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The Quadroons lived in small houses on or near Rampart Street and were supported by well-known Creole gentlemen.

They lived in eminent respectability and brought up their children piously, and often sent them abroad to be educated.




Lives and Times of the Quadroons

Excerpts by Eleanor Early


The most beautiful woman I ever saw was the colored wife of a Negro diplomat from Haiti, a pale girl with skin like gardenias. I met her at a reception at the President's Palace in Port-au-Prince. Her eyes were the color of Haitian bluebells, which is the shade of delphinium which is a cross between clear blue and purple. Her mouth was a pomegranate cut in halves, and the wings of her blue-black hair were the wings of a Congo thrush. her maiden names was Dumas, and she was descended from the great Dumas, père and fils. The first Dumas was the son of a French marquis and a colored woman from Santo Domingo. Some of Dumas's descendants are white and some are black.

It is very complicated, this color business. . . .

The French colonial government at the end of the eighteen century registered in Santo Domingo some sixty combinations of white with Negro blood and gave a name to each. A Quateron, for example, was thirty-two to fifty-seven parts black and seventy-one to ninety-six parts white--the result of twenty possible combinations, among which was the mating of white and Marabout. A Marabout was approximately eighty-eight parts black to forty-four parts white. In Louisiana, the term Quadroon was erroneously used to cover a multitude of combinations. 

The life of a Creole Quadroon was romantic and appalling and, in some ways, peculiarly pleasant. But of course everybody did not see it that way. There were women among the Quadroons congenitally fitted for the existence they led who made the most of it, and undoubtedly enjoyed it. . . .

A Duke of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenbach . . . was most favorably impressed by the Quadroons. He visited New Orleans in 1825 and attended a Quadroon Ball where he danced with the girls, and met their mothers. The duke, who was a brother-in-law of William IV (the uncle of Queen Victoria) said the Quadroons were "the most beautiful women in the world." if Victoria heard that, she probably washed her hands of the duke. . . .

The Quadroons lived in small houses on or near Rampart Street and were supported by well-known Creole gentlemen. They lived in eminent respectability and brought up their children piously, and often sent them abroad to be educated. Although their homes were traditionally unimpressive, they had slaves, excellent cooks, maids to dress their hair,a nd boys to "make messages." Making messages meant running errands, fetching fruits and wines from the French Market, matching silks and threads on Royal Street, and flying on swift black feet to the pâtisserie for petit fours when Missieu was coming for tea. Some of the Quadroons who were cherished by the richest, most honorable and most important men in town were said to have quantities of jewels, and money in the bank.

But if a Quadroon walked down Rampart Street in a bright silk dress, or with plumes in her hat, or went to market with a diamond ring on her finger, any white woman could have her whipped like a slave. For a trifling charge, whippings were administered in the calabozo. Naturally when the white woman's husband heard about it there was hell to pay, and this may have been one reason why the law was seldom evoked. Another reason was that the Quadroons were irreproachably circumspect. In the daytime they wore simple cotton gowns. At night they wore décolleète silks and satins, and sex hovered about them like a tropical mist. If their demeanor did not reassure the white women, there was very little that could be done about it.

First official recognition of the Quadroons was made by the Spanish Governor who passed an ordinance in 1788 that is a most extraordinary document. The directory of that year shows fifteen hundred "unmarried women of color, all free, living in little houses near the ramparts." Governor Miro's ordinance made it an offense for these femmes de couleur to walk abroad in silk, jewels, or plumes. The only head covering they might wear was a madras kerchief known as a tignon, twisted about the head and knotted on top. West Indies women wear such turbans today.

French planters in Santo Domingo had long ago taken the handsomest slaves for their mistresses. the planters were usually aristocrats. The slaves came from what is now French Senegal, and they were a handsome people with silky black hair and straight fine features. Gold Coast Negroes were black and ferocious. Those from French Dahomey were the color of tobacco and a gentle lot.

By a process of selective breeding, the French (and to a lesser degree the Spanish) had produced in Santo Domigo an exotically lovely type of woman with straight lithe figures, small hands and feet and exquisitely chiseled features. they were known as "Les Sirènes." During the slave uprising in Santo Domingo, the planters fled to Louisiana bringing their mistresses and children with them. It was the daughters of these women and their daughters' daughters who came to be called Quadroons. This was a misnomer, since a Quadroon is a person having one fourth Negro and three fourths white blood. Many of the Quadroons had only one sixty-fourth Negro blood.

