Tagged: Louisiana

A Little Saturday Zydeco

Zydeco is black Creole music that is native to Southwest Louisiana. It originated as a unique and distinct art form after the early 1900s.

Zydeco music is characterized by the use of an accordion as the lead instrument, and occasionally, the use of a metal washboard or “frottoir.” Over the years, zydeco has been influenced by blues and R’n’B music. It remains popular in southern Louisiana and east Texas, but people in other parts of the country, especially young people, might not even know what it is.

Early zydeco made heavy use of French lyrics, but as the use of the language has declined throughout southern Louisiana, new Zydeco music is almost exclusively in English.

Zydeco has developed its own hand-dancing form, and this is a nice video of couple strutting their stuff on the Louisiana Zydeco Live television show:

I also like this zydeco line-dance video:

The music on the above video is from top zydeco band Brian Jack & The Zydeco Gamblers.

Truth, Lies, and a Black Confederate Soldiers Hoax; and the True Story of the Louisiana Native Guards

This is a lie:

Fake-Black-Confederates-Picture

This picture purports to show the 1st Louisiana Native Guard, a group of African American soldiers who supposedly served in the Confederate Army during the American Civil War. It’s been used in numerous places, including Youtube videos here and here.

The picture has been used by pro-Confederate supporters for its propaganda value: the “fact” that blacks fought in the Confederate armed forces is offered as proof that the South was not fighting the Civil War to defend slavery, but rather, for their freedom or “states rights”… or something.

The problem with the picture is, it’s a fake. It’s a retouched version of this picture, which features a white Union official:
Real-Black-Confederate-picture

The picture was taken in Philadelphia, around 1864. It was eventually used to make an illustration for a Union recruitment poster that was targeted at blacks. The fascinating story of how this piece of history was made into a hoax is detailed at the site Retouching History: The Modern Falsification of a Civil War Photograph. As described at the site,

“In the past decade,” the Yale historian David Blight has recently written, “the neo-Confederate fringe of Civil War enthusiasm . . . has contended that thousands of African Americans, slave and free, willingly joined the Confederate war effort as soldiers and fought for their ‘homeland’ . . . . Slaves’ fidelity to their masters’ cause – - a falsehood constructed to support claims that the war was not about slavery – - has long formed one of the staple arguments in Lost Cause ideology.”

In this paper we discuss a graphic example of Blight’s contention by examining a Civil War-era posed studio photograph of black Union soldiers with a white officer. We maintain that this photograph has been deliberately falsified in recent years by an unknown person/s sympathetic to the Confederacy. This falsified or fabricated photo, purporting to be of the 1st Louisiana Native Guards (Confederate), has been taken to promote Neo-Confederate views, to accuse Union propagandists of duplicity, and to show that black soldiers were involved in the armed defense of the Confederacy.

The actual 1st Louisiana Native Guards, consisting of Afro-Creoles, was formed of about 1,500 men in April 1861 and was formally accepted as part of the Louisiana militia in May 1862. The Native Guards unit (one of three all-black companies) never saw combat while in Confederate service, and was largely kept at arm’s length by city and state officials; in fact, it often lacked proper uniforms and equipment.

“The Confederate authorities,” James Hollandsworth has written, “never intended to use black troops for any mission of real importance. If the Native Guards were good for anything, it was for public display; free blacks fighting for Southern rights made good copy for the newspapers.” The unit apparently was never committed to the Confederate cause, and appears to have disobeyed orders to evacuate New Orleans with other Confederate forces; instead it surrendered to Union troops in April 1862.

The photographs of the Louisiana Native Guards… show how a legitimate photograph can be altered and used to advance and support a particular contemporary political or ideological perspective in the present-day United States.

The group that was the focus of this hoax – the Louisiana Native Guard – makes for an interesting story in and of itself. The guard, which was a militia of the state of Louisiana, consisted of creole (mixed race) soldiers. On Nov. 23, 1861 – after the start of the Civil War – they made their debut, with a show of 33 black officers and 731 black enlisted men along the banks of the Mississippi River next to their white counterparts in the Louisiana militia.

