Black Creoles of Louisiana - Economy

Subsistence and Commercial Activities . In rural French Louisiana, Creoles have historically been farmers and itinerant agricultural laborers raising sugar cane, rice, sweet potatoes, and, more recently, soybeans. Chickens, ducks, pigs, cattle, and goats are found in plantation regions and prairie farmsteads. Hunting and, to a lesser extent, fishing may also add to the household economy. In towns and New Orleans, many Creoles have worked as artisans and craftspeople. Today, oil-related jobs and construction and service industries are added to the mix. Creoles also hold an array of mainstream jobs, such as teaching, law enforcement, medicine, and so on. While some Creoles run grocery and sundries stores, most people outside New Orleans neighborhoods or rural Creole settlements are not merchants.

Industrial Arts. Urban Creoles and town dwellers have a long association in the skilled crafts. In New Orleans there is a tradition of Creole plaster work, wrought iron, and carpentry. In rural areas also, carpentry is often a Creole occupation.

Division of Labor. In rural areas, women oversee the Domestic sphere, raising children, cooking, washing clothes, and tending to yard-related animals and gardens. Men are more oriented toward work in cash jobs or as farmers, with additional subsistence derived from hunting, fishing, and gathering firewood. Girls and small children tend to assist their mother, and older boys and young men may work with their father. Increasing urbanization in employment venue and penetration of mainstream society with less gender-specific work roles is transforming the rural division of labor. In an established urban setting like New Orleans, men have similarly tended to be those who labored outside the home in the crafts previously noted, while women have been primary in the Domestic sphere. When women do work outside the home, roles as teachers, nurses, and professional support services dominate. Particularly in New Orleans, middle-class Creoles have entered all layers of professional society, though discrimination remains a problem there and throughout the region.

Land Tenure. A wide variety of situations obtains. Some Creoles inherited extensive family holdings that date to antebellum days. Other holdings, particularly on the prairies, derive from nineteenth-century settlement claims. Some families obtained land after the Civil War through "forty acres and a mule" redistribution.

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