Sunday, December 7, 2014

New history books document Whitney Plantation, Ursuline Sisters, Attakapas Poste

            The Whitney Plantation Museum opens today, an indigo and sugar plantation upriver from New Orleans once belonging to the Haydel family. Ibrahima Seck, a member of the history department of Cheikh Anta Diop University of Dakar, Senegal, and the academic director of the Whitney Heritage Plantation Corporation, has written “Bouki Fait Gombo: A History of the Slave Population of Habitation Haydel (Whitney Plantation) Louisiana, 1750-1860,” published by UNO Press.
            Using the “Habitation Haydel” as an example, the book is an exploration of slavery and its impact on southern culture, tracing the route of African slaves to the “German Coast” just upriver from New Orleans and examining slaves’ daily life on the plantation. At the book’s center are the stories of the culinary and musical cultures that grew out of slaves’ desires to reconnect with their home.
            Seck writes in the book’s introduction, “The history of slavery should not only be the history of deportation and hard labor in the plantations. Beyond these painful memories, we should always dig deep enough to find out how Africans contributed tremendously to the making of Southern culture and American identity.”

Attakapas Poste
            Donald J. Arceneaux has published “Attakapas Post in 1769: The First Nominal Census of Colonial Settlers in Southwest Louisiana” that translates two documents made in the twilight years of the Attakapas Post.  The documents, both written in French, are the circa-1769 census and a Dec. 9, 1769, oath of allegiance. The book offers details of early settlement in Southwest Louisiana at the beginning of the Spanish colonial period, including identifying the settlers and slaves listed with an index for genealogists. The 70-page book that includes portions of original documents is available from Claitor’s Publishing Division in Baton Rouge.

Ursuline songs
            The oldest known musical document in Louisiana history has been published for the first time by The Historic New Orleans Collection. “French Baroque Music of New Orleans: Songs from the Ursuline Convent (1736)” features a full-color facsimile of an 18th century illustrated collection of songs, which the Ursuline convent received in 1754.
            The Ursuline Sisters were the first Catholic nuns to arrive in the New World and were among the earliest European settlers of Louisiana. Their mission included educating young women, many of them the daughters of French colonists. The songs, called contrafacta, could be considered baroque versions of remixes: poets took popular tunes by leading composers, such as Jean-Baptiste Lully and François Couperin, and changed the lyrics from secular to sacred. Women and the Catholic faithful were the intended audience for these compositions, the idea being that devotional texts would allow them to enjoy the pleasures of current music without compromising their virtue.
             “This document provides an unprecedented look behind the walls of the Ursuline convent and school,” said Molly Reid, project editor for the book. “These women and girls, far from home in a new environment, were able to enjoy the pleasures of popular music and the connection to their homeland because of these songs.”
             The songs are accompanied by five scholarly essays — including four in English and one in French — by Jennifer Gipson, Andrew Justice, Alfred E. Lemmn, Mark McKnight and Jean Duron, edited by Alfred E. Lemmon.
            For more information, visit

Book events
            Author’s Alley Book Sale feature signings by area authors from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. today at South Regional Library in Lafayette.
            Author Wendy Duhe Woods and illustrator Sherry Rushing Martin will be signing copies of their bilingual children’s book, “Welcome Home Indigeaux: A Louisiana Adventure” from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. today at the Winter Wonderland Festival at St. Joseph’s Church in French Settlement.
            Marvin Allen, manager of the Carousel Bar at the Monteleone Hotel of New Orleans, will talk about his new book, “Magic in a Shaker: A Year of Spirited Libations” and the history of prohibition at 7 p.m. Tuesday at East Bank Regional Library, 4747 West Napoleon Ave. in Metairie.
            Ralph Adamo, Ava Leavall Haymoth, Gina Ferrara and Andy Young will share their poetry at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Octavia Books in New Orleans.
            Ron Drez signs “The War of 1812: Conflict and Deception: The British Attempt to Seize New Orleans and Nullify the Louisiana Purchase” at 6 p.m. Thursday at Garden District Book Shop of New Orleans.
            Muralist Robert Dafford and photographer Philip Gould will discuss their new book, “The Public Art of Robert Dafford,” at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at South Regional Library in Lafayette, part of Bayou State Book Talks, a free series offered by the UL-Lafayette Center for Louisiana Studies and the Lafayette Public Library System.
            Gretna author Jennifer Comeaux will sign her latest book about ice skating titled “Crossing the Ice” from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. Saturday at the Gretna Art Walk and Farmer's Market. Her first trilogy included “Life on the Edge,” “Edge of the Past”' and “Fighting for the Edge.” “Crossing the Ice” begins a new series.
            Richard Ford signs “Let Me Be Frank with You: A Frank Bascombe Book” at 5 p.m., followed by a reading at 5:30 p.m. Friday at Lemuria Books in Jackson, Miss., and from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 14, at Garden District Book Shop of New Orleans.

            Addie K. Martin and Jeremy Martin sign copies of “Southeast Louisiana Food: A Seasoned Tradition” from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. today at the West Baton Rouge Museum Holiday Open House, 845 N Jefferson Ave. in Port Allen and at 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 14, at the East Baton Rouge Parish Library, 7711 Goodwood Blvd. in Baton Rouge.

Cheré Coen is the author of “Forest Hill, Louisiana: A Bloom Town History,” Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana” and “Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana” and co-author of “Magic’s in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets.” Write her at