Haitian Immigration : Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries
From Saint Domingue to Louisiana
The Black Republic and Louisiana
Soldiers, Rebels, and Pirates
Afro-Creoles and Americans
From Revolution to Romanticism
The Haitian Influence on Religion
The Civil War
The Consequences of the Haitian Migration

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After Reconstruction collapsed in 1877, Creole activists fought the restoration of white rule. In 1890 Rodolphe L. Desdunes, a Creole New Orleanian of Haitian descent, joined with other prominent rights advocates to challenge state-imposed segregation. Their legal battle culminated in the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson Supreme Court decision. Though the nation's highest tribunal upheld the "separate but equal" doctrine, the decision included a powerful dissent that would be used to rescue the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments in later Supreme Court decisions. The descendants of Haitian immigrants would play key roles in civil rights campaigns of the twentieth century.

Haitians exerted an enormous influence on eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Louisiana. Their sustained resistance to Saint Domingue's regime of bondage forced repeated changes in French, Spanish, and American immigration policies as frightened white officials attempted to isolate Louisiana from the spread of black revolt.

The massive 1809 influx of Haitian refugees ensured the survival of a wealth of West African cultural transmissions, as well as a Latin European racial order that enhanced the social and economic mobility of both free and enslaved blacks. In early-nineteenth-century New Orleans, the immigrants and their descendants infused the city's music, cuisine, religious life, speech patterns, and architecture with their own cultural traditions. Reminders of their Creole influence abound in the French Quarter, the Faubourg Marigny, the Faubourg Tremé, and other city neighborhoods.

The refugee population also reinforced a brand of revolutionary republicanism that impacted American race relations for decades. With an unflagging commitment to the democratic ideals of the revolutionary era, Haitian immigrants and their descendants appeared at the head of virtually every New Orleans civil rights campaign. Their leadership role in the struggle for racial justice offers dramatic evidence of the scope of their influence on Louisiana's history. From Colonel Joseph Savary's militant republicanism to Rodolphe Desdunes's unrelenting attacks on state-enforced segregation, Haitian émigrés and their descendants demanded that the nation fulfill the promise of its founding principles.

In his 1911 book Our People and Our History, Rodolphe Desdunes described Armand Lanusse's anthology, Les Cenelles, as a "triumph of the human spirit over the forces of obscurantism in Louisiana that denied the education and intellectual advancement of the colored masses." African Americans in Louisiana triumphed over these forces in their distinguished history of military service, their embrace of artistic and scholarly pursuits, their campaign for humanitarian reforms, and their Civil War vision of a reconstructed nation of racial equality. Their Haitian heritage was central to those victories.

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