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Becoming American in Creole New Orleans, 1896–1949

Part 1: Author

“Becoming American in Creole New Orleans, 1896–1949” is an extensive book by Darryl Barthé published in 2021 that analyzes the historical assimilation of race and ethnicity in the United States using the Creole community of New Orleans, Louisiana. Darryl Barthé is a professor of history who studied for his undergraduate bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the University of New Orleans. Three professors of history who were critical to the career development of Darryl Barthé in the field of American historical analysis included Mary Niall Mitchel, Michael Mizel-Nelson, and Arnold Hirsch. Studying at New Orleans University offered Darryl Barthé a better opportunity to research and document the racial assimilation of the Creole community of Louisiana. After obtaining a master’s degree, Darryl Barthé furthered his studies at the University of Sussex, where he managed to get his PhD with the guidance of Professor Richard Follet, a well-established professor of history in Sussex and currently the Deputy Vice Chancellor of International Affairs.

Barthé is currently a history professor and a member of the history faculty at Dartmouth University. He is well known for his high-quality thesis, “New Orleans’ Plasterers’ Local 93: Afro-Creole Identity, Family and Organized Labor, 1898-1954,”[1] which was approved and published in December 2008. In 2016, Darryl moved to the Netherlands, where he lectured at Leiden University and the University of Amsterdam until 2018. During his stay in the Netherlands, Darryl co-founded Over de Muur, which emerged as the 2018’s leading Dutch language history journal. With his historical knowledge and prowess, Dr. Darryl published Louisiana Creole Peoplehood: Afro-Indigeneity and Community (University of Washington Press, 2022) co-edited journal by the University of Calgary and California States University members.

Darryl’s research centers on four distinct aspects: historical criminology, race assimilation, race theory, and contemporary philosophy. Historical criminology entails addressing contemporary criminology using the historical contexts and origin and explaining present crime patterns based on the historical rearrangements of criminal justice systems. Darryl’s study focuses on critical race theory (CRT). It aims to unlock how historical social and race inceptions shape current social, political, and media laws. Through Contemporary Social Theory, the author has analyzed racial discrimination from the lens of systemic laws that run deep along ethnic segregation and practices and not merely individual prejudices.

Part 2: Conversation

Becoming American in Creole New Orleans, 1896-1949″ was released on July 14, 2021, in Louisiana, New Orleans. The journal’s publication was in English and has yet to be translated into other contemporary languages. In the first sections of the reading, authors like Arnold R. Hirsch and Joseph Logsdon are a critical basis for understanding the central historical context of the analysis of Darryl. The two have analyzed the historical assimilation of culture among Americans in their work, “Creole New Orleans: Race and Americanization,” published in the late twentieth century.

Arnold and Joseph’s work in “Creole New Orleans: Race and Americanization” analyzes how the Franco-Africans’ cultural blend emerged and stabilized to resist influence from the French and African races. The analysis of the racial and cultural blending of the Creoles into Americanization confirms the relevance of submission for the Creoles. Their definition of Americanization in the second chapter of their work establishes the objectives of Louisiana’s French community founders.

In addition, the book also mentions “Africans in Colonial Louisiana: The Development of Afro-Creole Culture in the Eighteenth Century,”[2] a book published in 1992 by Gwendolyn Midlo. Hall’s book offers a different perspective of understanding the racial structures of New Orleans based on the book thesis, which is centered on freeing the black population of New Orleans. Hall provides Darryl Barthé with a good starting point for analyzing the historical rise of the Louisiana African Americans, who to date remain a minority ethnic group in the region.[3] The two authors further interpret the incorporation of the Louisiana community into the United States. This analysis explains how the arrival of the French race slowed the Creole culture.

Conflicts analyses provided by the authors mentioned by Daryl highlight the interracial conflicts between white Americans and the Louisiana Creoles. This process proved to preserve the Creole culture. The analysis of Hall established the relevance of race in establishing the assimilation of the white Creole and American political leaders in the 1800s. Darryl further pinpoints the recent studies by Caryn Cossé Bell, including “Revolution, Romanticism, and the Afro-Creole Protest Tradition in Louisiana, 1718–1868.”[4] The recent studies and doctoral theses by Wendy Ann Gaudin and Nikki Dugar are better groundbreaking editions in different aspects. For example, the authors are themselves Creoles. Their analysis of family ties, race, and institutional relations helped shape the Creole identity from Franco-American to the English-speaking Creole culture of Louisiana.

