• Scholars who have studied the contested meaning of “creole” in Louisiana have
    typically maintained that the “Creole myth,” that is the strategic redefinition of
    the term “creole” to refer to the white descendants of Louisiana’s original French
    and Spanish settlers, emerged during or shortly after the Civil War. Drawing on
    a newspaper article and two case studies related to the New Orleans theatre,
    this essay proposes a new periodization for the emergence of the “Creole
    myth” and a re-evaluation of the cultural and political work it was doing. I want
    to suggest that conceiving of the Creole myth as an antebellum phenomenon
    (rather than examining it in the context of the postbellum era) allows us to see
    that its creation was not just motivated by French Louisianian concerns about
    cultural integrity and ethnic survival but also by this population’s anxiety about
    race and the status and mobility of free people of color. As a rhetorical tool that
    gained traction in the 1830s, the strategic redefinition of “creole” to exclude all
    people of African descent operated in tandem with other attempts to curtail
    the rights of free people of color, preventing their social, economic, and political
    ascent during the antebellum period.