The Sirènes practiced voodoo and taught it tot heir daughters, in order to hold, or sometimes to get rid of, their lovers. They were a wild and magnificent lot.

Marie Laveau, the celebrated Voodoo Queen, was the daughter of a Sirène. Marie died in 1881 when she was ninety-eight, and is buried in St. Louis Cemetery Number One . . .  A man who knew Marie's daughter told me that the daughter claimed descent from the noblest family in France, and that she looked it.

"She carried herself like a queen. She had snow-white hair, as fine," he said, "as a baby's and a long regal nose. I always believed," he said, "that she had noble blood in her."

Marie was a girl of fifteen when the Duc d'Orleans visited New Orleans with his brothers. She was famous then as a beautiful young sorceress, and the de Marignys took the princes around to see her. her mother was dead and Marie was on her own, brewing love potions and peddling gris-gris. She made amulets to keep the princes safe from harm, and told the duke that he would be king of France. And of course he was, but nobody believed her.

There were laws in the colony prohibiting marriage between white men and colored women, and the only way white fathers of colored children could protect their children from becoming slaves was to set the mothers free. Sons were sometimes sent to France where there was no prejudice against their origin. Sometimes they were placed on land in the back of the state where they usually prospered, became planters and often made fortunes. many of those who went to France became distinguished musicians, poets or dramatists. More than a hundred years ago there was published writings of seventeen poets of New Orleans.. One of these poets Michel Seligny, founded a school for rich colored children on St. Philip Street.

Life was pleasant enough when the children were small and living at home with their beautiful mothers. But as they grew older the colored boys had a bad time of it. When white men visited their sisters, it was accepted etiquette for the brothers to efface themselves. If they "knew their place," as white folks put it, they were never present when their betters trod the primrose path.

Many colored men married the former mistresses of white men. They often had their children educated in France, and many of them became wealthy and had slaves of their own. White men sometimes sent their discarded mistresses into the country, comfortably endowed with means to pursue the pleasant Creole custom of enjoying life. The women took their children with them, married colored men and had more children. And so it happened that half-brothers and sisters sometimes varied in color from almost white to very dark.

There is a true story about a white man from the north who went to Pointe Coupée where he met a Quadroon, ex of Rampart Street. He fell in love with her and wanted to marry her. But as marriages between white and colored persons were forbidden, the white man opened a vein in his arm with a penknife, pricked the girl's finger and squeezed a drop of blood into his vein. then he swore that he had Negro blood in him, and the marriage took place. On the record they both signed as Negroes. this is the plot that Edna Ferber used in Show Boat, and is probably where she got the idea.

The Orleans Theatre was about the only place where white women could keep an eye on their husbands. Since it was impossible for Creole gentlemen to attend their Quadroon sweethearts at the play, colored men were permitted to escort their mothers and sisters. Performances began at six in the evening and lasted until two or three o'clock the next morning. the second tier, reserved exclusively for colored people, billowed with the taffeta crinolines of the Quadroons and gleamed with their jewels. And after the white wives grew tired and fade-looking, the Quadroons went on sparkling. . . .

The quadroons with their lovely countenances resembled, according to Mr. Buckingham, the highest order of Hindu women. They had dark liquid eyes, lips of coral, and teeth of pearl. Their long raven locks were soft and glossy. They had sylphlike figures, beautifully formed limbs, and exquisite gaits. They practiced subtle and amusing coquettes, and they had the most adorable manners. . . .

Most of the young Creoles had mistresses. If they did not, it was a reflection upon their virility. Abstinence was no virtue, and a handsome mistress was as much a mark of social distinction as the possession of fine horses and carriages. This being so, the Quadroons inevitably got most of the nicest young men first, and sometimes kept them longest. . . .

The Quadroons were not in any sense prostitutes. They were courtesans, impossible to any other time or place than eighteenth century New Orleans. many of them were as tenderly and carefully brought up as any white girl, and until they secured a "protector" they were just as virtuous. They attended the color annex of the Mount Carmel Convent School. If they did not learn much more than to sing a pretty song and sew a fine seam, nether did the white girls who were taught by the Ursulines. Creole women never read much. They were accomplished in music, which they all loved, and in embroidery, which most of them disliked. the nuns also taught them painting and drawing.

