Monday, April 3, 2017

A Celebration of John W. Blassingame’s Classic "Black New Orleans" Comes to the Ashé Powerhouse Theater

Black New Orleans book coverJohn W. Blassingame's "Black New Orleans: 1860-1880"

On Friday, April 7, 2017, the Amistad Research Center, the Midlo Center for New Orleans Studies at the University of New Orleans and the New Orleans Center for the Gulf South at Tulane University will present “Black New Orleans: John Blassingame's Classic and New Directions on the City's Early African American History," a panel discussion at the Ashé Powerhouse Theater. The event begins at 7 p.m. and is free and open to the public.

The largest professional society dedicated to the teaching and study of American history, the Organization of American Historians (OAH) holds its annual meeting in New Orleans this year. The panel discussion is conducted in conjunction with the meeting's opening and represents a partnership among the three presenters along with the OAH Committee on the Status of African-American, Latino/a, Asian American and Native American (ALANA) Historians and ALANA Histories.

John W. Blassingame, one of the leading historians of his generation, is best known for his path-breaking studies of the lives and culture of enslaved Africans and African Americans. Underscoring the groundbreaking importance of his seminal first book, "Black New Orleans: 1860-1880," this session honors Blassingame's legacy by discussing how the field has changed its publication. The panel features Jessica Marie Johnson of Johns Hopkins University, known for her work on free women of color in the colonial Gulf South; Leslie Harris of Northwestern University, highly regarded for her work on the politics of Hurricane Katrina; and Erin Greenwald of the Historic New Orleans Collection, curator of “Purchased Lives: The American Slave Trade from 1808 to 1865” and an expert on the public history of New Orleans and the domestic slave trade. Lawrence N. Powell, professor emeritus in Tulane University's Department of History will provide commentary.

V. P. Franklin, editor of The Journal of African American History, will serve as the panel's moderator. According to Franklin, this panel of distinguished scholars reflects the transformation in the scholarship since "Black New Orleans" appeared in 1973 in terms of who is producing scholarship, the new questions these scholars are asking and the ways in which they are taking their work beyond the academy to engage the public. 

“For generations of scholars, John Blassingame's 'Black New Orleans: 1860-1880' was the entry point into the rich history of African Americans and Afro-Creoles in one of the most important cities in the antebellum United States. As W.E.B. Dubois noted in an earlier era, Blassingame recognized that the history of people of African descent in New Orleans was both crucial and too little understood within the broader context of American history. As we approach the city's tricentennial, we take advantage of the OAH's presence in New Orleans to revisit Blassingame's legacy,” said Franklin.

"This tribute to John Blassingame gives us a chance to celebrate him and acknowledge his legacy in the work of those producing new histories of African Americans in New Orleans," said Mary Niall Mitchell, Midlo Chair in New Orleans Studies at UNO and co-chair of the OAH 2017 Local Resources Committee.

"We are also excited to host this event at Ashé's beautiful Powerhouse Theater in Central City. This location gives visiting historians and educators the chance to see an historic neighborhood that remains important to the African American community today," added Mitchell.

For information or questions about this event, contact Mary Niall Mitchell at or 504-280-6144.