The Strange History of the American Quadroon, 1700-Present


ACLS Fellowship Program




The antebellum quadroon, offspring of European and African ancestors, has long operated as a synecdoche for New Orleans, both condemned in the popular imagination by the linked sins of slavery and interracial sex. The quadroon concubine and the city she inhabits represent the antithesis of Puritan New England and the heartland of the Middle West, helping to define these sites as quintessentially American. This formulation is an enduring barrier to recognizing a shared history for New Orleans and the rest of the nation. This project traces the political and cultural imperatives that shaped the quadroon in antebellum literature and employs archival sources to reconstruct the lived experience of the free women of color of New Orleans who were imagined to have embodied the stereotype.