The History and Popularity of Latin American Churches in Northern Louisiana

Religious composition of adults in Louisiana is mainly Baptist family (Mainline Trad) and Other Baptists (Mainline Trad). Free black communities existed along the east coast of North America, with the largest being in Philadelphia, which opened its doors to black men and women in the mid-18th century due to the influence of Quaker anti-slavery activists. Other cities with significant populations of free blacks were Boston, Providence, New York, and Charleston. The first man killed in the Boston Massacre of 1770 was Crispus Attucks, a free mixed-race sailor.

Four African-Americans fought in the battle of Lexington during the American Revolution, and some historians have estimated that up to a fifth of the rebel army that recaptured Boston from the British was black. Although George Washington discouraged free men of color from enlisting in the Continental Army, they united anyway. The contact between the most numerous inhabitants of Louisiana (whites, Indians and Africans) was a tripartite exchange. No racial or ethnic group dominated for much of the colonial period. Native Americans constituted the largest segment of Louisiana's population in the 18th century and shared food, medicine, material goods, and construction and recreational practices with the colonists.

Africans were also a powerful cultural force in Louisiana, mainly because they were introduced in large numbers for short periods of time and came mainly from a region of West Africa and were therefore more easily related to each other. Through trade and gift giving, Native Americans acquired a taste for European items such as sophisticated weapons, liquor, cloth, glass beads, and other trinkets. Europeans used their access to the supply of these goods to increase Native Americans' dependence on them. When it was a French colony, Louisiana was alternately governed by the crown and by several authorized owners, who hired the crown to manage the colony and a commercial monopoly in exchange for colonists and slaves to supply goods to the colony. Antoine Crozat was the first owner of Louisiana from 1712 to 1717, when he resigned and the crown ceded the colony to John Law, who created the corporation called the Company of the Indies in 1719 to govern Louisiana. Haunted by crop losses, Indian wars, slave insurrections and financial disaster, the Company of the Indies returned the colony to the crown of France, which administered it until 1763, when it handed over Louisiana to Spain.

Louisiana was a Roman Catholic colony with a close relationship between church and state, priests and politicians. In general, church and state worked together to preserve the prevailing order. The kings of France and Spain paid the salaries of the clergy and selected bishops. The Jesuits, in particular, served as border diplomats and expanded France's empire in North America by bringing Christianity to the Indians.

The Capuchin and Ursuline orders were also actively involved in managing the needs of Louisiana colonists. In a way, the French had a similar perspective and imagined a society in which class was more important than race and in which everyone had the right to fair treatment provided that they had been baptized in the Catholic Church. The first free blacks in Louisiana were probably slaves who escaped and lived with American Indian tribes. At the nexus between slavery and freedom were free people of color - tens of thousands of people of African descent who overcame incredible difficulties and lived free in slave societies of South America, Caribbean or Latin America during 18th-19th centuries. The Church of St. John The Baptist in Cloutierville used to celebrate Mass for Immaculate Conception in an effort to keep small Nicaraguan community of Alexandria together.

Although many went to Europe or Caribbean/Latin America regions, others stayed attracted by Louisiana's booming economy (at outbreak of Civil War it was richest state in Union with New Orleans being third largest city). The vast majority are Mexican origin working mainly in agriculture but several countries from Latin America/Caribbean along with Mexican-American Americans from Texas are also represented. A riot in Cincinnati 1829 caused more than 1000 African-Americans leave US totally moving to Canada. Smuggling goods from European/American ships became frequent continuing even when trade restrictions were lifted in colony. Free African-American population North went from 27000 inhabitants 1790 to 138000 1830; Upper South same period went from 30000 to 150000. The Catholic Church San Antonio celebrates Mass every Sunday at noon trying adapt busy schedule 40-50 restaurant workers Natchitoches.

Fact free people color particularly South never figured dominant narrative American history is extraordinary considering their status one most talked topics first half 19th century. If most Americans today know some black men/women such as Frederick Douglass/Harriet Tubman able escape plantations South live freedom North few realize free African Americans also lived sometimes prospered places where slavery so ingrained took war abolish it. Conditions which free people color lived varied but often deplorable especially northern cities where many could only afford accommodation attics/basements. Although its colonel white it was first military unit US history have black officers. During pre-war period free people color Louisiana enjoyed relatively high level acceptance/prosperity legacy state's French/Spanish founders but American Civil War approached white society increasingly turned against them.

Willem Vermeulen
Willem Vermeulen

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