Civil War historian James Hollandsworth wrote a book about these troops titled The Louisiana Native Guards: The Black Experience during the Civil War. He noted:

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In Louisiana, a Great Racial Divide

In the 2008 presidential election, whites in Louisiana voted for Republican John McCain over Democrat Barack Obama by a margin of 84%-14%. Meanwhile, blacks voted for Obama over McCain by a margin of 94%-4%.

There is huge divide between blacks and whites in Louisiana. And it’s not just political.

A recent report titled A Portrait of LOUISIANA: Louisiana Human Development Report 2009 shows wide disparities in income, education, and life expectancy between blacks and whites in the state. The report is a product of the Louisiana Disaster Recovery Foundation, the Foundation for the Mid South, Oxfam America, and the American Human Development Project, which did the research and wrote the report.

The findings of the report include:

• Median personal earnings for whites in Louisiana average $28,912, which is slightly above the national average. For African Americans, earnings are $17,010, comparable to U.S. median earnings in the mid- 1960s.

• Nearly one in three African American adults age 25 and over in Louisiana has not graduated from high school. (!!!)

• African Americans in Louisiana are less than half as likely to have completed college than their white counterparts.

• The average life span for African Americans in Louisiana today (72.2 years) is shorter than that of many developing nations, including Colombians, Vietnamese and Venezuela.

• The average life span of an African American in New Orleans is 69.3 years, nearly as low as life expectancy in North Korea, while the life expectancy for a white person is 79.6 years.

• Whites in Louisiana earning the least have wages and salaries on par with African Americans earning the most.

• Louisiana African American women have wages and salaries typical of those that prevailed in the U.S. in the 1950s.

• An African-American baby boy born today in Louisiana can expect to live 68.1 years, a life span shorter than that of the average American in 1960 and on par with that of men in Azerbaijan, Egypt and Jamaica today.

The economic disparity between blacks and whites in the state is illustrated by the following chart, which shows the percentage of Louisiana families that fall within various income groups.

State of Louisiana – Family Income of Whites and African Americans, 2007
Louisiana-Income-by-Race
In Louisiana, nearly 25 percent of white families percent have incomes of $100,000 or more, while about 7 percent have incomes below $15,000. The exact opposite is the case for African Americans.
Source: A Portrait Of Louisiana: Louisiana Human Development Report 2009

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The Octoroon, a Tragic Mulatto Tale of the Old South

The Octoroon is a tragic mulatto play by Irish playwright and actor Dion Boucicault. It opened on Broadway in 1859, just a few years before the American Civil War. The play was based on Mayne Reid’s novel, The Quadroon, and the incidents relating to the murder of the slave in Albany Fonblanque’s novel, The Filibuster.

Wikipedia describes the tragic mulatto genre:

The Tragic mulatto is a stereotypical fictional character that appeared in American literature during the 19th and 20th centuries. The “tragic mulatto” is an archetypical mixed race person (a “mulatto”), who is assumed to be sad or even suicidal because he/she fails to completely fit in the “white world” or the “black world”. As such, the “tragic mulatto” is depicted as the victim of the society he/she lives in, a society divided by race. Because of society’s reluctance to acknowledge ambiguity in racial classifications, this character is particularly vulnerable.

The “tragic mulatta” figure is a woman of biracial heritage who must endure the hardships of African-Americans in the antebellum South, even though she may look white enough that her ethnicity is not immediately obvious. As the name implies, tragic mulattas almost always meet a bad end.

Generally, the tragic mulatta archetype falls into one of three categories:
• A woman who can “pass” for white attempts to do so, is accepted as white by society and falls in love with a white man. Eventually, her status as a bi-racial person is revealed and the story ends in tragedy.
• A woman appears to be white. She has suffered little hardship in her life, but upon the revelation that she is mixed race, she loses her social standing.
• A woman who has all the social graces that come along with being a middle-class or upper-class white woman is nonetheless subjected to slavery.

