March 6, 2010
From Mary’s desk.
Many of the 10,000 deported Acadians, (shortened by use to Cajuns) found their way to St. Martinsville, Louisiana. The State established a Memorial to them and Evangeline, an Acadian by the name of Emmaline LaBiche. Her story is told in a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow called Evangeline.
The tree above is called the Evangeline Tree, supposedly where Emma LaBiche met her long separated love after the deportation. And, supposedly the most photographed tree in the world. Hmmm! I live by Calaveras Big Trees State Park and I’m doubting that “factoid.”
The garden above holds a replica of the deportation cross erected in Nova Scotia, the coats of arms of the initial families that rekindled life here, and a wall of names of all the families and their decendants that settled here. Jim and I both looked for our known family names since we both have French Canadian ancestors. I found several from my geneology.
The St. Martinsville Catholic Church is on the National Historic Registry, unchanged and unique. Its hold over the community again makes one glad that our forefathers saw fit to separate church and state.
This site also houses an African American Museum that tells the history of slavery and accomplishments of people of color during the 1800′s.
This musical instrument was made of cowhide and common twine. Enslaved people were encouraged to sing and chant to form some sense of community and stave off fear of their predicament as they were herded like animals to their destination.
Most enslaved Africans were sold by other Africans dealing in human flesh and came from the West Coast of Africa in what is now known as Senegal. The slavers from France had the lowest mortality rate on their ships; the Brits, the highest. Since 2001 France has commemorated the abolition of slavery on May 10th each year. A group called the Shackles Of Memory Alliance are attempting to get other countries to do the same and honor the 15 million Africans sold into slavery.
Before the Civil War, free people of color enjoyed many of the rights of whites. They worked hard, bought plantations, (in some cases owned slaves of their own, but more often to free relatives and friends.) They operated their own businesses and regularly won judgements against whites in court. After the Civil war, all of those rights disappeared for “elite” people of color. Laws on the books from then to the 1960′s repressed all people of culture.
The town of New Iberia has an old historic Rice Mill that we also visited. More about it tomorrow.