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The Story of French New Orleans - History of a Creole City

The Story of French New Orleans

History of a Creole City

By Dianne Guenin-Lelle
Hardcover : 9781496804860, 216 pages, February 2016
Paperback : 9781496820303, 218 pages, December 2018

Why New Orleans is considered America's distinctly French city


What is it about the city of New Orleans? History, location, and culture continue to link it to France while distancing it culturally and symbolically from the United States. This book explores the traces of French language, history, and artistic expression that have been present there over the last three hundred years. This volume focuses on the French, Spanish, and American colonial periods to understand the imprint that French socio-cultural dynamic left on the Crescent City.

The migration of Acadians to New Orleans at the time the city became a Spanish dominion and the arrival of Haitian refugees when the city became an American territory oddly reinforced its Francophone identity. However, in the process of establishing itself as an urban space in the Antebellum South, the culture of New Orleans became a liability for New Orleans elite after the Louisiana Purchase.

New Orleans and the Caribbean share numerous historical, cultural, and linguistic connections. The book analyzes these connections and the shared process of creolization occurring in New Orleans and throughout the Caribbean Basin. It suggests “French” New Orleans might be understood as a trope for unscripted “original” Creole social and cultural elements. Since being Creole came to connote African descent, the study suggests that an association with France in the minds of whites allowed for a less racially-bound and contested social order within the United States.


"Highly recommended. "

- B. M. Banta, CHOICE

"This study is a must-read for historians, scholars, and teachers of French and Francophone literature, culture, and history. It would be a valuable resource in a course focusing on Francophone culture and history, or the history of French colonialism in the Americas, and in particular Louisiana. "

- Christa C. Jones, French Review

"How is it possible that New Orleans has remained so stubbornly different from other originally French cities in the United States like Detroit or St. Louis, as well as from those that had other foreign roots such as New York, San Antonio, San Francisco, or Tuscon? In order to explain the unique heritage of New Orleans, Dianne Guenin-Lelle points to several factors that precluded the city's assimilation into the general urban culture of the United States. "

- Pieter Emmer, The Journal of Southern History, Volume LXXXIII, No. 2, May 2017