The play centers around its heroine Zoe, a Louisiana octoroon in the pre-Civil War era. An octoroon is a person who has one biracial grandparent, while the other three grandparents are white. An octoroon is the child of a white parent and a quadroon parent. A quadroon is the child of a white parent and a biracial parent.

Octoroons are very often light enough to appear white. However, under the era’s one-drop rule, they were considered black. Additionally, any child born to a slave was automatically considered a slave. So, an octoroon born to a quadroon mother, where the quadroon mother was born to a biracial slave mother, was herself a slave.

Zoe lives on the Louisiana slave plantation of the late Judge Peyton and his wife, Mrs. Peyton. Due to financial problems, Mrs. Peyton is being forced to sell the plantation and its slaves. Zoe is the daughter of Judge Peyton through one of the slaves. Zoe is light enough that she appears white. Zoe was raised as, and grew-up believing, she was a freewoman, but learns during the play that she is legally a slave.

The hero of the play is George, the nephew of Mrs. Peyton, who visits the plantation after an extended stay in France. George falls in love with Zoe, and he proposes to her. However, Zoe rejects the proposition, pointing out that the law prevents a white man from marrying a “black” woman. George offers to take her to a different country, but Zoe says wishes to stay with the plantation.

The villain of the play is Jacob McClosky, a scoundrel whose under-handed dealings with the late Judge Peyton led to the plantation’s financial problems. McClosky desires Zoe for himself, but she rejects him. He plots to have her sold with the plantation and the rest of the slaves, and then buy her and make her his mistress.

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Post Election Political Miscellany @ 11/7/08

Barack Obama won the election for president thanks to huge winning margins among black and Hispanic voters. This is from exit poll survey results on the CNN website:

vote-by-sex-and-race
Source: CNN/National Exit Poll

Overall, Obama got 43% of the white vote. By contrast, John Kerry got 41% of the white vote when he ran for president in 2004.

But here’s the thing about the white vote. The electoral map for this election is shown below. The blue sates were won by Obama, the red states by John McCain. Note that, the darker the color, the greater the margin of victory for each of the states:

map-electoral-voting

John McCain won a swath of “deep red” states stretching from Texas and Oklahoma in the southwest to Kentucky, Tennessee and Alabama in the southeast. I would bet that outside the South, Obama won half or more of the white vote-a fact that might indicate something about race relations and racial politics in the South versus the rest of the country.
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Racial Divide – Or Competing Political Ambitions – May Cost Louisiana Democrats a House Seat

In an earlier post, I spoke about the tangled web of race, politics, and ambition in Louisiana:

The Democratic Party was overjoyed by this spring’s victory of Don Cazayoux in Louisiana’s 6th congressional district, which includes the city of Baton Rouge. The 6th district had been held by the Republican Richard Baker since 1986. Baker vacated his office in February, and the state of Louisiana held a special election to fill the seat in May. Cazayoux won, beating out Republican Woody Jenkins, and will represent the district through the end of the year.

However, there still needs to be an election to fill the seat for the term that runs from 2009 through 2010. And this is where things get complicated.

Many black Democrats in Louisiana are upset that the state and National Democratic Party haven’t been supportive of black candidates running for congressional and state-wide offices.

Things got so bad that an associate of Louisiana state representative Michael Jackson sent out “robo-calls” to Baton Rouge’s African-American neighborhoods on the day of the May special election, telling voters to “teach white Democrats a lesson” by staying home and not voting. Jackson, who had not approved the calls, had to step in to have the calls stopped.

And now Jackson is threatening to run in the November general election for the 6th district as an Independent. Jackson has reportedly run television ads stating his intention to run in the November general election.

If Jackson does run in the November general election, it could have a devastating effect on the Democrat’s chances of holding onto the seat. Cazayoux and Jackson would probably split the Democratic vote, making it easy for the Republican to get the plurality of votes and win the election.

But on the other hand: Cazayoux and the Republican candidate – who almost certainly will be white – could split the white vote. And if Jackson could get the more votes than either white candidates, he could win the election outright, even if he only gets a plurality of the votes. (In Louisiana, there is no requirement for a runoff election where a candidate must get the majority of the votes.) The 6th district’s population is 33% African American.

