Splitting Hairs

I’m reblogging this from Futility Closet’s blog here.

“Malcolm Townsend’s U.S.: An Index to the United States of America (1890) contains this table of absurd racial hair-splitting from 1850s Louisiana:


“The source is Frederick Law Olmsted’s A Journey in the Seaboard Slave States, from 1856.

“Olmsted wrote, ‘All these varieties exist in New Orleans with sub-varieties, and experts pretend to be able to distinguish them.'”

Can anyone give me any information on racial categorization history/culture of New Orleans? I’ve heard some of the more usual terms applied to people of color all over the south, but whenever I hear more outlandish ones, they always seem to be associated with New Orleans. Was there any reason why New Orleans seemed to urge more specificity and terminology in racial breakdowns? Or is this just a coincidence on my part?

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