Sunday, December 18, 2016

The World That Made New Orleans by Ned Sublette

  • THE BOOK
    • The World That Made New Orleans: From Spanish Silver to Congo Square by Ned Sublette
    • Published January 2008
    • Other works by author include The Year Before the Flood: A Story of New Orleans (I read this one in 2013), Cuba and Its Music: From the First Drums to the Mambo, and The American Slave Coast: A History of the Slave-Breeding Industry (with Constance Sublette)

  • THE PREMISE
    • This is a history of New Orleans from before its founding in 1718 until approximately 100 years later.
    • New Orleans, founded by the French, was under control of France until 1763 when Spain acquired it after the Seven Years' War. It was reacquired by France in 1802 in time for Napoleon to sell it to the United States.
    • As a result of this colonial mix of languages and cultures, along with those supplied by slaves and free people of color, New Orleans developed into the city it is today.
    • There is a lengthy section devoted to the French colony of Saint-Domingue (Haiti) which had a large impact on the city and its attitudes towards slavery. 
      • The Haitian Revolution had all other slave owners in the Western Hemisphere shaking in their boots that their own slaves would revolt and more strictures were put in place.
      • Many of the French refugees from Saint-Domingue ended up settling in New Orleans too.
    • The book also covers the history of slavery in New Orleans which is somewhat different that in the rest of America due to the influence of the French and Spanish rather than the British.
      • French and Spanish laws regarding the rights of slaves were less harsh than those of the British, at least until the Haitian Revolution.
      • New Orleans was an important port where slaves were imported from everywhere.
    • The development of music in New Orleans, a fusion of so many cultures, is highlighted and the author is an expert in that area. You can see the pieces coming together in the 1700s and early 1800s that will ultimately lead to the creation of jazz late in the 19th Century.

  • MY THOUGHTS
    • I was born and raised in New Orleans and its suburbs so this was an especially interesting read for me. I knew the bare bones history but not the details. 
    • The author points out (I think; I might have read this elsewhere!) that we don't learn many details in school because there are a few too many unsavory parts not fit for the ears of the young.
      • Such as this: The French settlers took Native American women, and later, African women as their concubines or even as wives.
        • "Concubines" were probably not a subject for those of us in Catholic OR public schools!
        • This might explain why I have the teensiest bit of Native American heritage according to 23andme. One of my (male) French ancestors must have had children with a Native American woman, or possibly a Spanish ancestor who then married a French ancestor. Who knows?
      • Anyway, I am always amazed by how people are always so worried about African-American men who supposedly want to rape every white woman within reach when the real rapists were the white men of the past. They raped African-American women either because they could or because they were trying to increase the "stock". 
        • No one ever seems to bring this up. There's a reason so many African-Americans today have European DNA. It was not an isolated incident; it was brutal, evil and systemic.
        • I have the author's most recent book, The American Slave Coast: A History of the Slave-Breeding Industry on hold at the library.
          • Nothing like some righteous anger for the holidays.
        • One of my great-grandfathers (about 4 or 5 generations back) had children with at least one of his slaves so I, a white woman of French, Irish and German background on my Louisiana side, have distant African-American cousins. I think this is great but I feel so sorry for the woman back before 1865 who had NO CHOICE about it.
          • I will look up her name in the family genealogy and add it to this blog entry later. That would be the final indignity: if she is a nameless slave.
        • Obviously this is a hot button topic for me.
    • It was interesting learning about the people behind the names of things in New Orleans:
      • Example: William Claiborne, for example, has a main street named for him as he was the first governor of Louisiana, among other things.
    • Anyway, I really enjoyed the book. There are a few slower passages and you kind of wonder what the whole Saint-Domingue segue is heading towards but I found it ultimately fascinating.
    • Recommended for history buffs, those interested in the experience of Africans and slavery in the New World, music and New Orleans.
      • I would love a follow up volume covering history from 1820 to today!

1 comment:

  1. "The Year Before the Flood: A Story of New Orleans (I read this one in 2013)." Where is your review?
    "I would love a follow up volume covering history from 1820 to today!" Time to start researching and writing.

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