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The Great Task Remaining Before Us$
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Paul A. Cimbala and Randall M. Miller

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780823232024

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: March 2011

DOI: 10.5422/fso/9780823232024.001.0001

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Racial Identity and Reconstruction: New Orleans's Free People of Color and the Dilemma of Emancipation

Chapter:
(p.122) 7 Racial Identity and Reconstruction: New Orleans's Free People of Color and the Dilemma of Emancipation
Source:
The Great Task Remaining Before Us
Author(s):

Justin A. Nystrom

Publisher:
Fordham University Press
DOI:10.5422/fso/9780823232024.003.0008

This chapter looks at case studies of the way the Civil War and its aftermath affected free Creoles of color. Antebellum New Orleans society was divided broadly into three groups, with Creoles of color forming the vital middle ground between bound black slaves and free whites. Because these Creoles both obscured the relationship between race and freedom and served as a model to those slaves who would be free, white governments passed a series of laws increasingly restricting Creoles' freedoms. The war and early fall of New Orleans changed this three-tiered system in dramatic and unexpected ways. The ensuing end of slavery destroyed Creoles' former racial identity and forced them into a more rigid social structure of white and nonwhite. Many families reacted by taking a series of small steps across several generations to assume a white identity in this new bichromatic society—with varying degrees of success.

Keywords:   Creoles, Civil War, Antebellum New Orleans, racial identity, social structure

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