Free People of Color and the Business of Survival in Antebellum New Orleans

When New Orleans became a part of the United States in 1804, the population of the French Quarter was 8,222 with 1,565 free people of color, just over 30% of the total free population. The free black population flourished throughout the Spanish era of the late 18th century only to face uncharted territory upon joining the United States in 1803 with the Louisiana Purchase. Despite increasingly strict regulation upon the lives of these men and women, they dug their heels into New Orleans society with their considerable influence in the realms of religion, real estate, commerce, the arts, and more. This tour highlights the homes of six families of free people of color in the French Quarter who flourished in familial unity and financial success despite their uncertain circumstances.

The Cazelars: Wealth Preservation in a Racially Mixed Family

Jean Pierre Cazelar was the wealthy patriarch of a prominent free family of color in 19th century New Orleans. He intended that his real estate, possessions and slaves all be inherited by his five children. However, the Louisiana Civil Code of 1808…

The Tio Family's Resilience

The Tio family is best known as a prominent contributor to early jazz of the 20th century, notably the addition of a “Mexican Tinge” to the genre. However, the Tios were, in fact, native New Orleanians who had lived in the city since the late…

Romance or Power Imbalance? The Hazeur Family

A wealthy man, Louis Hazeur De Lorme (ca. 1760-1828) was a highly respected man in his community. He shared a large indigo plantation with his brothers-in-law, Francois and Louis Xavier three and half miles away from the city, where their families…

Dorothée Lassize's Family Business

Harriet Martineau, Saxe Weimar, and numerous other antebellum writers described New Orleans free women of color as promiscuous, seductive characters who sought partnerships with wealthy white men so they could live a life of leisure. Indeed,…