Time for a much needed history lesson about which groups wanted to pass for white and who wanted to pass for Creole-let's get the history straight! Too many emails from blacks talking about that "passe blanc" term which they like to throw towards anyone-except themselves and too many ignorant so called Creoles or afro-Creoles who got Creole history from a book written by someone who knows nothing about Louisiana Creole culture or history. Whites just do not have an issue with history being that they read the site in thousands each week but just for educational reasons and not to email off the top of their heads like some others. Much of the history that is written in American history books is fiction and while I am not an expert on all history-I AM an expert on Louisiana-French Creole history. Ignorance is no excuse to not know ones own cultural history in a true light. There's generic history saying cliche stuff about certain ethnic groups but it isn't real accurate or intelligent to repeat what one has read from a standard American history book. People write history for agendas and political reasons but this has little to do with being truthful.
Allow me to break down the real history of race "passing" in New Orleans and who were the real"passe blancs" and even "passe noirs."
The biggest most irking myth about Creole folks in early Louisiana was that they all tried to pass for white folks. Everyone thinks that their Louisiana hip on Creole terminology because they know the term "passe Blanc"(passing for white) but this term was applied to mulattoes (non property owners and the off spring of African slaves with random white men who were poor)-and not Creoles as everyone tries to imagine. This is simply not the case. The game of ethnic/racial passing was something played by the Jews, African Americans and white women. These are the three biggest groups who played the "passing" game. The social structure of New Orleans in the 1800's going well into the 1900's was a city that was dominated by mixed-Creole females. The Madam trade, yielded Creole women-incomes of a corrupt Louisiana politician. Their bank accounts were staggering. Their net worth was more than some plantation profits.
The Frenchmen-thought that Octaroons/Quadroons (Euro French-Spanish-Native American-African American with some Italian ancestry)-were in high demand. A New Orleans Quadroon-Creole in the 1800's and early 1900's- were like a Blond hair/Blue eyed woman today-they were trophy wives. Rich Frenchmen just had to have that Quadroon mistress. It wasn't that white men were raping black slave girls. In fact, Frenchmen didn't really have a fondness for African-American women. They considered the European white-looking Octaroons/Quadroons, who had a strand of African blood-as being the most desirable. How did New Orleans get such a high population of Ocatoorns if Frenchmen weren't raping African slave girls? There are two answers to this questions.
1) History leaves out the fact that Creole men of color had the same exotic taste as their Creole Frenchmen cousins. Creole men of color could be seen with wives who were mulatto, Irish, Italian, Cajun, Creole, African and Native American. Creole males with French/African/Native American ancestry went around with white women-which produced Octaroons/Quadroons. The off springs produced by Creole men of color were the burning desire of French noblemen. Creole men even had ways of importing various ethnic groups of women from other colonies in the South. It wasn't uncommon for a Creole man to have a Seminole Native American woman-imported in from Spanish ruled Florida.
2) Poor white women would leave their villages or settlements and flock into New Orleans to be sex workers. They knew that the Quadroon title would earn them the highest fees and more social status-so one could find white Irish, English, Scottish, German girls with blond hair and blue eyes saying that they were Octaroon with African ancestry! In the late 1800's up to the about 1920-there were pure, lilly white "non-Creole"- women passing for Creole or mixed raced Quadroons with African ancestry in order to obtain the social status that being a Creole brought someone in New Orleans.
African Americans (still holds true today)-were the largest group trying to pass themselves off as Creole or some form of Native American mix. New Orleans Creoles were such a small, clickish group of about one hundred French families that the French surnames was a way that Creoles used to identify other Creoles families and their history. The surname Vinette-would tell Creoles that this family was mostly white Creoles, who didn't like mixing with non-white Creoles. A Creole also knew that the Vinette Creoles were talented as merchants and the family was female dominated.
White women-who had Old English names like Thomas or Williams, would drop their surnames in New Orleans and just go by their first names. One could see that the white women passing for Creoles, Quadroon or Ocataroon-would go by Elma the Octaroon or Marie the Quadroon! There were like three generations of white madams, just two years ago, in New Orleans-who ran a bordello house-and passed themselves off as Creoles instead of white.
