Pre-civil War New Orleans Essay

This essay has a total of 2747 words and 17 pages.

Pre-civil War New Orleans


New Orleans is a city in southern Louisiana, located on the Mississippi River. Most of the city is

situated on the east bank, between the river and Lake Pontchartrain to the north. Because it was built on a

great turn of the river, it is known as the Crescent City. New Orleans, with a population of 496,938 (1990

census), is the largest city in Louisiana and one of the principal cities of the South. It was established on

the high ground nearest the mouth of the Mississippi, which is 177 km (110 mi) downstream. Elevations

range from 3.65 m (12 ft) above sea level to 2 m (6.5 ft) below; as a result, an ingenious system of water

pumps, drainage canals, and levees has been built to protect the city from flooding.

New Orleans was founded in 1718 by Jean Baptiste Le Moyne, sieur de Bienville, and named for the

regent of France, Philippe II, duc d'Orleans. It remained a French colony until 1763, when it was

transferred to the Spanish. In 1800, Spain ceded it back to France; in 1803, New Orleans, along with the

entire Louisiana Purchase, was sold by Napoleon I to the United States. It was the site of the Battle of New

Orleans (1815) in the War of 1812. During the Civil War the city was besieged by Union ships under

Adm. David Farragut; it fell on Apr. 25, 1862.

And that's what it say's in the books, a bit more, but nothing else of interest. This is too bad,

New Orleans , as a city, has a wide and diverse history that reads as if it were a utopian society built to

survive the troubles of the future. New Orleans is a place where Africans, Indians and European settlers

shared their cultures and intermingled. Encouraged by the French government, this strategy for

producing a durable culture in a difficult place marked New Orleans as different and special from its

inception and continues to distinguish the city today.

Like the early American settlements along Massachusetts Bay and Chesapeake Bay, New Orleans

served as a distinctive cultural gateway to North America, where peoples from Europe and Africa initially

intertwined their lives and customs with those of the native inhabitants of the New World. The resulting

way of life differed dramatically from the culture than was spawned in the English colonies of North

America. New Orleans Creole population (those with ancestry rooted in the city's colonial era) ensured not

only that English was not the prevailing language but also that Protestantism was scorned, public

education unheralded, and democratic government untried. Isolation helped to nourish the differences.

From its founding in 1718 until the early nineteenth century, New Orleans remained far removed from the

patterns of living in early Massachusetts or Virginia. Established a century after those seminal Anglo-

Saxon places, it remained for the next hundred years an outpost for the French and Spanish until

Napoleon sold it to the United States with the rest of the Louisiana purchase in 1803.

Even though steamboats and sailing ships connected French Louisiana to the rest of the country,

New Orleans guarded its own way of life. True, it became Dixie's chief cotton and slave market, but it

always remained a strange place in the American South. American newcomers from the South as well as

the North recoiled when they encountered the prevailing French language of the city, its dominant

Catholicism, its bawdy sensual delights, or its proud free black and slave inhabitants; In short, its deeply

rooted Creole population and their peculiar traditions. Rapid influxes of non-southern population

compounded the peculiarity of its Creole past. Until the mid-nineteenth century, a greater number of

migrants arrived in the boomtown from northern states such as New York and Pennsylvania than from the

Old South. And to complicate its social makeup further, more foreign immigrants than Americans came

to take up residence in the city almost to the beginning of the twentieth century.

The largest waves of immigrants came from Ireland and Germany. In certain neighborhoods,

their descendants' dialects would make visitors feel like they were back in Brooklyn or Chicago. From

1820 to 1870, the Irish and Germans made New Orleans one of the main immigration ports in the nation,

second only to New York, but ahead of Boston, Philadelphia, and Baltimore. New Orleans also was the

first city in America to host a significant settlement of Italians, Greeks, Croatians, and Filipinos.

THE AFRICANS:

African Americans compile about half of the city of New Orleans population to date. How did

this come about? Well, during the eighteenth century, Africans came to the city directly from West

Africa. The majority passed neither through the West Indies nor South America, so they developed

complicated relations with both the Indian and Europeans. Their descendants born in the colony were

also called Creoles. The Spanish rulers (1765-1802) reached out to the black population for support

against the French settlers; in doing so, they allowed many to buy their own freedom. These free black

settlers along with Creole slaves formed the earliest black urban settlement in North America. Black

American immigrants found them to be quite exotic, for the black Creoles were Catholic, French or

Creole speakers, and accustomed to an entirely different lifestyle.

The native Creole population and the American newcomers resolved some of their conflicts by

living in different areas of the city. Eventually, the Americans concentrated their numbers in new uptown

neighborhoods. For a certain period (1836-1852), they even ran separate municipal governments to avoid

severe political, economic, and cultural clashes. Evidence of this early cleavage still survives in the city's

oldest quarters.

During the infamous Atlantic slave trade, thousands of Muslims from the Senegambia and Sudan

were kidnapped or captured in local wars and sold into slavery. In America, these same Muslims

converted other Africans and Amerindians to Islam. As the great Port of New Orleans was a major point

of entry for merchant ships, holds bursting with human, African cargo, the Port was also, unbeknownst to

many, a major point of entry for captured Muslims (most often prisoners of local wars) who certainly

brought with them their only possession unable to be stripped from them by their captors, their religion,

Islamic.

The historical record of shipping manifests attests to the fact that the majority of slaving

merchant vessels that deposited their goods at the mouth of the Mississippi took on their cargoes from

those areas of West Africa with significant Muslim population. As the Islamic belief system forbids

suicide and encourages patient perseverance, the middle-passage survival rate of captured African

Muslims was quite high. For example, one such courageous survivor was Ibrahima Abdur Rahman, son

of the king of the Fulani people of the Senegambia region, named "The Prince" by his master Thomas

Foster of Natchez, Mississippi. Abdur Rahman came through the Port of New Orleans, was sold at auction

and became a man of renown on the Foster Plantation. He eventually petitioned his freedom via President

John Quincy Adams and returned to Africa after 46 years of enslavement.

Free People of Color (f.p.c.) were Africans, Creoles of Color (New World-Born People of African

descent), and persons of mixed African, European, and or Native American descent. In Louisiana, the

first f.p.c. came from France or its Colonies in the Caribbean and in West Africa. During the French

Colonial period in Louisiana, f.p.c. were a rather small and insignificant group. During French rule from

1702-1769, there are records for only 150 emancipations of slaves. The majority of slaves freed in

Louisiana's Colonial period was during the Spanish reign from 1769-1803, with approximately 2,500

slaves being freed.

The majority of these slaves were Africans and unmixed Blacks who bought their freedom. Later on this

initial group would be augmented by Haitian refugees and other f.p.c. from the Caribbean, Mexico,

Central and South America, other parts of the United States, and from around the world.

Besides self-purchase and donation of freedom, slaves sometimes earned freedom for meritorious

Continues for 9 more pages >>




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