Federal forces occupied New Orleans in 1862, and
black Creoles volunteered their services to the Union army. The newspaper
L'Union - whose chief founders, Dr. Louis Charles Roudanez and his brother,
Jean-Baptiste, were of Haitian ancestry - announced its agenda in the premier
issue. The editors condemned slavery, blasted the Confederacy, and expressed
solidarity with Haiti's revolutionary republicans.
An 1862 editorial written by a newly
enlisted Union officer, Afro-Creole Romantic writer Henry Louis Rey, urged
free men of color to join the U.S. Army and take up "the cause of the rights
of man." Rey invoked the names of Jean-Baptiste Chavannes and Vincent Ogé.
Their ill-fated 1790 revolt had paved the way for the Haitian Revolution:
CHAVANNE [sic] and OGÉ did not wait to be
aroused and to be made ashamed; they hurried unto death; they became martyrs
here on earth and received on high the reward due to generous hearts...hasten
all; our blood only is demanded; who will hesitate?
The editors of L'Union described
Rey and the Afro-Creole troops as the "worthy grandsons of the noble [Col.
Joseph] Savary." The paper insisted that military service entitled them to
the political equality that had been denied their ancestors who fought valiantly
in the American Revolution and the War of 1812. Furthermore, its editors warned,
the men had resolved to "protest against all politics which would tend to
When federal officials undermined
their suffrage campaign, Afro-Creole leaders took their case to the highest
level. In 1864 L'Union cofounder Jean-Baptiste Roudanez and E. Arnold
Bertonneau, a former officer in the Union army, met with President Abraham
Lincoln; they urged him to extend voting rights to all Louisianians of African
In L'Union, and its successor,
La Tribune, the Roudanez brothers and their allies foresaw the complete
assimilation of African Americans into the nation's political and social life.
During Reconstruction they called on the federal government to divide confiscated
plantations into ten-acre plots, to be distributed to displaced black families.
They insisted that the formely enslaved were "entitled by a paramount right to
the possession of the soil they have so long cultivated."
The aggressive stance and republican
idealism of La Tribune prompted the authors of Louisiana's 1868
state constitution to envision a social and political revolution. The new
charter required state officials to swear that they recognized the civil and
political equality of all men. Alone among Reconstruction constitutions, Louisiana
explicitly required equal access to public accommodations and forbade segregation
in public schools.