensees, opinions, sentences et maximes de differents ecrivains, philosophes et orateurs, anciens, modernes et contemporains.]
In 1845, a group of seventeen free men of color published Les Cenelles, a collection of eighty-five poems, the first anthology of poetry by people of color ever published. Edited by a prominent free man of color, Armand Lanusse, the small volume--very rare today--included verses by poets such as Camille Thierry, Victor Sejour, Pierre Dalcour, Mirtil Ferdinand Liotau, and Joanni Questi. Read the translation of a poem from Les Cenelles. In 1830, the Louisiana Legislature passed an act "to prevent free persons of color from entering into this state." Section 12 of this act required "all free negroes, griffs and mulattoes of the first degree" who had entered the state after the adoption of the Constitution of 1812 and before January 1, 1825 to enroll themselves with the office of the Parish Judge of their resident parish or with the office of the Mayor of the City of New Orleans. The act displayed here was passed in the following year to make it clear that the long-established free black population was not included within the scope of the new restrictions. Read the text of the act.
[Acts of Louisiana, 1831]

Signature detail from the bond issued to Marie Laveau for a license to sell what we now know as package liquor from an establishment on the corner of Histoire (now Kerlerec) Street and another undecipherable street. From other sources we know that her father, Charles Laveaux, owned a number of properties on Kerlerec between Dauphine and Burgundy. Since he is recorded on the bond as the security for Marie's bond, it is likely that she was operating out of one of the family's buildings in that block. Charles himself is listed in another bond book as the proprietor of a tavern across from the Vegetable Market, presumable on Decatur Street.

[Office of the Mayor, Security bonds for having a liquor store selling by the pint and above, 1832]

The 1838 New Orleans city directory published this image of the Orleans Theatre along with a two-page description of the building. Attached to the theatre proper was the Orleans Ballroom, which, according to legend if not fact, was the scene of the Crescent City's famed Quadroon Balls. In later years the building, on Orleans Street between Royal and Bourbon, served as the convent of the Sisters of the Holy Family, the religious order founded in New Orleans by Henriette Delille in 1842. It is now part of the Bourbon Orleans Hotel.

[Gibson's Guide and Directory of New Orleans, 1838]
Between 1809 and 1843, indenture agreements (for the most part, apprenticeships binding a young boy or girl to a craftsman or tradesmen in order to learn a trade) were signed before the Mayor of New Orleans. About half of the indentures signed during this period were for free people of color, many of whom were immigrants from St. Domingue (as were many of the white apprentices). It was partially through such apprenticeships to skilled craftsmen that the New Orleans free people of color were able to develop a large and vital community of artisans--carpenters, furniture makers, tailors, brick masons, coopers, shoemakers, blacksmiths, printers, cigar makers, and shipwrights. Although the majority of apprentices were male, a significant number of young girls were also indentured. Here, in 1811, Lolo Brement, a free mulatto woman of 14 or 15, born at Mirebalais, St. Domingue, is bound to Mrs. Augustin "that she might learn the trade of making fashionable articles." In addition to teaching this trade, Mrs. Augustin agrees to supply Lolo with "sufficient food, lodging, clothing, washing, and the aid of the craft, in case of illness." It was not uncommon in indenture agreements for the master also to agree to provide schooling for the apprentice. Read the text of the indenture document.
[Office of the Mayor. Indentures. v. 1]

The Rouzan Family tomb.

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