Wednesday, February 22, 2012

"The Pleasure of your company is requested..

..at The Octoroon/Quadroon Ball_(aka Bal de Cordon Bleu)"! These were Balls sponsored by the Mother/Aunt or women relatives.These Balls enabled the White Gentry to be surrounded with "the most beautiful women in the world" to make arrangements that would further their "Placage"relationships.

Placage was the social practice of unofficial,heterosexual,interracial unions in New Orleans and other French and Spanish colonies in the Caribbean.It lasted from late 17th century through the 19th century.Under this system,white men and women of color set up common-law households to get around their inability to legally marry.Sometimes Placage was mistaken for Prostitution,but in fact these unions were long term consensual relationships benefiting both parties. The women got economic security for herself and children_which meant manumission during colonial and slavery periods.There was also the legal transfer of wealth from the father to her children via Wills and other testaments. These legal instruments were crucial since the law did not allow children born outside marriage to inherit more than 10 percent of the father's property unless arrangements were made in advance.

                                      The Octoroon Girl (1925) Archibald J Motley Jr.(Artist)

So,who are the women called Octoroons,Quadroons,etc.Believe me there is a long list of names for free people of color during that time.It seems an "Octoroon" is a the child of a white parent and a quadroon_1/8th Negro +7/8th white_a "Quadroon" is a child of one white parent and a mulatto_1/4th Negro + 3/4th white. For more information on the various terms used to call people of color...carefully(some offensive) link to this site:
http://www.frenchcreoles.com/CreoleCulture/quadroons/quadroons3.html

I guess I'm perplexed about these 1/4,3/4,etc..because I want to know what type of blood test did they use to determine the amount of blood was this or that. It is very complicated, this color business. . . supposedly,the French colonial government at the end of the 18th century had registered some sixty combinations of white with Negro blood and gave each a name...who knew!
The other query is most research alludes to a young white creole man taking on a free woman of color as his mistress.Seems there's white Creoles and black Creoles...confusing!And,daughters were raised to become the next generation of mistress to the white Creole_yet the sons were sent to Paris to be educated.Now,it wasn't that the gentlemen were so extraordinarily virile to maintain a white family and a placage arrangement at the same time.Some say,their virility had to do with being everlasting romantics.

Supposedly their virility was sustained by the 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 made into a potion...could this be today's Viagra!! They drank a great deal of champagne and much absinthe. Oysters were their mainstay;scientist agree it's an aphrodisiac!

                                          Self-Portrait of Archibald J.Motley Jr(c.1920)

I traveled to Atlanta,Ga. where a classmate met me for "The Black Expo" in 1990's.Motleys' work was one of the main reason I wanted to attend the Expo! He is a Louisiana Creole painter,who unlike most Harlem Renaissance Artist,never lived in Harlem_was born in New Orleans and lived in Chicago.I have several of his paintings depicting NO Life.He painted the "Octoroon Girl" above.For more of his Art work check out:


There are several movies that depict the lifestyle of the Placage. These two are great_"The Courage to Love" and "The Feast of All Saints". Love this scene from Feast of All Saints_


Here's hoping you  have been enlightened at today's Quadroon/Octoroon Ball.....please join me again on this Creole Education journey! Laissez les bons temps rouler.......



2 comments:

Brittany said...

This was a very interesting post!

Texas TeaQueen said...

Thanks! Fun to learn about this group of people I've been around & partied with for years.