What Becoming American in Creole New Orleans, 1896–1949, offers better than the previous scholars’ work stems around Darryl Barthé’s comparative analysis of Americanization and Creolization as shaped by the social and ideological differences that existed in the nineteenth century. The process of race identity will continue to shape ethnic cultural expression in contemporary America, making Darryl Barthé’s intersectional analysis of the matter from sociological, historical, anthropological, and critical race theory a better starting point for scholars interested in a similar subject area.

Part 3: African Diaspora and Geography

Darryl Barthé’s analysis of Creolization focuses on addressing the difficulty of identifying or being recognized as a Creole by the Americans. Three critical definitions of race and ethnicity involve black Creoles, white Creoles, and African Americans. The book focused on analyzing the Creolization of the African diaspora communities. For example, Darryl provides a case analysis of William McKay, who was a colored Creole wholes case that was published in the Cleveland Gazette on July 21, 1892.[5] William McKay happened to have eloped with Laura Robinson, the daughter of a Baptist deacon. Despite the lack of clarity on the Creole identity of the origin of Laura, she described in a manner that did not resemble French Creole, and neither was she white Creole. However, because of his racial color, African American William McKay, who was a Creole, goes unrecognized in the gazette, implying the difficulty that came in hand with race and cultural identity in the nineteenth century.

Another example of an African-American diaspora analyzed in the book is the Afro-Latin Creoles like Rodolphe Lucien, who was born to a Cuban mother and a Haitian father.[6] The focus was to elucidate the readers on the racial identity that African Americans received in the 1880s. Darryl’s analysis of the different historical documents, like the gazettes on identifying Creoles as mainly French and Americans, creates many questions in the readers’ minds on what race or origins Creoles belong to. In another publication, Nos Hommes et Notre Histoire,[7] the author critically analyzed the advocacy for unity between Creoles and the African Americans, who by then were referred to as the Anglo-Saxon Negroes. The Negro race, who happened to be African Americans in the diaspora, did not receive much recognition, and this helps Daryl to have a central identity issue, focusing on what constitutes a Creole identity.

Regarding geographical location, the author focuses his analysis on African Americans living in the South of New Orleans. The northern part has also been analyzed and described to belong to the Creoles of European origin, like French and England, and mainly to the American citizens. The Southern part of Louisiana belonged to the African Americans and Caribbean Americans. The strive of two geographically and racially different identities strove to strike a common Creole identity through several means, including reducing social oppression and combating sexual commercialization in South New Orleans.[8] The author centers his analysis on the contemporary race of Creoles between 1896 to 1946. However, other relevant case analyses were adapted from articles published before 1896, like the case of William McKay and Laura Robinson, which was a gazette of 1890.

Part 4: Sources and Methodology

In his analysis of Creolization and its transition to Americanization, Darryl exploits the social sodalities and voluntary organizations in New Orleans to analyze the social evolution. For example, he analyses Louis Armstrong’s New Orleans,[9] an edition of the Thomas Brothers, regarding the narration of an African American who was recognized as a Creole for his fluency in French. The story of Baby Dodds provides a better visualization of racial difference and oppression in Louisiana in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Despite the story of Baby Dodds being rejected by French female dancers because of his dark skin color, Darryl’s analysis explains that the Creole identity and Americanization were based deeply on racial and ideological differences.

Another notable source of information used by the author was the public and parochial institutions. For example, Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) and Garveyism provided a better explanation of the strive by African Americans to be integrated into the Creole identity as documented between 1920 and 1933.[10] The racial difference and ideological separatist philosophy that gave authority to back American males over their females was relatively contrary to what was accepted by the Creoles.[11] Understanding the integration process with which such ideological differences merged into Americanization to a common language and culture explains better how Darryl analyzed how Creolization and Americanization between the 1890s and 1940s shaped the modern culture of New Orleans.

The book is a better example of the discipline of historical analysis of race, and criminology which form the central area of Darryl’s research interests. Additionally, because of his interest in analyzing the Contemporary Race Theory and ethnic transition from Creole to American, his approach of voluntary interrogation and analysis of parochial linguistics is an accurate depiction of what defines ethnic transformation, not only based on color but ideology as well. The book explains how ethnic repression propelled the transition from Creole identity to the current American identity.

Part 5: Argumentation

The author analyses the transition from Creole identity to the modern culture of the American racial castle. His thesis centers on how the Louisiana residents in the late nineteenth century through to the early twentieth century were shaped by African Americans or people defined as color, managing to connect with the previous cultures and generations. At the same time, the white Creoles or whites took advantage of the economic opportunities that emerged with their interaction.

