Armand Lanusse


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(1812 –1867), New Orleans poet, educator, and editor of Les Cenelles (1845). Armand Lanusse was born in New Orleans in 1812 and died there in 1867. Literary historians differ on whether he received his education in New Orleans or Paris. He helped found the New Orleans Catholic School for Indigent Orphans of Color in 1848 and served as principal from 1852 until his death.

Lanusse used his position as a free Créole de couleur to promote nonwhites in antebellum New Orleans through education and literary activity. Along with other Euro-African Louisianians, he contributed to Album littérarie, journal des jeunes gens, amateurs de littérature (Literary Album, Journal of Young People, Lovers of Literature, 1843) and to Les Cenelles (1845), a volume of poetry by Creoles of color, which Lanusse also edited.

Ironically, Lanusse served in the Confederate army and initially opposed Union occupation of New Orleans. The increased oppression of blacks in postbellum years led him to despair of racial equality ever becoming a reality in the United States and drew him closer to less privileged blacks.

Heavily influenced by French romanticism, Lanusse's poetry in Les Cenelles highlights love, death, and both the pleasures and the general oppressiveness of life. While in his personal and professional life Lanusse championed black civil rights, his poetry, like most of the Les Cenelles poems, does not protest racial discrimination. However, Lanusse's social and religious concerns do manifest themselves in poems treating the morality of Creole women of color. Through the comedy of “Epigram” and the serious warning of “To Elora”, for example, Lanusse exposes the spiritual, emotional, and ethical predicaments of plaçage, a custom whereby Creole girls of color gained protection and material comfort but sacrificed virtue in becoming white men's mistresses.

As educator, poet, and editor, Lanusse played a leading role in encouraging the educational, vocational, and literary activity of nonwhites and championed their civil rights as well.

From The Concise Oxford Companion to African American Literature in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Literature.

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