Interracial Concubinage in Territorial New Orleans
This paper focuses on the social, political, and historical foundation of the placage system in New Orleans. Placage, also known as concubinage, was a system that matched wealthy white men with free women of color, and placed them in a quasi-marital state. Sometimes the unions lasted several years, and often produced children.
Most historians believe that placage was a queer outgrowth of slavery, which resulted from fluid attitudes regarding race amongst the French and Spanish settling in Louisiana. This is not entirely accurate. Though the system of placage did develop within the colonial territories, its legal, social, and cultural foundations were solidified centuries before the Americas were discovered.
Placage developed within a society that already accepted concubinage and had an organized legal system for dealing with it.. Placage was not a system built around racist concepts of status and hierarchy; rather, it was a system of concubinage, which happened to feature women of color as its concubines. When seen through this lens, the system of placage can be viewed as an outgrowth of centuries old Spanish custom, rather than as a consequence of contemporaneous African slavery.
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