But it was the home work that counted. When it came to love the colored girls' mothers had forgotten more than the white girls' mothers ever knew. most of the Quadroons were beautiful. their dispositions were naturally sweet and submissive. They accepted life as they found it, and did not try to change it.

L'amour (or what passed for it) was what they were born for, and their mothers before them. it was what they lived for and their mothers schemed for. When they achieved it they were happy. And if, when they lost it, they were sad, and their sadness was heart-shattering, that too was what they were born for. . . .

It wasn't that the gentlemen were so extraordinarily virile. but because they were everlasting romantic.

Their virility, as a matter of fact, gave them considerable concern. To sustain it, they ate dozens of raw oysters, which were considered (and still are considered in new Orleans) a great aphrodisiac. They also took a stimulant made from Spanish flies, dried and powdered and make into a potion. They drank a great deal of champagne and much absinthe. But there was nothing, they said, like oysters, and this curious contention has some basis in fact --curious, I mean, because it sounded so silly until along came a scientist and said it was true.

The gentlemen's romantic proclivities were their everlasting concern, and there was no place for romance like a Quentin Ball. The balls originated at the end of the seventeenth century while Louisiana belonged to Spain. They lasted for nearly a hundred years, degenerating after the War between the States into shabby, ill-mannered affairs with no resemblance to their ancient elegance and decorum.

The first ball, a sort of coming-out party sponsored by Quadroon mothers to introduce their daughters to white men, was called Bal de Cordon Bleu, and it was by this name that the balls were always known among the Creoles. After the Americans came to town they were more generally called Quadroon Balls. . . .

Adjoining the orleans Theatre was a ballroom, Salle d'Orleans, which is now the mother house of the Colored Sisters of the Holy Family. This was the building that the enterprising mamas hired for their daughters' "debuts." . . . 

October was the beginning of the Creoles' social season and there were Quadroon balls, as there were white balls, nearly every night until Ash Wednesday. The hostesses were always free women of color who had been the mistresses of white men, and the girls they brought out were always the illegitimate daughters of white men.

The purpose of the balls was to display the youth and beauty of the girls in order to find rich protectors for them. Guests without exception were white men. No white woman would have dreamed of attending. No man of questionable color would have dared set foot inside the door. It was a frank and elegant sex mart where Creole bluebloods chose their mistresses with taste and decorum. . . . 

There was an admission charge of two dollars, which was more than the sum charged at any other public dance. From all accounts, the balls were gay and lavish and well worth the price.

"Colored" girls were all shades of brown, and some were white. there were lascivious beauties with dusky skins and sooty lashes, who rubbed pomade on their chestnut hair to keep it flat, and there were girls whose blue-black hair was straight as an Indian's. Many of them were almost as beautiful as 'Tite Poulette. 'Tite Poulette, according to George W. Cable, was the fairest young women in New Orleans. Her mother was Zalli who lived in Madame John's house. . . .

Quadroon mothers objected to unwise connections for their daughters as strenuously as white mothers oppose an unwise marriage. It has been said that the Quadroons bartered their girls into concubinage, and sold them like slaves. They did, I think, the best they could for them. there were, to be sure, financial arrangements, but there was nothing shocking or unusual about that. Among the whites there were mariages de convenance, and dowries were always the accepted thing. White girls often had less choice in picking a husband than Quadroons did in choosing a lover. Often, of course, there were love affairs. mariages de la main gauche, the colored people called them, or left-handed marriages.

When a definite arrangement was reached, a girl was spoken of as placée. Her status was a sort of honorable bethrothal, and her immediate future was secure. It was customary for the man to buy a small house on or near Rue de Rampart, and present it to buy a small house on or near Rue de Rampart, and present it to the girl. Until the house was completed, he never visited her alone. It was understood that he should support her during such time as they might be together, and make an additional settlement when they separated. 

If children were born of the affair, there was no question about their support. A Creole gentleman always provided for his sons and daughters. This was the accepted thing, and there were seldom scandals. Arrangements were oftenest made when the man was a youth, and the girl was about sixteen. Although the affairs usually terminated with marriage, there were many aristocratic Creoles who maintained two households to the day they died.

Girls never deserted a "protector" or betrayed him. Sometimes, when their lovers left them, the Quadroons committed suicide. Many remained "widows" and often removed to the country. The majority probably made other connections. Sometimes they married colored men. But it is doubtful if any colored man ever knew a beautiful, high-class Quadroon until a white man was through with her.

