Archives for posts with tag: New orleans


Images from Laura Plantation website

Laura Plantation is a Creole Plantation in Vacherie, Louisiana. The Creole culture is a blending of three different influences; the French, West African and Native American. It was class and not race that determined social status in Creole Louisiana. Creole Women were very independent and successful as Plantation managers. The Creoles of this time period spoke French and maintained their own separate existence from the White Anglo Protestant. The Plantation was originally owned by Laura’s great great grandfather, Guillaume Duparc, whom was a French Naval officer during the American Revolution and was awarded the land by Thomas Jefferson. Duparc bought more of the surrounding land from the Acadians. It was originally an Indian village of the Colapissa Indians. The Manor House was built-in 1804 in the West Indies style with long porches, both upstairs and down, by highly skilled slave labor from French Senegal These slaves were the main influence for music, cuisine and architecture and lifestyle for the Creole Culture. The Mississippi River is 600 feet from the house, the levies had to be built up to prevent flooding in the 1920’s by the Corps of Engineers under the Hoover administration.

Four generations of the Duparc women ran the plantation after Guillaume Duparc’s death in 1808. When it came into Laura’s hands, she had to sell the plantation during an economic downturn. She married a protestant man from St.Louis where she lived out her life, she had become an American housewife. She had sold the plantation to an Alsatian family, the Waguespack’s and stipulated in the sale that the name of the plantation had to remain, The Laura Plantation. The Waguespack’s kept it as a sugar plantation until 1981. Descendants of the slaves from Laura Plantation still live in this area. Laura had written a 5,000 page memoir with all the documentation of the property’s history and it found its way to the current owners through all their efforts and research which led them to find more about the family. They have created a Creole Cultural Center at laura Plantation,that is wonderful and educational with the most entertaining guides who know their Louisiana history well. It is down to 13 acres and 27 buildings on the property, with 1,500 acres of sugar cane growing around it. Br’er Rabbit was written on the property by a visitor who overhead the workers telling the stories to the children in Creole French.

Code Noir was a Creole set of rules to follow with slaveowners.
You had to be Catholic to own slaves.
The slave had to be brought up Catholic.
Sex with a slave was prohibited.
They had to be provided with adequate food, shelter and clothing.
Slaves could not be tortured, but could be punished.
Slaves could chose who they wanted to marry.
If a slave injured a free person he could be executed.

There are many more rules if you look up Code Noir.

The slaves there lived into their 80’s and 90’s, free persons there lived to be over a hundred.

Laura’s grandmother bought 30 teenage girls and had them impregnated so she could have a crop of children on the far. She built 65 cabins for them, now only four are left. I have a feeling she would be really mad if she knew that.

Was in one of the slave quarters on the wall (date unknown)

Two families would have lived here photographed by Susan Grissom

On the wall in the slave quarters

photograph by Susan Grissom

photographed by Susan Grissom

photographed by Susan Grissom

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photographed by Susan Grissom

photograph by Susan Grissom

photographed by Susan Grissom

photographed by susan Grissom

photographed by Susan Grissom

In the bedroom of Laura Plantation

This portrait is behind a mirror and a ceiling cord turns a light on that makes her appear on the wall, but no one, seemed to notice it on the tour. The story behind the portrait is that the young lady in this painting died young, because her parents wanted her to be perfect,but she had a skin condition. They took her to Paris to be treated, the doctors in Paris gave her a series of poisons to clear up the condition, but it killed her instead. They made a death mask of her face, so they could have an exact portrait of her and they brought her back to Vacherie to be buried. The room this portrait was in, was the room where her Mother locked herself in and did not come out for thirty years, until her own death, she suffered such guilt.

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The old Metairie Cemetary has an interesting history, but it is also a monumental Social History Museum of New Orleans and its rich past shows off the great wealth it once had. I think it is the most beautiful cemetary in the United States and rivals many European cemeteries. As you walk around there you will find some of the most beautiful sculpture and varied styles of architecture. It began as a racetrack and home of the exclusive Metairie Jockey Club, and it was the most popular racetrack in the country in the 1830’s. Charles T. Howard was refused membership there, as he was considered to be nouvaue riche, owning the first lottery in Louisiana. Howard got his revenge when the Racetrack found themselves in a economic downturn and he bought them and turned the racetrack into a cemetary, supposedly out of spite or so the story goes. You can still see the oval design of the racetrack
Howard died in a horse back accident and is buried there, His mausoleum has a statue of man with his finger to his lips, as if to say shhhh.

More information on the cemetery is here

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photograph by Susan Grissom

photograph by Susan Grissom


photograph

photograph by Susan Grissom

photograph by Susan Grissom

photograph by Susan Grissom

photograph by Susan Grissom

photograph by Susan Grissom

No sooner had I posted the last post about Michael P. Smith, that I received a press release that Debbie Fleming Caffery had received the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, “Michael P. Smith Documentary Photography Award”. I have studied with Debbie at the New Orleans Photography Workshop and she is truly amazing. She has been photographing people in Louisiana for over 30 years, the sugar cane workers, Cajun culture and the aftermath of Katrina. She completed a Fellows project for the Open Society Foundation that George Soros started in 1984 for the Fellows Project, in which she documented the effect of Katrina on the African American community, which can be viewed here.

Workers burning the sugar cane after harvest in Louisiana


Form 1995 Cajun Mardi Gras

Congratulations Debbie, no one deserved this award more.

I first heard of Michael P. Smith while researching Clarence John Laughlin Smith, another well known New Orleans photographer. The Mardi Gras Indians were comfortable with him; as well as the musicians and second line members. And it shows in how comfortable people were with him and how he presented them and his vision. He documented many decades of New Orleans history;particularly music, jazz fest,and the culture of second line.

He has many published many books of his work and won many awards. Smith has had many exhibits in museums, such as the Smithsonian and some of the most important photography centers in the US. The New Orleans Historical Collection has acquired all of his negatives, prints papers and his copyright as he is now deceased and plan an exhibit in the future, but no date has been set.

This is a public history blog about  Louisiana,its people, its stories, but most of all its rich spirit, that prevaled despite the  damage from Katrina.  I am approaching this blog as a cultural investigator of Louisiana, the most interesting and magical state in the country.  I will show you what I discovered in the French Quarter and the Garden District and about the people there  as well as the architecture  and the beautiful sugarcane plantations on River Road  that still exist.   I hope I can help you to see how special this place is and  its cultural importance.  We can never give up on this unique place, the Louisianan spirit is a strong one and there is much to learn from them. I want to also explore how Hurricane Katrina affected the people there and I will provide links ,videos and interviews of people there and how they have handled this. I do not know where this blog will take us, but I think it will be an adventure.