“Great Changes are Often Wrought through Humble Beginnings:” The Life Histories of Five Free Black Women in Antebellum New Orleans

Morrison, Janet (2022) “Great Changes are Often Wrought through Humble Beginnings:” The Life Histories of Five Free Black Women in Antebellum New Orleans. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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This thesis explores the life and times of five free women of colour in antebellum New Orleans. It examines the difficulties that these women faced during this time period, and also reflects on how assumptions about race and gender affected their opportunities as well as their struggles. Comparison of their lives provides new insight into their challenges as free women of colour, and the methods they used to overcome these, and navigate their way through a complex society. Building on the recent research of various scholars, this thesis will provide new insights into the lived experiences of these women, arguing that they were showing self-direction through their creation of successful business ventures and organizations, in a repudiation of societal expectations of their race and gender. Utilization of their connections with White men and women, and the foundation of feminine networks in support of these institutions, also meant that these women were able to challenge and confront the White patriarchal establishment in various ways.

This thesis uses a variety of public documents such as wills and successions, notarial records, city directories and censuses in order to trace these five women’s lives. It offers new readings of some of the previously studied documents, by looking at the problematic subjects of slaveholding and elitism within New Orleans’ free Black society, while also exploring some previously unexamined papers. By looking at their lives from birth to death, and presenting them as wives, mothers, and daughters who struggled with discrimination from the White population, who had money troubles and serious illnesses, the thesis gives a unique insight into lives of free Black women in Antebellum New Orleans. Thus, ultimately, it gives a voice to these marginalized, and often overlooked inhabitants of the Crescent City.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of Art, Media and American Studies
Depositing User: Chris White
Date Deposited: 07 Jul 2022 10:54
Last Modified: 07 Jul 2022 10:54
URI: https://ueaeprints.uea.ac.uk/id/eprint/86008

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