Black History: Special Delivery!!
Louis Charles Roudanez (1823-1870) founded one of the first black daily newspapers for Blacks in the U.S in New Orleans, Louisiana. (The first Black Newspaper published by a black person was Freedom’s Journal in 1827). Roudanez used the publication to advocate for the abolition of slavery, voting rights for all, desegregation, and land ownership rights for those formerly enslaved. Roudanez was also an accomplished physician respected by both blacks and whites in his community.
During the 1800s the city of New Orleans was very different from the rest of the country. New Orleans was home to a large number of free black Creoles (free people of color of French or Spanish descent and mixed heritage). Creoles enjoyed privileges that were not given to slaves or even most free blacks. Creoles comprised about ten percent of the black population in Louisiana. They were typically affluent, educated, and often business owners. Many used their affluence to advocate for abolition and civil rights.
Roudanez was born in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana to Louis Roudanez a French merchant and Aimee Potens, who was a free woman of color in 1823. He was listed as white on his baptismal registry but identified as a person of color throughout his life. Roudanez became wealthy through municipal bond investments and then obtained medical degrees in 1853 from the University of Paris (considered to be the world’s best medical school at that time) and in 1857 from Dartmouth in New Hampshire. He then returned to New Orleans and remained there for the rest of his life. There he began a successful medical practice treating both blacks and whites. He married Celie Saulay on September 15, 1857. The couple had eight children. Two of Roundanez’s sons also became physicians, while a third became a dentist. Three of his daughters lived in Paris; one of them became the head of a girls school.
Roudanez was deeply impacted when the rights and treatment of Louisiana’s free black population were severely restricted beginning in April 1862 due to pre-civil war hostilities. All blacks including free blacks were required to carry passes when in public. It was then that Roudanez and a group of mostly black Creoles began L’Union which was a bi-weekly publication written in French. The publication advocated for the end of slavery and voting rights. It folded in 1864 due to lack of support. Roudanez then started (the La Tribune folded in 1870. Roudanez then devoted the rest of his life to his medical practice. He died at the age of 67 in 1890. ), La Tribune had a significant impact and aided in changing the state constitution; providing strong equal rights provisions, and the election of black representatives as the country embraced Reconstruction Era politics.