Wade (2015) defined Creoles as a set of ethnic groups that emerged in the United States during the colonial era as a result of racial integration. This integration involved intermarriages between Africans and other individuals, such as Native Americans, Europeans who migrated to America earlier, and South Asians. People used the term Creole was in the sixteenth century about descendants of different Europeans, such as Spanish, Portuguese, and French, who migrated earlier and settled in different parts of Latin America and West Indies. The Portuguese, for instance, used the term Creole to refer to slaves born in the household of their masters (Coste, 2017). The Portuguese meaning became dominant during the early days of colonial expansion in Europe. The term evolved to acquire a different implication as Creoles continued to attain new social, economic, and political identities. Today, the meaning of Creole varies widely depending on the region in which these people live. For instance, in West Indies, the term refers to a descendant of any settler who originated from Europe, while in Louisiana, Creoles referred to individuals that use the French language despite originating from either French or Spain. However, many anthropologists consider people of African descent to be part of the Creole ethnicity (Wade, 2015). This paper provides a comprehensive discussion on the history of Creoles in the United States.
According to Wade (2015), the history of Creoles in America dates to the early days of the seventeenth-century when French explorers moved to the United States. These explorers moved to America with their language, system of governance, and customs, which had a far-reaching impact on the cultural practices of the Native Americans. The dominant presence of the French settlers continued up to 1768 when France decided to cede the current state of Louisiana to Spain (Sindoni, 2010). The language of French and cultural practices continued to prevail in Louisiana despite Spain taking over its control from France. However, comparative studies indicate that most of the Creoles are descendants of French colonials who flew from Haiti, formerly referred to as Saint-Domingue, to the Gulf Coast in North America (Demars, 2015). The decision to migrate was as a result of a slave revolution that challenged and threatened to destroy the stability of the French government in Haiti in 1791.
Hirsch (2007) also noted that Haiti had over 450,000 slaves of black ethnicity, with the number of whites varying from 40,000 to 50,000 people. However, comparative studies indicate that Haiti had also approximately 32,000 people, who were neither black nor white (Colom, 2014). Haiti became an independent country replacing the historical Saint-Domingue after the defeat of the French leadership by the slave revolution. The slave rebellion was successful due to their large numbers that superseded the number of corps sent by Napoleon Bonaparte, a former French military leader and statesman whose fame increased during the French Revolution (Wade, 2015). The black slave rebellion turned to kill and expel most of the Whites and the mulatto freemen from Haiti after the declaration of its independence. The fleeing away skirmishes enabled Toussaint L'Ouverture, who was a self-educated and empowered slave to take over the leadership of Saint-Domingue in 1801 (Desmond, 2019). L'Ouverture sent more refugees of White ethnicity to Gulf Coast in the United States.
Wade (2015) added that more than 11,000 refugees migrated and settled in New Orleans by 1815. However, some of the White refugees migrated in the present-day state of Louisiana as others flew to Cuba. However, the decision of the United States to purchase the territory of Louisiana in 1803 compelled most of the Whites who flew to Cuba to come back to New Orleans in the early 1800s (Colom, 2014). The population of New Orleans increased from 1791 following an influx of refugees from Saint-Domingue. However, some refugees opted for other regions they believed to be safer than Louisiana and Cuba, such as Napoleonville, Henderson, and St. Martinville, which were secured rural areas of New Orleans (Coste, 2017). Some White refugees and settlers also thought that it was wise and safer for them to travel further north alongside the waterway of Mississippi (Desmond, 2019). The definition of Creole changed as people migrated from Haiti and settled in different places in the United States.
In the territory of Louisiana, for instance, anthropologists began using the term Creole about children born of either black people or racially-mixed parents (Desmond, 2019). Creoles also referred to children and descendants of French and Spanish people without any form of racial mixing. People of Spanish and French descent who lived in St. Louis and New Orleans also started to refer to themselves and their children as Creoles after the decision of the United States to purchase the territory of Louisiana (Colom, 2014). However, Spanish and French people also tried to use the term Creole as a way of differentiating themselves from Anglo-Americans who moved into the two areas. The mixed origins and developments of Creoles in the United States explain why anthropologists in contemporary society define them in different ways (Jennings, & Pfander, 2015). For instance, Fred Kniffen, a former American geographer, anthropologist, historian, and geologist, ascertained that Creoles include individuals of mixed blood, those who use a French dialect in their language and have a unique breed of ponies.
