Journal Article

"He didn't have no cross": Tombs and Graves as Racial Boundary Tactics on a Louisiana Barrier Island

Keith M. Yanner and Steven J.Ybarrola

in The Oral History Review

Published on behalf of Oral History Association

Volume 30, issue 2, pages 1-28
Published in print January 2003 | ISSN: 0094-0798
Published online January 2003 | e-ISSN: 1533-8592 | DOI:
"He didn't have no cross": Tombs and Graves as Racial Boundary Tactics on a Louisiana Barrier Island

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This is a story about a Louisiana gulf-coast community's attempt to rediscover its history of racial diversity. The focus is an almost-forgotten, now-hidden indigent graveyard where people of color allegedly were buried prior to the Great Depression. The graveyard, now defunct, sets in stark contrast to the official Catholic cemetery where whites,or those who could pass for white, have been entombed above ground throughout the community's history. Because of the absence and unreliability of official records regarding race, births, deaths, and burials in post-Reconstruction southern Louisiana, oral history was essential to this story. Moreover, the oral testimony about the graveyard evokes a meta-narrative about community identity transformation through the redrawing of local racial boundaries. The indigent graveyard has become the ultimate boundary marker; islanders used it as a tactic in establishing a purely white community identity. This process unfolded under the scrutiny of non-islanders when the development of the Louisiana offshore oilfield shattered the community's isolation in the 1930s. This graveyard thus assumes a general historical and theoretical importance.

Journal Article.  0 words. 

Subjects: Oral History

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