The Role of Slaves and Free People of Color in the History of St. Charles Parish

Mary Gehman's research is published at the St. Charles Parish
virtual museum. Please click the link to read the full article.


According to Louisiana historian Glen Conrad, former Director of the University of Louisiana’s Center for Louisiana Studies in Lafayette and translator of the Abstracts of the Civil Records of St. Charles Parish {1770-1803} and {1804-1812}, no landowner of the German Coast up to statehood in 1812 could be classified as a large slaveholder. In 1811 when Louis-Augustin Meuillon died as probably the largest slaveholder on the German Coast, he had fewer than 100 slaves listed in his property inventory. Conrad goes on to say that with the development of a slave system on the German Coast, a society of free people of color also developed. During Conrad’s research in the 1970s & 1980s, he uncovered a significant number of documents relating to the still UNTOLD STORY of the free people of color.

The St. Charles Museum & Historical Association Board of Directors commissioned historian and author Mary Gehman to research slaves and the free people of color in St. Charles Parish to complement Conrad’s earlier work. A resident of Donaldsonville in Ascension Parish, she is the author of the ground breaking book The Free People of Color of New Orleans (1994). Although Gehman’s research here provides a comprehensive and detailed composite of facts, her essay is by no means the complete story. But it is a beginning. Just as the significance of the history of the German Coast has been slighted in Louisiana and American history textbooks, so too has the extraordinary narrative of the contribution of slaves and free people of color of the German Coast been omitted.