And that explains why Jackson might be willing to run what is a high risk but dangerous campaign as far as the Democratic party is concerned.

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Political Miscellany 6/20/08

The Hill reported plans by Barack Obama to meet with his fellow Congressional Black Caucus members on Thursday (6/19). Relations within the CBC are said to be strained due to the hotly contested presidential primary. Many members of the CBC backed Sen Hillary Clinton, even though black voters overwhelmingly supported Obama.

Obama previously met privately with a group of religious leaders, including megachurch pastor Bishop T.D. Jakes, and Rev Franklin Graham, head of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. The meeting was held to solicit their input on national and world issues, and not necessarily to get their endorsements.

About 30 people were at the meeting. In addition to Jakes, three other prominent members of the black church were present: the Rev. Stephen Thurston, head of the National Baptist Convention of America, Inc., a historically black denomination; the Rev. T. Dewitt Smith, president of the Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc., which was home to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders; and Bishop Phillip Robert Cousin Sr., an A.M.E. clergyman and former NAACP board member.

Other reported attendees were conservative Catholic constitutional lawyer Doug Kmiec; evangelical author Max Lucado of San Antonio; Cameron Strang, founder of Relevant Media, which is aimed at young Christians; the Rev. Luis Cortes of Esperanza USA; and Paul Corts, president of the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities.

As they say, politics makes strange bedfellows. Consider the case of Sen Barack Obama and Georgia congressman John Barrow.

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Political Miscellany 6/13/08

The Obama campaign has been facing an onslaught of unsubstantiated smears. One of the most ridiculous is that Obama wasn’t born in the United States, and that he changed his middle name (from, perhaps, Mohammed to Husein?). This led one web site to display a copy of Obama’s birth certificate. The Obama campaign has now created a website to address these malicious rumors: www.fightthesmears.com.

Some black Democrats in NYC who supported Hillary Clinton for president are catching grief. The Brooklyn Ron blog notes that Congressman Ed Towns of Brooklyn will be facing significant opposition from “writer and hip-hop culture exponent Kevin Powell.”

In Louisiana, Donald Cravins, Jr., an African American State Senator from the southwestern part of the state, appears ready to run for Congress against Republican incumbent Charles Boustany in the race for the state’s 7th Congressional district.

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Ballots and Bullets

Rev Carter of LA, awaiting the KKK after registering to vote

This picture goes back to the 1960s, in Lousiana. The picture’s caption: “Reverend Joe Carter, expecting a visit from the Klan after he dared to register to vote, stands guard on his front porch, West Feliciana Parish, Louisiana.”

Reverend Joe Carter was the first African American in the twentieth century to register to vote in West Feliciana, even though two-thirds of the parish’s residents were black.

After his registration, there were concerns about what reprisals, if any, would come from white segregationists. Indeed, the Ku Klux Klan burned at least one cross in response to Carter’s ground-breaking act.

The night after Carter registered to vote, vigilant neighbors scattered in the woods near his farmhouse, which was at the end of a long dirt road, to help him if trouble arrived. “If they want a fight, we’ll fight,” Joe Carter told photographer Bob Adelman. Hence, the picture of Carter on his porch, rifle in hand.

“If I have to die, I’d rather die for right, ” said Carter. “I value my life more since I became a registered voter. A man is not a first-class citizen, a number one citizen unless he is a voter.”

After Election Day passed, Carter said he “thanked the Lord that he let me live long enough to vote.”

This picture is from an excellent book titled Mine Eyes Have Seen: Bearing Witness to the Struggle for Civil Rights. The book features pictures from Life magazine photographer Bob Adelman, and chronicle the civil rights struggle in the South and urban black life in the North.

The book is moving and poignant, and reminds us of how far we’ve come. Was it really only 30-40 years that black people faced death threats merely for exercising the right to vote?

I highly recommend that you get this book, and even more, that you share it with the young. Many of them think that struggle is futile. They need to get an earful and eyeful from Rev Joe Carter.