Preservation Work Of Decaying Slave, Colonial Records From Louisiana Sheds New Light On US History, Associated Press, Washington Post, October 29, 2012.
The following are excerpts for an Associated Press article appearing in the Washington Post regarding the salvaging of the colonial New Orleans court records regarding free and enslaved African Americans:
"A marathon project is under way in New Orleans to digitize thousands of time-worn 18th-century French and Spanish legal papers that historians say give the first historical accounts of slaves and free blacks in North America."
" "Yellowed page by yellowed page, archivists are scanning the 220,000 manuscript pages from the French Superior Council and Spanish Judiciary between 1714 and 1803 in an effort to digitize, preserve, translate and index Louisiana’s colonial past and in the process help re-write American history."
" “No single historian could ever live long enough to write all the books that are to be written from all these documents,” said Emily Clark, a Tulane University historian who has worked in the papers." "
" “We don’t think of American society simply built from east to west, but we think of it as built from south to north,” said Ira Berlin, a University of Maryland historian. “As you begin to think of a different kind of history, you’re naturally looking for new kinds of sources to write that history." "
"This massive trove mostly describes domestic life as found in civil court papers, because the colony’s administrative records were taken back to Europe when the United States took possession of Louisiana in 1803. So they tell of shipwrecks and pirates, of thieves and murderers, of gambling debts and slave sales, of real estate deals and wills. One finds pages signed by historical figures like Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne, better known as Bienville, the founder of New Orleans, and Louis XVI, the king of France. And the bizarre, as in the case of a man accused of selling dog meat to Charity Hospital. "
"Melissa Stein, the full-time staffer, looks for intriguing cases, like one about exhuming the body of an unbaptized 13-year-old slave girl, baptizing her and moving her body into the cemetery."
" “It blurs the boundary between freedom and slavery,” Clark said. “It’s not a two-dimensional picture: What do you make of it when you find an enslaved man who himself possesses two slaves and he does so when he is a teenager?” "
Full Text at Washington Post October 29, 2012
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