Quadroons who remained in New Orleans after they were deserted often became hairdressers or dressmakers. Among them were the best yellow fever nurses in the city. Some turned their little houses into lodgings for white bachelors, and the bachelors reported that there was always an altar in Madame's bedroom before which she knelt and begged the good God to send kind protectors for her beautiful daughters. Little sins of the body never interfered with the piety of the Creoles, white or colored.

Source: Eleanor Early. New Orleans Holiday. New York: Rhinehart and Company, 1947. / See also:

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Buddy Bolden was a lover of music

The Great Buddy BoldenBuddy Bolden Blues

Part of a recording of an interview of Jelly Roll Morton by Alan Lomax in 1938. Jazz history archive material. Jelly sings and plays Buddy Bolden Blues, and tells of his experiences watching Buddy in New Orleans, and talks about the great Buddy Bolden. "Buddy was the blowinest man since Gabriel!".

Buddy Bolden Story with Wynton Marsalis

Jelly Roll Morton—Buddy Bolden's Blues

Jelly Roll Morton playing and singing his composition of "Buddy Bolden's Blues"

Buddy Bolden’s Blues

                      Lyrics by Jelly Roll Morton.

I thought I heard Buddy Bolden say
You nasty, you dirtytake it away
You terrible, you awfultake it away
I thought I heard him say

I thought I heard Buddy Bolden shout
Open up that window and let that bad air out
Open up that window, and let the foul air out
I thought I heard Buddy Bolden say

I thought I heard Judge Fogarty say

Thirty days in the markettake him away

Get him a good broom to sweep withtake him away

I thought I heard him say


I thought I heard Frankie Dusen shout

Gal, give me that moneyI’m gonna beat it out

I mean give me that money, like I explain you, or I’m gonna beat it out

I thought I heard Frankie Dusen say

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Let That Bad Air Out: Buddy Bolden's Last Parade

A Novel in Linocut by Stefan Rerg

In a series of brilliantly rendered linocut relief prints, Berg tells the story of Buddy Bolden, a New Orleans jazz musician living from 1877 to 1931. Each crisp image masterfully succeeds in evoking a feeling of the fluidity of the music, the boisterousness of the community, and the darkness of the events surrounding the musician's demise. An introduction by Donald M. Marquis, author of In Search of Buddy Bolden: First Man of Jazz, and an afterword by renowned artist, George A. Walker, round out this collection.

Fans of the graphic novel genre and enthusiasts of linocut relief printmaking will surely be pleased with Let That Bad Air Out: Buddy Bolden's Last Parade. Highly recommended.

Stefan Berg revives the wordless graphic novel in his portrait of he `first man of jazz'. Very little is known of Buddy Bolden. His music was never recorded and there is only one existing photograph, yet he is considered to be the first bandleader to play the improvised music that has since become known as jazz.

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In Search Of Buddy Bolden: First Man of Jazz

By Donald M. Marquis

The beginnings of jazz and the story of Charles "Buddy" Bolden (1877–1931) are inextricably intertwined. Just after the turn of the century, New Orleanians could often hear Bolden’s powerful horn from the city’s parks and through dance hall windows. He had no formal training, but what he lacked in technical finesse he made up for in style. It was this—his unique style, both musical and personal—that made him the first "king" of New Orleans jazz and the inspiration for such later jazz greats as King Oliver, Kid Ory, and Louis Armstrong.

For years the legend of Buddy Bolden was overshadowed by myths about his music, his reckless lifestyle, and his mental instability. In Search of Buddy Bolden overlays the myths with the substance of reality. Interviews with those who knew Bolden and an extensive array of primary sources enliven and inform Donald M. Marquis’s absorbing portrait of the brief but brilliant career of the first man of jazz.

For this paperback edition, Marquis has added a new preface and appendix. He relates events and discoveries that have occurred since the book’s original publication in 1978, including a jazz funeral and a monument erected in honor of Bolden in 1996, the locating of Bolden’s granddaughter, the proper identification of Bolden’s clarinet players, and the unfortunate confirmation of the destruction of the last known Bolden recording.

Donald M. Marquis, jazz curator emeritus of the Louisiana State Museum, lives in New Orleans. He is also the author of Finding Buddy Bolden and A Nifty Place to Grow Up.

