Students will be introduced to the contentious term Creole. The aim of the lesson is not to arrive at a stable definition of the word, but to gain an understanding of how a word like creole, or white or American can mean different things to different people. Students will examine their own racial, ethnic, and national identities with the goal of understanding how these identities have played constructive and destructive roles in history and in the world today. This lesson could either precede or follow the students introduction to the web exhibit. This lesson relies primarily on information from the first eight sections of the exhibit.
Students will learn to use the Internet as a research tool by performing an Internet search.
Students will discover the many ways that the word creole is used today. Through class discussion they will then discover the many varying ways that people identify themselves.
A directed reading of three sections of the exhibition will lead students to understand how the word creole was used in different times by different people.
Students will examine the many ways that they think about their own identity by creating identity cards.
Internet access (computer lab or computer projector) , basic art supplies (paper, scissors, markers, glue), or graphics software.
Four activities integrate the web exhibit with a hands-on art project and discussions.
Activity 1: A Creole
Either on paper or using word processing software, have students create a dictionary entry for the word Creole. Briefly discuss some of the definitions that the students have created.
Activity 2: An Internet
Using Internet search engines, have students search for the term creole on the Internet (either individually in a computer lab or together as a class using a computer projector). Discuss the results of the search. What does the word creole mean in the different sites. What part of speech is the word creole in each example? (A brief grammar lesson--in French or English--about the difference between a noun and an adjective could follow from this point.) What is the difference between creole as a adjective and creole as a noun. What makes something creole? Where are creole things or people usually found? What is a creole language? Create a list with the students of the many ways that the word creole is used by people today.
Activity 3: Examining
Using the text and images of Section 1 of Creole Echoes, The City of the Belle Creole,
(link), discuss how the term creole was also used to describe many different people and things in nineteenth-century New Orleans. Then contrast two other sections of the exhibit, The Free People of Color, (link) and The Latin Race in Louisiana (link). Both of these sections use terms (free people of color and Latin) that people once used to describe themselves but that are no longer used in the same way today. Why did people call themselves Latin, or hommes de couleur libre (free people of color)? Why would Charles Gayarré (link to image) claim that the term Creole referred only to the pure white descendants of European settlers in Louisiana ? How does Gayarrés definition of the word creole differ from the way that the word is used in the Slave Sale Notice (link to image)? Why did the free people of color in Louisiana call themselves creole?
Activity 4. Creating a real ID card (as opposed to a fake ID card).
Have the students create an their own identity card. This activity could be done with computer graphics software or traditional art materials. Students draw or scan an image of themselves into the computer. They then create a card that reflects their own identities. A class discussion could produce a list of categories that might be used to create the identity card. Examples include: Where was the student born? What is his race? What is her ethnicity? Where does the student live? What is the students religious background? What language(s) does the student speak? Where are the students ancestors from? What is the students political affiliation? What is the students nationality? What is the students gender? What is the students favorite kind of music?
The goal of the exercise is to underscore both the importance and the instability of these categories of identity. A follow-up discussion could begin with the following questions: Which of the various identities that the student has put on his card is the most important to him? Which of her identities are not important? Can identities change? How can identities be helpful (for example, the civil rights movement)? How can they be dangerous (extreme nationalism, white supremacist movements, religious persecution)? Why did Charles Gayarré write The Creoles of History and the Creoles of Romance, (link to image) a speech claiming that all creoles are white? Why did Rodolphe Desdunes write Nos Hommes at Notre Histoire (Our People and Our History)(link to image), a book that highlights the achievements of Louisianas free people of color?
Gwendolin Midlo Hall, Africans in Colonial Louisiana. (Baton Rouge: LSU Press, 1992).
Creole New Orleans: Race and Americanization. Ed. Arnold Hirsch and Joseph Logsdon. (Baton Rouge: LSU Press, 1992).