Louisiana

Preface of an African Creole Community

Haitians Progenies of Promiseland 1765

slavetraderHistoric documents point to the fact that French soldiers and pioneers brought enslaved Africans to St. Martin Parish prior to the arrival of French Acadians in 1727.   During that time, their numbers rose steadily and by 1754 (27 years), the number of black enslaved laborers eclipsed the number of white men in the territory.

Prior to and after the Haitian Revolution of 1791–-1804, the area became known as the crucible for the French Acadian trade connection with Saint-Domingue. Although the Haitian Revolution abolished slavery in Saint-Domingue, plantation owners continued selling and trading slaves in southern Louisiana.   Because of the uprising in Haiti, enslaved French-speaking Haitian Creoles were forced to relocate to the shores of North America, with New Orleans becoming the epicenter of the slave trade.  This was one of many factors leading to the large-scale slave trade in the Americas.  Only the most resilient survived the journey to the shores of southern Louisiana to be cast into a new life of slavery.

Today, many people of African descent in Promiseland and St. Martin Parish still answer to names given their ancestors when they were brought from the Caribbean to the shores of southern Louisiana.
Slave market at Pernambuco

The introduction of people from Haiti into slavery in Louisiana coincided with the introduction of the cattle industry.   Key to this nexus was the African Creole cattlemen– French/Creole-speaking Africans whose ancestors provided slave labor on plantations along the Bayou Teche.

In 1765, the settlement of Joseph dit Beausoleil Broussard was pivotal in the development of the African Creole Cattlemen [aka] Cowboys; Joseph Broussard, a cattle rancher, was a member of one of three families along the Bayou Teche who owned African descended persons – documented between forty-two to twenty-two enslaved Haitian laborers.  Broussard’s bands of refugee’s  emphasized the importance of these skilled Haitians many French-speaking descendants living and working the land as cotton field-hand workers; and notable African cattlemen from Cade to Parks.

ad1840 New OrleansTracing these men, women, and children from their initial arrival as enslaved persons through the Civil War and Reconstruction, researchers recognize that many of these African cattlemen remained tied to the land long after Emancipation.  Many became sharecroppers who eventually purchased plots of land from Mr. John Dugas, an Acadian and early settler around Parks.  Dugas was a land developer who parceled subdivisions of plantations for land-renewal within unincorporated areas known today as Promiseland.

These descendants of formerly enslaved persons established this once rural self-sustainable settlement. The early enslaved progenies stem from the fertile prairie soil around Cade to Parks, Louisiana. Working cattlemen with names like Jean-Baptiste, Batiste, and Hypolite, were knowledgeable of this area making it ideal to develop. Hence came the establishment of Promiseland, a post-Emancipation Black settlement.

In 1754, St. Martin Parish was largely Plantations; farming cotton and cattle, these ranchers demanding the needs for free labors, imported more human labor hands of African descendants.

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Grand-Pré: Deportation of the Acadians from Haiti.

Consequently, African historians have deemed Southern Louisiana as the birthplace of the deported French Acadians arriving from Haiti settling in the district of the Attakapas later renamed St., Martin Parish.  This Cradle of the African Diaspora rose out of the fertile prairie soil west of the Mississippi River in southern Louisiana.

 

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An Atakapa Indian; a detail of A. de Batz’s drawing 1735

In 1762, Louisiana was a Spanish Territory where new French settlers continued to arrive in the area. A census report conducted in 1766 shows the Attakapas region was inhabited by 409 persons of which 50 were enslaved Africans.  A 1769 census report of the District of Attakapas shows only 33 Slaves: 25 males and 8 females.   However, 1760 courthouse records show that African human beings were being sold and purchased in the district.

Native American identity is very complex in Louisiana.  Tribal people were decimated, displaced, and disregarded by the conquerors.  Tribal people also mixed with every other cultural and racial group in Louisiana.  So, tribal identity becomes difficult to establish.   To get a good handle on this topic, one would have to study the cultural history of the Natchez, Taensas, Tunica, Biloxi, Avoyel, and a few other tribes that may be extinct today.

 

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The idea that a group of people are claiming to be Black Indians of the Avoyel / Taensas Tribe, indicates on its face that there has been much mixing.  In addition, there seems to be a competition between the Avoyel / Taensas Black Indians and the Avogel White Indians over which is authentic.  Neither of the Avoyel Tribes are recognized by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs.  Introductory Statement from Native Languages of the Americas website © 1998-2011  http://www.native-languages.org/avoyel.htm

 

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Family of Slaves with creole/mulatto siblings

During the 1750s French Soldiers and other settlers who were unable to find wives in the territory built families with some of the enslaved women.

It is well noted that Black women, seduced by profligate French and Spanish colonists, produced offspring of mixed blood or mulattoes. Baptismal records of enslaved persons are found in the archives at St. Martin of Tours Church in St. Martinsville and St. Joseph’s Church in Cecilia.

Parks, Louisiana (originally named Potier) lies in the area previously known as the La Pointe District. It was also known as La Pointe de Repos as some cattle drive from Texas to New Orleans stopped there to rest.  La Pointe de Repos was located at a sharp bend of Bayou Teche, forming a natural cul-de-sac, a perfect pen for both cattle and cowhand. La Pointe de Repos includes an African Creole Community in an unincorporated area called Promiseland.

Under the direction of Prof. Jihad Muhammad, ASRI researchers have discovered a Sacred Historic Burial Ground. It is registered with the State of Louisiana’s Regional Archaeological Program as a direct asset to the Promiseland community portfolio.

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Promiseland Global Remembrance Park will serve as a ceremonial platform to share historic stories previously untold to the masses. It will also serve as a repository for undocumented narratives of a stolen, lost and forgotten people. The hell experienced by the first African Haitian progenitors gave rise to organizations like the International African Diaspora Heritage Trail (ADHT) and The African Scientific Research Institute (ASRI).

The Sacred Historic Burial Ground contains the remains of enslaved laborers from nearby cotton and sugarcane plantations. Unfortunately, the bones of the first wave of African-Haitian progenitors to St. Martin parish remain nameless and unsung.  Robbed of their names, native tongues, pride, kinships, and self-worth, these enslaved ancestors maintained a strong belief system which was rooted in their African heritage.