NEH grant allows LSU Libraries to begin ‘Free People of Color’ project
The National Endowment for the Humanities, or NEH, recently awarded a grant of $194,152 to the LSU Libraries Special Collections to digitize, index and provide free access to family papers, business records and public documents pertaining to free people of color in Louisiana and the lower Mississippi Valley.
In addition to LSU, the primary grant recipient, the project — titled “Free People of Color in Louisiana: Revealing an Unknown Past” — will bring together collections held by grant-partners that include the Louisiana State Museum in New Orleans (in the Old U.S. Mint), the New Orleans Public Library, The Historic New Orleans Collection and Tulane University’s Louisiana Research Collection. The collection will be accessible through the Louisiana Digital Library, which can be found online at http://www.louisianadigitallibrary.org.
Free people of color, Creoles of color, gens de couleur libres — all are terms used to describe people of African descent who lived in colonial and antebellum America and were born free or escaped the bonds of slavery before it was abolished in 1865, a release from LSU Libraries Special Collections states. They made significant contributions to the economies and cultures of the communities in which they lived, but held an anomalous status in the racial hierarchy of the day. Inhabiting this place in between made them one of the most talked about “problems” of the first half of the 19th century, yet their stories have been largely overshadowed by the more inhumane story of slavery.
“Relatively few collections of papers from free families of color survive in archives in Louisiana, nor are they numerous in archives elsewhere in the United States,” said LSU Libraries Interim Head of Special Collections and Project Co-Director Tara Laver, who authored the grant. “The most extensive collections of family papers for free people of color held by Louisiana repositories are, in fact, split across institutions. Digitizing these records will allow us to bring together divided collections and scattered documents, making these materials accessible in one place for the use of historians, genealogists, students, teachers and the general public.”
The digital resources created by the project will support new scholarship that explores and illuminates the complex history of free people of color and their significance in the ongoing story of race relations in the United States.
Free people of color enjoyed a relatively high level of acceptance and prosperity during Louisiana’s antebellum period, a legacy from the state’s French and Spanish antecedents, but their position and opportunities decreased as the Civil War approached, the release states. At the time of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, about 16 percent of the roughly 8,000 people living in New Orleans were free people of color. The first official U.S. census of the Orleans Territory in 1810 counted 7,585 free persons of color, or about 10 percent of the total population. By 1840, their numbers had dropped to 7 percent of the state’s inhabitants. Free people of color were most heavily concentrated in New Orleans, where they worked primarily as artisans and craftsmen, but Baton Rouge, St. Landry Parish and the Natchitoches area also had significant numbers. Some free people of color owned plantations and slaves.
The grant activities will take place between May 2013 and April 2015. The end product will include 25,000-plus digitized items, data sets, full finding aids for the selected collections, links to collections related to free people of color at other repositories and online exhibitions, bibliographies, contextual information about free people of color and other scholarly resources.
For additional information about the grant, contact Laver at (225) 578-6544 or email email@example.com.
Housed in historic Hill Memorial Library, the LSU Libraries Special Collections collects, preserves, provides discovery and access to, and promotes and instructs in the use of a wealth of research materials in fields ranging from the humanities and social sciences to the natural sciences, agriculture, coastal studies, the fine arts and design. For more information, visit http://www.lib.lsu.edu/special or call (225) 578-6544.
The 11th Les Comédiens Français Lecture at the The Historic New Orleans Collection’s Williams Reasearch Center, 410 Chartres St. in New Orleans, will explore Louisiana musical treasures from France’s national library, Bibliothèque nationale de France. Beginning at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 4, the event will feature Alfred E. Lemmon, director of THNOC’s Williams Research Center, and pianist Peter Collins, violinist Joseph Meyer and soprano Sarah Jane McMahon. The music division of France’s Bibliothèque nationale is a treasure trove for Louisiana’s musical history, boasting both rare printed scores and manuscripts by Louisiana composers who worked in France, such as Edmond Dédé, Ernest Guiraud, members of the Lambert family, Louis Varney and others. Lemmon will give a presentation on the collection followed by a performance of pieces from the repertoire by pianist Collins, Meyer and McMahon.
