Monday, June 3, 2013

Our Classical Musical Heritage and Free People of Color

In this video, A.P. Tureaud Jr. (son of the famous Civil Rights attorney) and Louisiana historian Alfred E. Lemmon discuss the musical history of Louisiana's free people of color. Their information is pretty accurate. For instance, it's true that prior to the cultural Americanization of Louisiana and before the Civil War, Louisiana neighborhoods were not as segregated as they became later.

Often free people of African ancestry (not slaves) lived next door to French, Spanish, and Italians. The influx of free Haitians after the Haitian revolution in the early 1800s further mixed the city. At one point, free people of color, also known as black Creoles, owned one third of the city's property. However, during Reconstruction, white backlash, particularly from whites who lived in Louisiana but who came from other parts of America, was so strong that many free people of color fled Louisiana. Some of the wealthier ones even fled the country.

I learned much of this studying the life of Louisiana black historian Marcus Christian, sometimes called the Zora Neale Hurston and Carter G. Woodson of Louisiana. My mother was also a history buff. While Louisiana's history on the surface appears to have let more people of African descent live free than some other southern states did, make no mistake: it was still a racist system through which some pretty twisted and ugly things happened.

The description below is from the YouTube information section:
This video clip comes from the DVD La Societe Philharmonique which is a presentation of the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra and The Historic New Orleans Collection. A free concert was presented at St. Louis Cathedral in February 2011 which showcased the works of free people of color. The musical culture of New Orleans' free people of color and their descendants is one of the most extraordinary aspects of Louisiana history and it is part of a larger, shared legacy. Only within the context of the development of African music in the New World can the contributions of these sons and daughters of Louisiana be fully appreciated.
From what I've been able to gather, my ancestry does not go back to free people of color in Louisiana. I have one grandmother who may have possibly descended from a free person of color, but I have not been able to trace her beyond her marriage to my grandfather in St. James Parish. She was born in 1884, a turbulent period in the state. Her white father arranged her marriage to my grandfather, so the story goes. We'd know more if the family hadn't been so hush-hush about it all.

My parran/godfather was a Tureaud descendant. He looked more Italian than black, but his side of the Tureaud family did not achieve the status level of the A.P. part. He was a postal worker.

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