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Mister Jelly Roll: The Fortunes of Jelly Roll Morton

New Orleans Creole and "Inventor of Jazz"

By Alan Lomax

When it appeared in 1950, this biography of Ferdinand "Jelly Roll" Morton became an instant classic of jazz literature. Now back in print and updated with a new afterword by Lawrence Gushee, Mister Jelly Roll will enchant a new generation of readers with the fascinating story of one of the world's most influential composers of jazz. Jelly Roll's voice spins out his life in something close to song, each sentence rich with the sound and atmosphere of the period in which Morton, and jazz, exploded on the American and international scene. This edition includes scores of Jelly Roll's own arrangements, a discography and an updated bibliography, a chronology of his compositions, a new genealogical tree of Jelly Roll's forebears, and Alan Lomax's preface from the hard-to-find 1993 edition of this classic work.

Lawrence Gushee's afterword provides new factual information and reasserts the importance of this work of African American biography to the study of jazz and American culture.

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Satchmo: My Life in New Orleans 

By Louis Armstrong

"In all my whole career the Brick House was one of the toughest joints I ever played in. It was the honky-tonk where levee workers would congregate every Saturday night and trade with the gals who'd stroll up and down the floor and the bar. Those guys would drink and fight one another like circle saws. Bottles would come flying over the bandstand like crazy, and there was lots of just plain common shooting and cutting. But somehow all that jive didn't faze me at all, I was so happy to have some place to blow my horn." So says Louis Armstrong about just one of the places he grew up in, a tough kid who also happened to be a musical genius. This story of his early life, concluding with his departure to Chicago to play with his boyhood idol King Oliver, is a fascinating document.

Contrary to popular belief, it turns out that life in New Orleans was an amazingly eventful and a basically happy experience for Louis Armstrong-and he ought to know-for in no other city in the world at the time could a boy discover and learn about the music that he loved, for this was New Orleans, and he was Louis Armstrong.

*   *   *   *   *'s 25 Best Selling Books



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#10 - Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

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#16 - The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

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#18 - Purple Panties: An Anthology by Sidney Molare

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#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

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#24 - Married Men by Carl Weber

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#6 - Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey
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#12 -The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 - The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

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#15 - Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can't Commit  by RM Johnson

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#17 - Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 - A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 - John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 - Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

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#22 - 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino
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Blacks in Hispanic Literature: Critical Essays

Edited by Miriam DeCosta-Willis 

Blacks in Hispanic Literature is a collection of fourteen essays by scholars and creative writers from Africa and the Americas. Called one of two significant critical works on Afro-Hispanic literature to appear in the late 1970s, it includes the pioneering studies of Carter G. Woodson and Valaurez B. Spratlin, published in the 1930s, as well as the essays of scholars whose interpretations were shaped by the Black aesthetic. The early essays, primarily of the Black-as-subject in Spanish medieval and Golden Age literature, provide an historical context for understanding 20th-century creative works by African-descended, Hispanophone writers, such as Cuban Nicolás Guillén and Ecuadorean poet, novelist, and scholar Adalberto Ortiz, whose essay analyzes the significance of Negritude in Latin America. This collaborative text set the tone for later conferences in which writers and scholars worked together to promote, disseminate, and critique the literature of Spanish-speaking people of African descent. . . .

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Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America

By Melissa V. Harris-Perry

According to the author, this society has historically exerted considerable pressure on black females to fit into one of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the Matriarch or the Jezebel.  The selfless Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.     

Professor Perry points out how the propagation of these harmful myths have served the mainstream culture well. For instance, the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for black females to feel a maternal instinct towards Caucasian babies.


Treat It Gentle: An Autobiography

By Sidney Bechet

One of the most eloquent autobiographies ever written by an American artist.—Martin Williams

A legend on both the clarinet and the soprano saxophone, one of the most brilliant exponents of New Orleans jazz, Sidney Bechet (1897–1959) played with such fellow jazz legends as Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, and Jelly Roll Morton. Here is his vivid story written in his own words. Expressive, frank, and hilarious, this classic in jazz literature re-creates a man, a music, and an era.

 Bechet led a colorful life from New Orleans in the early days of jazz to France where he finally earned the recognition he deserved.. . .John Chilton’s biography, Sidney Bechet: The Wizard of Jazz, makes a good companion piece, filling in the gaps and providing musical analysis.

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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