Part 6: Summary

The book consists of five chapters in total. The first chapter, Identifying a Historic Louisiana Creole Community, analyzes the ethnogenesis of the Creole of New Orleans, Louisiana, dating back to the 18th century. In the second chapter, Strangers in Their Own Land, Darryl analyses the emergence of Creole identity upon the emergence of Plessy verdict. Further, he explains the difficulties encountered in making it an identity. This chapter accounts for the emergence of whites and blacks, or color identity. The third chapter explains the approaches used in reducing racial identities. These include the voluntary submission by African Americans in search of employment, while the white Creoles embraced economic superiority in the late twentieth century. Chapter four discusses the organized labor groups in Creole and how such showed the exclusion of people of color. In the final chapter five, Darryl analyses the role of English-only education in Louisiana and how linguistics played a role in interconnecting varying racial identities into an English-speaking America.

Part 7: Reception

Different scholars have managed to review the book. However, it is outstanding that all scholars recognize its relevance in contemporary society. For example, Johnson highlights that racial differences and origins with bigoted views, like the Creoles, all stand an equal chance of intersecting to build a common English-speaking America.[12] Some of the areas recommended for improvement include Darryl’s analysis of the scholarship rooted in race identity and working-class categories, as it was suggested that very little investigation was offered in such contexts. Despite such critique, authors are generally impressed with the lenses with which the author, Darryl, presented his analysis, including using social interrogations.[13] Other scholars like Hirsch and Logsdon were also impressed by the depth and approach with which Darryl analyzed Creolization and Americanization. They believe the work remains vital to understanding racial integration, urbanization, and economic segmentation in contemporary America.[14]

Part 8: Evaluation

Indeed, the book has convincingly achieved its objectives. In the introductory part, Darryl seems fascinated by the Creole identity and how it compares with the American identity before the twentieth century. However, from his analysis, the author has critically explained how Creolization and Americanization worked to overcome social, economic, and value differences in New Orleans in the nineteenth century. His analysis provides an engaging narration of the importance of interactional engagement of ideological differences that seem to have taken root in humanity. His research is better because it examines the scenario from sociological, anthropological, and contemporary theories and philosophies that define the identity of race and linguistics.

One outstanding takeaway from the reading is the relevance of overcoming racial differences and embracing equality and unity. Through the Creoles putting aside their differences and fighting for unity, irrespective of color, in social and economic platforms like schools, the society stands a better chance of becoming united. As such, the issue of racism that seems to have fallen under the theories of anthropology and sociology can be addressed quickly.


Barthé Jr, Darryl. Becoming American in Creole New Orleans, 1896–1949. LSU Press, (2021).

Hirsch, Arnold R., and Joseph Logsdon, eds. Creole New Orleans: Race and Americanization. LSU Press, (1992).

Johnson, Mark A. “Becoming American in Creole New Orleans, 1896–1949 by Darryl Barthé Jr.” Journal of Southern History 88, no. 3, (2022). 581-582. doi:10.1353/soh.2022.0148.

Barthe, Darryl. “New Orleans’ Plasterers’ Union Local 93: Afro-Creole Identity, Family and Organized Labor, 1898-1954.” (2009).


Kinny, Paul. “Defeat but not Ignominy: The New Orleans Afro-Creoles Behind Plessy v. Ferguson.” Undergraduate Research 1, no. 1 (2021): 4.

[1] Darryl, Barthe. “New Orleans’ Plasterers’ Union Local 93: Afro-Creole Identity, Family and Organized Labor, 1898-1954.” (2009).

[2] Darryl, Barthé Jr. Becoming American in Creole New Orleans, 1896–1949. LSU Press, 2021.

[3] Darryl, 76.

[4] Darryl, 11.

[5] Darryl, 56.

[6] Darryl, 59.

[7] Darryl, 59.

[8] Paul, Kinny. “Defeat but not Ignominy: The New Orleans Afro-Creoles Behind Plessy v. Ferguson.” Undergraduate Research 1, no. 1, (2021): 4.

[9] Darryl, 91.

[10] Darryl, 94.

[11] Franklin Dennis, Dow. “CREOLIZATION IN NEW ORLEANS: JAZZ AND CULTURAL HYBRIDITY 1900-1940,” (2022).

[12] Mark, Johnson A. “Becoming American in Creole New Orleans, 1896–1949 by Darryl Barthé Jr.” Journal of Southern History 88, no. 3 (2022), 581-582. doi:10.1353/soh.2022.0148.

[13] Mark, 582.

[14] Arnold R. Hirsch, and Logsdon Joseph, eds. Creole New Orleans: Race and Americanization. LSU Press, (1992).


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