In fact Christine the Quadroon was a famous and wealthy madam. She lived and traveled through the high, aristocratic circles of French New Orleans and entertained VIP's of France but she did this by passing as a mixed-raced person of color-even though she was a fair skinned and red haired white lady-who had no Creole ancestry! I think that she could have been an Irish woman but she passed as someone who had Native American/African ancestry in order to be Creole.
History and who was trying to pass and who wasn't-has been something linked to Creoles but it is more of a Louisiana urban legend. Creoles didn't pass as readily as other groups including blacks, white and Jews. Jews were in courts changing their surnames and in Europe finding medical ways to alter their noses. Jews went to extremes to pass for Europeans or W.A.S.P. They physically altered themselves and sprung the entire field of modern plastic surgery! The Jewish ethnic group wanted into white Anglo circles and they would just kill to be classified as a WASP. After the entire Nazi era of the 30's-many Jewish-German teachers came to New Orleans and further spread the idea of white superiority. Tulane University, in the late 80's. had a Jewish professor, who was notorious for ranting about how white people are a superior race. Segregation came from many, many different groups and angles. Lower Louisiana didn't see segregation until the government moved in immigrants, Southern whites who further colonized the African Americans in Protestant churches through pro-segregation and anti-Creole sermons. Southern whites in Louisiana, viewed the Jews as some form of Creole. They weren't pure white but mixed with some "colored" blood is what the Southern whites said about the Jews around their dinner tables at night.
Creoles already confused the whites, who came from outside of Louisiana, and then you had these white skinned Jewish people, with brown eyes and black hair coming to the city and saying that they were white also. This was the exact same case between Southern whites and the Italians. In the eyes of many whites (even today)-there is no such thing as having brown eyes and being a true white. No one knew how to classify them or what racial group to put them in around New Orleans. There were many, wealthy, WASP white, Southern families in Louisiana, who would not produce off spring with a non-blue eyed person-even if the person was "white." This was to avoid getting mixed ancestry by accident(which could happen in New Orleans and has happened to many families) or default due to not being able to tell someone's racial background. That is what triggered the fear of the U.S. Government and their actions at the attempted wiping of Creole people from Louisiana history as a unique ethnic group. Louisiana just stood for something that the U.S. government was dead set against-racial harmony.
This was New Orleans! New Orleans was another Paris sitting in the Southern Unites States in the middle of a swamp. Many "liberal" Northern whites would come down to New Orleans and run back in shock that Irishmen were socializing and getting drunk with Creoles of color in the streets! They would run back to Boston and call New Orleans a shame and a sin of racial impurity.
African-Americans would classify themselves as anything BUT black! They were always Creole or Indian. You would never hear an African say that they were an African and one would never hear a white say they were European. They also said Creole or white-Native American mix in early Louisiana. Many African-Americans or Louisiana blacks would teach their children that they were Creole from birth even if they were not considered true Creoles. This is also done by modern day Hispanics/Latinos who teach their children that they are Italian from birth-even though they have no idea of whats a Canolli? Mexico has entire villages of Mexican-brown skinned Indians who swear that they are form Italy! I think that Mexicans really get confused by the flag colors of their country.
One would never hear a Creole of color say that they were white or black-but simply Creole.
New Orleans was never segregated. The fight to segregate New Orleans was waged by the U.S. federal government against the city. The U.S. government in about 1895-told the Mayor of New Orleans-John Fitzpatrick,that it would strangle the city financially if it didn't divide the racial groups. Mayor John Fitzpatrick was getting so much of kick backs from Creole business women in New Orleans that he fought to keep New Orleans as a racial melting pot but the U.S. government blackmailed the city. There were no color line in New Orleans or lower Louisiana. The only way that New Orleans got a little segregated was by the extreme African Americans and the extreme whites being separate. The Mayor, at that time, passed city ordinances trying to segregate the city of New Orleans in about 1918 or 1919-but a Quadroon named, Willi Piazza, (a Quadroon Madame)-used the wealth that she obtain from the lucrative New Orleans sex trades and had this ordinance over turned in the Louisiana Supreme court. It wasn't until the U.S. military threaten New Orleans with leaving it an unprotected city with no military base-that the people of New Orleans saw the Southern virus of hate. The threats from the U.S. federal government and military were too much to fight. New Orleans saw four separate ethnic groups-Southern whites, African Americans, Creoles and Creoles of color. New Orleans is still home to many, mini Naval military basis, which the government used as leverage to force a division among races but they never really did manage to segregate New Orleans-like other American cities.