Louisiana Institute of Higher Education
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For most of her adult life, Dr. Fandrich’s research interest has been centered on the history and culture of New Orleans’s Free People of Color, les gens de couleur libres. That includes her publications on Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau and on philanthropist Thomy Lafon. Both Laveau and Lafon were born free and prominent members of this social group of property-owning and often highly educated free Afro-Creoles that is unique to Louisiana. By popular demand, at this year’s Symposium, she will revisit, once again, the contributions to the Battle of New Orleans made by people of African descent. She will focus mainly on the famous two battalions of Free Men of Color, about 600 soldiers altogether, that were enlisted in the Louisiana militia during the War of 1812. Fandrich has addressed this topic at several previous occasions here at Nunez College and, as always, she will add some fresh new data. Since in Antebellum America people of African descent were generally perceived to be enslaved, and most of them were indeed in bondage and not free, her lecture will also include a summary of how enslaved auxiliary workers contributed ubiquitously to the war effort. As recent historical research by Gene Smith and others has documented, the Americans and the British alike deployed Black men in active combat, who fought and died there. Hence, the property-owning, sophisticated, fearless warriors that formed the two battalions of Fortier’s Free Men of Color, who were strategically stationed at the center of Jackson’s defense line along the Rodrigue Canal, as well as the much more numerous destitute enslaved workers that had dug out the very breastwork along this canal and participated bravely in every aspect of this war, both groups made incredible sacrifices. Unfortunately, promises that were made to them before the War were never kept in its aftermath, and, sadly, oppression and discrimination against people of African descent and the institution of slavery flourished in America during the decades to come like never before. This lecture is dedicated to the unsung Black heroes without whom General Andrew Jackson’s spectacular victory at the Chalmette battle field on January 8, 1815 would have been improbable or outright impossible.
Dr. Ina J. Fandrich holds a Ph.D. (1994) from Temple University, Philadelphia. She was teaching in the fields of Religious History, Anthropology, Women and Gender Studies, and African and African American Studies for over twenty years at universities throughout the United States, including Temple University, South Dakota State University, Rutgers University, Swarthmore College, and Louisiana State University. In the aftermath of hurricane Katrina, she chose to stay in New Orleans working mainly as independent scholar, historical consultant, and licensed tour guide. More recently she has also served as Curator of Collections at the New Orleans African American Museum in the historic Tremé neighborhood, where she contributed to ten exhibitions. Dr. Fandrich is the author of the book The Mysterious Voodoo Queen, Marie Laveaux: A Study of Powerful Female Leadership in Nineteenth-Century New Orleans (Routledge, 2005) and numerous articles. She has lectured on New Orleans African American and Creole history, culture, and religion nationally as well as internationally, providing over 40 presentations at professional gatherings. Her research has been featured in CNN and NPR news reports as well as in the New Orleans Times-Picayune, the Chicago Tribune, and the New York Times.