The event is free and open to the public. Seating is limited; for reservations, call (504) 523-4662 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, visit http://www.hnoc.org. Reservations will be held until 6:20 p.m. Any unclaimed seats will be released to the public at that time.
The theater group Les Comédiens Français was organized in 1934 to promote, foster and perpetuate the French language and culture in New Orleans. After presenting more than 50 years of stage productions, the organization disbanded and established the lecture series at The Collection.
Ascension Parish Library
The Ascension Parish Library kicks off its 2013 summer reading program with a performance by Australian Paul Taylor. In his show, “Wonders Down Under, Australian Stories & Music,” Taylor celebrates the culture of his homeland through story, song, dance, painting and didjeridoo. Taylor is scheduled to perform as follows: at 10:30 a.m. Monday, June 3, at the Main branch, 708 S. Irma Blvd. in Gonzales, and at 2 p.m. Monday, June 3, at the Galvez branch, 40300 La. 42 in Prairieville. This program is supported in part by a Decentralized Arts Funding Grant from the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge in cooperation with the Louisiana Division of the Arts, Office of Cultural Development, Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism, and Louisiana State Arts Council.
Each library branch will host a Tween Book Club for the months of June and July. This program, open to all children entering 4th through 8th grade, will feature open discussions on whatever books the tweens want to discuss. Tween Book Club is scheduled at the Gonzales and Donaldsonville branchs Tuesday, June 4. All Tween Book Clubs begin at 4 p.m. Registration is required to attend. Call the library and reserve your place today.
Sign up for the “Dig Into Reading” summer reading program when you stop in to participate in any of these events. Children from birth through eighth grade are eligible to join the reading program. Studies show that children who read at least ten minutes per day during the summer are more likely to retain and improve the reading skills learned during the recent school year. Parish children who join the reading program can track their reading by minutes read to earn prizes. Any child who is registered for the reading program can complete it by reading 100 minutes during the months of June and July. All children who complete the reading program will receive a blue 2013 “Dig Into Reading” book bag.
For more information on summer programs for children, call the Ascension Parish Library in Gonzales at (225) 647-3955, in Galvez at (225) 622-3339, in Dutchtown at (225) 673-8699, or in Donaldsonville at (225) 473-8052. All library programs are free and open to the public.
EBR Parish Library
Come enjoy some buggy fun at the library. From 10:30 a.m. to 11:15 a.m. Thursday, June 6, Fluker Farms will be at the Main library, 7711 Goodwood Blvd., to share information about insects with children of all ages. Not only will they have contained, live insects for everyone to see, but also they may have chocolate covered crickets for kids to enjoy. All children under the age of 9 must be accompanied by an adult. Groups are required to register. Call (225) 231-3760.
Come celebrate Family History Month 5-6 p.m. Thursday, June 6, at Eden Park branch, 5131 Greenwell Springs Road. The group will be discussing family reunion planning. Patrons are invited to share the stories and portraits of the unsung heroes in their families!
Holes Summer Book Club will meet 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Friday, June 7, at Carver branch, 720 Terrace St., Meeting Room #1. Members are invited to “Read the book, watch the movie.” Over the summer they will discuss Holes by Louis Sachar.
Lafayette Public Library
David T. Palmer, a professor of anthropology at UL Lafayette, will discuss the results of two field seasons of archaeological research on the Marsh Sugar Plantation, an antebellum agro-industrial complex on Avery Island, 6:30-7:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 5, at South Regional branch, 6101 Johnston St. in Lafayette.
Livingston Parish Library
Young Writers Club will meet at 5 p.m. Thursday, June 6, at the Denham Springs-Walker branch, 8101 U.S. 190 in Denham Springs. Open to anyone between the ages of 10 and 17, the goal of the club is to write for both publication and performance. Young writers are encouraged to explore their writing interests and develop their voice and style through exciting collaborative activities. The program also offers free workshops in poetry, short stories, and creative nonfiction. For more information about the Young Writers Club, call t (225) 665-8118.
