An American Color

Race and Identity in New Orleans and the Atlantic World

Title Details

Trim size: 6.000in x 9.000in



Pub Date: 01/15/2022

ISBN: 9-780-8203-6076-8

List Price: $114.95


Pub Date: 01/15/2022

ISBN: 9-780-8203-6078-2

List Price: $29.95

An American Color

Race and Identity in New Orleans and the Atlantic World

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  • Reviews

For decades, scholars have conceived of the coastal city of New Orleans as a remarkable outlier, an exception to nearly every "rule" of accepted U.S. historiography. American only by adoption, New Orleans, in most studies, serves as a frontier town of the circum-Caribbean-a vestige of North America's European colonial era along the southern coast of a foreign, northern, insular United States. Beneath that, too, many have argued, a complex algorithm of racial mixtures was at work well into the nineteenth century, a complexity of racial understanding and treatment that almost every scholar to date has claimed simply did not exist within the more "American" states further north and outside the bounds of the Caribbean's bizarre socioracial influence.

The reality, as An American Color explains, is that on the surface, New Orleans did have a racial and social system that confounded the more prudent and established black-white binary at work in the social rhetoric of the British-descended states further north. But this was not unique, especially within the United States. As Andrew N. Wegmann argues, New Orleans is representative of a place with different words for the same practices found throughout the North American continent and the Atlantic world. From New Orleans to Charleston and Richmond, the social construction of race remained constant and Atlantic in nature, predicated on a complex, socially infused, multitier system of prescribed racial value that challenged and sometimes abandoned preordained definitions of "black" and "white" for an assortment of fluid but meaningful designations in between. New Orleans is thus an entry point for the study of color in an Atlantic United States.

An American Color is a brilliant tour de force of research and consummate scholarship. . . . Andrew N. Wegmann's ability to wend a pathway through bodies of law and literature in French, Spanish, and English traditions is superb.

—Larry Tise, coeditor of New Voyages to Carolina: Reinterpreting North Carolina History

Andrew N. Wegmann's ambitious and wide-ranging study is firmly grounded in the complex history of New Orleans as it moved through its Spanish, French, and American phases. Unlike previous studies which tend to focus on one of those periods, he traces the changing definitions of race as they mutated across time, and he looks outward from the city to the larger Caribbean, Atlantic, and U.S. contexts that impacted concepts of race in New Orleans. Wegmann demonstrates how those legal, social, and cultural concepts played out in the lives of the city's mixed-race community. Given his engagement with concepts of race across the French, Spanish, and Anglo-Atlantic worlds, the book has wide appeal. Deeply researched, beautifully written, and concise, the book will engage academics, students, and non-academics alike.

—Randy J. Sparks, professor of history, Tulane University, author of Africans in the Old South: Mapping Exceptional Lives across the Atlantic World

The layers of imperial and national histories in New Orleans have made the city both distinct and universal. In his study of the Creole elite, Andrew N. Wegmann weaves seamlessly between individual narratives and broader cultural and legal changes, showing how each shaped or defied the other. This indispensable history of race and racism in the United States reveals Atlantic connections and context as well as local specificity of geography, chronology, and human agency.

—Julia Gaffield, author of Haitian Connections in the Atlantic World: Recognition after Revolution

About the Author/Editor

ANDREW N. WEGMANN is associate professor of history at Delta State University, where he teaches classes on the early American republic and the Atlantic world. He is coauthor, with Sara K. Eskridge, of U.S. History: A Top Hat Interactive Text and coeditor, with Robert Englebert, of French Connections: Cultural Mobility in North America and the Atlantic World. A native of New Orleans, he lives in Cleveland, Mississippi.