Historic New Orleans Collection

I spent several hours over 2 days in the research room of the New Orleans Historical Collection exploring the New Orleans Riot of 1866 because of the implication in my GG Grandfather’s obituary.  (“He was absent for two years in New Orleans, where he contributed a series of fulminating articles to the Republican Press against the political ostracism of the freedmen, which culminated in the sanguinary riots of 1866.”  The Gleaner and DeCordova’s Advertising Sheet, June 23, 1876)  However, I found no mention of him in any of the books, indices nor in the Picayune archive.

So I decided to use the time to become familiar with the names, events, and political background of the Riot. The Library staff were very helpful, and brought me three books that were, in themselves, quite interesting.  The first was a “slim” 596-page volume, the “Report of the Select Committee on the New Orleans Riots”, published by the Government Printing Office in 1867. It is a verbatim transcript of the hearings, testimony and interviews with most of the people involved.  The second was Caryn Cosse Bell’s meticulously researched “Revolution, Romanticism, and the Afro-Creole Protest Tradition in Louisiana, 1718-1868 (Louisiana State University Press, 1997.)  And the third was Gilles Vandal’s doctoral dissertation, “The New Orleans Riot of 1866: the Anatomy of a Tragedy (1978).

By scanning the references in the dissertation, I found a handful of newspapers of the time, which, upon querying the reference staff, led to the discovery of a union list: “Louisiana Newspapers, 1794-1961” (Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, 1965.) This volume listed many dozens of newspapers published in New Orleans during the time.  Which led me to wonder how, when today, cities are struggling to maintain 1 or 2 newspapers, the City of New Orleans was able to support so many different newspapers.

Although I didn’t meet my objective, the exercise allowed me to visit two libraries in New Orleans that I would probably not have ventured into otherwise, given the rich offerings of the ALA conference and the need to walk about in the heat and humidity that is the norm in New Orleans during this time of year.  I also have some starting points for further research.

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