Writers Circle will meet at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, June 6, at the Denham Springs-Walker branch, 8101 U.S. 190 in Denham Springs.
Are you a writer who is looking for some feedback? Then come to Writers Circle. Published and unpublished adult writers of fiction or nonfiction for adults, young adults, or children are welcome. The group provides a forum for sharing writing, a venue for learning more about the writing craft and information about publishing/self-publishing. For more information about Writers Circle, call the (225) 665-8118.
Magic Club of Watson will meet 2-4 p.m. Saturday, June 8, at the Watson branch, 36581 Outback Road in Denham Springs. The club will meet to practice magic, learn new stuff and pick up new members.
Adult Book Club will meet 10-11 a.m. Monday, June 3, at Albany-Springfield branch, 26941 La. 43 in Hammond. Members will discuss Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson.
East Baton Rouge Parish Library: http://www.ebrpl.com/.
Livingston Parish Library: http://www.livingston.lib.la.us/.
Ascension Parish Library: http://main.ascension.lib.la.us/.
West Baton Rouge Parish Library: http://www1.youseemore.com/WBatonRouge/default.asp.
Iberville Parish Library: http://www.iberville.lib.la.us/.
West Feliciana Parish Library: http://wfplibrary.org/.
Audubon Regional Library: http://www2.youseemore.com/AUDUBON/.
Lafayette Public Library: http://lafayettepubliclibrary.org/.
St. James Parish Library: http://www.stjames.lib.la.us/.
St. John the Baptist Parish Library: http://www.stjohn.lib.la.us/.
St. Charles Parish Library: http://www.myscpl.org/.
Jefferson Parish Library: http://www.jefferson.lib.la.us/.
New Orleans Public Library: http://nutrias.org/.
St. Bernard Parish Library: http://www.stbernard.lib.la.us/.
St. Tammany Parish Library: http://www.sttammany.lib.la.us/home_flash.html.
St. Martin Parish Library: http://www.stmartinparishlibrary.org.
Barnes & Noble Westbank, 1601B West Bank Expressway in Harvey, is hosting a Writers’ Group 6 p.m.-8 p.m. on Tuesdays. This is a networking and critiquing forum for writers of all skill levels. Be prepared to read what you are working on, to take constructive criticism and to give it.
Claire Manes, author of Out Of The Shadow Of Leprosy, will sign copies of her book at 6 p.m. Tuesday, June 4, at Octavia Books, 513 Octavia St. in New Orleans.
Adrian Van Young, author of The Man Who Noticed Everything, and Michael Jeffrey Lee, author of Something in My Eye, will sign copies of their books in a joint appearance at 6 p.m. Tuesday, May 4, at Maple Street Book Shop, Bayou St. John location, 3141 Ponce de Leon St. in New Orleans.
Kent Wascom, author of The Blood of Heaven, will sign copies of his book at 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 5, at Barnes & Noble, 2590 CitiPlace Court, and 6-7:30 p.m. Thursday, June 6, at Garden District Book Shop, 2727 Prytania St. in New Orleans.
Walter Culpepper, author of The Replacement Son, will sign copies of his book, 6-7:30 p.m. Friday, June 7, at Garden District Book Shop, 2727 Prytania St. in New Orleans.
Johnette Downing, author of How To Dress a Po’ Boy, will sign copies of her book, at noon Friday, June 7, at A Tisket A Tasket Book Shop, 910 Decatur St. in New Orleans, and at 1 p.m. Saturday, June 8, at LeJouet Toy Store, 1700 Airline Drive in Metairie.
Advocate columnist Smiley Anders, author of Smiley! A Laughing Matter, will sign copies of his book, 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, June 8, at Main Street Market.
Items for Book Events were provided by LSU Libraries Special Collections, The Historic New Orleans Collection, Ascension Parish Library, East Baton Rouge Parish Library, Lafayette Public Library, Livingston Parish Library and Barnes & Noble.