Free People of Color in Louisiana: Revealing an Unknown Past

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This collection contains only material contributed by Tulane University Libraries Special Collections to the collaborative collection Free People of Color in Louisiana, which is hosted by the Louisiana Digital Library.

This project unites materials from LSU Libraries Special Collections, The Historic New Orleans Collection, the Louisiana Research Collection in Tulane University Libraries Special Collections, the Historical Center at the Louisiana State Museum, and the Louisiana Division of the New Orleans Public Library. In Digitizing, these records allow us to reunite collections from the same families that were divided across repositories as well as scattered documents, making these materials accessible in one place for the use of historians, genealogists, students, teachers, and the general public.

Digitized collections include entire collections of papers from families or individuals that were free people of color. Many of these extend, chronologically, beyond the end of slavery. Being a free person of color ceased to have legal meaning after emancipation and the passage of the 13th Amendment, but having been a member of that class continued to have cultural, racial, social, economic, and political implications for those who had been free people of color in the antebellum period, and for generations of their descendants. For this reason, we have chosen to digitize entire collections and not set an arbitrary cut-off date for materials.

Because of the relative dearth lack of personal and family papers for free people of color, public records are a particularly important source for researchers. This project will digitize significant collections of public records from the New Orleans Public Library's Louisiana Division, including a four-volume "Register of free persons of color entitled to remain in the state" (1840-1864), four different collections of emancipation records, which often include testimony regarding why the slave was deserving of freedom and provide other information about the slave and slave owner, and an extensive collection of indenture records (1809-1843) in which at least one participant (the person being indentured, his/her sponsor, or the artisan/merchant to whom the servant was being bound) was a free person of color.

Finally, many items have been selected for digitization from larger collections that are not primarily related to free people of color. Bringing these items together from the disparate collections in which they exist will facilitate comparison and help to provide a larger body of information for researchers about the norms of living conditions and race relations for free people of color during the colonial and antebellum eras.

For more information about the project, visit Free People of Color in Louisiana: Revealing an Unknown Past (A Collaborative Digital Project), which includes an annotated list of the selected collections, including links to available finding aids.
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