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University of Tulsa College of Law




Reviewing Kenneth R. Aslakson, Making Race in the Courtroom: The Legal Construction of Three Races in Early New Orleans (New York University Press 2014).

The racial history of New Orleans is unique among American cities, as is Louisiana's among the history of American states. In the antebellum period, there were more free people of color in New Orleans than in any other city in the South, and free people of color lived, and often prospered, throughout Louisiana. The presence of so many free people of color in New Orleans, and Louisiana more generally, arose from many factors, including the consequences of French and Spanish rule, the transportation of African slaves to and through this port city and the influx of refugees from the Caribbean in the wake of the Haitian Revolution and other events there. Free, light-skinned, French-speaking people of color occupied a special social status between that of whites and darker-skinned blacks, including, of course, slaves. The question is how did it happen? How did the social reality of three races occur?

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