According to Coste (2017), Kniffen emphasized that Creoles have a distinctive way of cooking and live in unique houses. The Creoles of color who lived in Louisiana were also different and distinct from other populations, including the whites and blacks. Most of the Creoles of color eventually evolved into unique members of the elite society. For example, some of the Creoles of color became leaders in different fields of life, including politics, arts, agriculture, and business in the nineteenth century (Hirsh, 2007). Having an elevated political and economic status in the society meant that these type of Creoles could also own slaves. The Code Noir, commonly referred to as the Black Code, also played a significant role in defining the legal status of the Creoles as early as 1724 (Desmond, 2019). The Black code gave the Creoles the legal authority to own real estates, have slaves, and gain recognition in legal institutions, such as courts (Demars, 2015). However, Creoles lacked the legal authority to participate in voting, marry white people, and had to identify themselves as free men or women of color on all forms of legal documents in the United States.
Overview of the First Creoles in the United States, Their Acculturation, and Assimilation
A plethora of anthropologists believed that most of the documented records about the people of Creole entail remarkable descriptions of people in various registers, including baptism, marriage, and death. Additional information about the lives of Creole, according to Virginia Dominguez, an American-born political and legal anthropologist, is available and accessible from the registers kept of different religious institutions, such as Catholic churches in New Orleans and Alabama. These territories historically served as two vital French outposts during the slave revolution on the Gulf Coast. The earliest record entry of Creoles in the United States occurred in 1745 despite the appearance of the term Creole in a court trial held in 1748 in the territory of New Orleans (Jennings, & Pfander, 2015). Today, Creoles living in the United States vary significantly in terms of their ethnic origin and mixture, with some of them developing unique ethnic identities (Sindoni, 2010). Many Americans also associate the development of the modern-day Creole language with these individual ethnic identities despite the two being separate historical developments.
On the other hand, understanding the acculturation and assimilation of the Creoles is a crucial step towards comprehending their historical origin in the United States and their current state. According to Jolivette (2005), acculturation and assimilation are anthropological terms that share a close relationship. Cultural assimilation refers to the process through which a particular group of people, mainly the minorities, become absorbed by a dominant ethnic group and, in turn, start resembling the latter in terms of their social norms, cultural beliefs, behaviors, and practices (Demars, 2015). Acculturation, on the other hand, is a form of assimilation and refers to the process through which the minority group starts depicting the attributes of the dominant one over a predetermined period. Anthropologists and Americans at large continue to hold various opinions regarding the inherent assimilation and acculturation of the Creoles into the United States' dominant cultures (Wade, 2015). The most remarkable controversy originates from the differences in the belief of the presence or absence of African ancestry in the United States.
Critics of the acculturation and assimilation concepts argue that Creoles who love in the state of Louisiana Creoles lack a single particle of African blood in their veins (Jolivette, 2005). Alcee Fortier, who was who worked at the Tulane University in the city of New Orleans as one of the most celebrated professors of romance languages, also supported the view that Creoles living in Louisiana had no link with the African people. More researchers also emphasized that all real Creoles lacked any strains of colored blood (Desmond, 2019). However, Creole of color saw it critical to start using this term as a strategic way expressing their pride in being part of the Latin Americans. Proponents of acculturation and assimilation also argue that most of the Creole of color originated primarily from Haiti and were distinct from blacks who lived in the United States. As a result, historians believe that the Creole of color settled in the United States in different ways (Colom, 2014). For example, most of the Creole of color came in the United States through the decision of the latter to purchase the present-day state of Louisiana and partly through immigration for a search of better living standards.
Jolivette (2005) ascertained that the concept of acculturation and assimilation played a crucial role in improving the living standards of the Creoles who settled in the United States. Most of these Creoles were of Haitian original and became cultured, educated, and economically empowered in different fields of lives. For instance, the Creoles of color served as artists, doctors, authors, writers, teachers, and musicians. James Dorman, a famous American anthropologist, averred that many people in the United States recognized the Creoles of color who lived in Louisiana were highly productive beings who were vital in the lives of numerous white communities (Wade, 2015). The existence of three different types of people in the United Stets before the American Civil wars also indicates the inherent value of the Creoles of color. These groups of people included the blacks, whites, and the Creoles of color who lived in distinctive regions, including Louisiana and New Orleans. Today, the identification and classification of Creoles in the United States remain a personal choice (Coste, 2017). However, the identity of most of the Creoles remained embedded in French as their primary language alongside other unique social customs, including their cuisines, regardless of their ethnic composition.
Creoles provide the best example of an ethnic group with a unique history in the United States. However, anthropologists hold varying views on the origin of this eth...
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