WWNO skyline header graphic
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Local Newscast
Hear the latest from the WWNO/WRKF Newsroom.

Tricentennial Reading List with Larry Powell (Part 3)

  • New Orleans, 1718-1812: An Economic Historyby John Clark
  • Indians, Settlers, and Slaves in a Frontier Exchange Economy: The Lower Mississippi Valley Before 1783, by Daniel Usner
  • A Wilderness So Immense: The Louisiana Purchase and the Destiny of America, by Jon Kukla
  • Bienville’s Dilemma: A Historical Geography of New Orleans, by Richard Campanella
  • Bounded Lives, Bounded Places: Free Black Society in Colonial New Orleans, 1769-1803, by Kimberly Hanger
  • Building the Devil’s Empire: French Colonial New Orleans, by Shannon Lee Dawdy
  • Building the Land of Dreams: New Orleans and the Transformation of Early America, by Eberhard Faber
  • The World that Made New Orleans: From Spanish Silver to Congo Square, by Ned Sublette
  •  A Company Man: The Remarkable French-Atlantic Voyage of a Clerk for the Company of the Indies, by Marc Antoine Caillot, edited with an introduction by Erin Greenwald, translated by Teri F. Chalmers 
  • Africans in Colonial Louisiana: The Development of Afro-Creole Culture in the Eighteenth Century, by Gwendolyn Midlo Hall 
  •  Congo Square: African Roots in New Orleans, by Freddi Williams Evans
  •  Masterless Mistresses: The New Orleans Ursulines and the Development of a New World Society, 1727-1834, byEmily Clark
  •  Voices from an Early American Convent: Marie Madeleine Hachard and the New Orleans Ursulines, 1727-1760, by Emily Clark
  • Gateway to New Orleans: Bayou St. John, 1708-2018, by Hilary Somerville Irvin, Florence umonville, Heather Veneziano, and Stephanie Bruno


Susan: It seems like there are so many recent books about colonial history, but you go back to some of the earlier ones, like you're talking about Bounded Lives, Bounded Places: Free Blacks Society in Colonial New Orleans, 1769-803 by Kimberly Hanger. That's a book you think is important, isn't it?

Larry: Absolutely. I think she probably has done the best job of writing about three people of color, and how that community formed and within the context of Spanish rule. Shannon Dawdy's book as well.

Susan: Right, and she went on to win a MacArthur?

Larry: She did.

Susan: Building the Devil's Empire: French Colonial New Orleans.

Larry: She did. It really stood on her shoulders. There was so much she helped me conceptualize the story, in a way, I don't think I would have had. I read her dissertation. I'm not sure she gets as much credit as she deserves for this splendid book.

Susan: It is a splendid book.

[‘Creole Love Call’ by Clarinet Summit]

Susan: Then, of course, there's Eberhard Faber's Building the Land of Dreams: New Orleans and the Transformation of Early America.

Larry: That's another winner.

Susan: I know.


Larry: It's a fresh look at a period that's very hard to pin down the territorial period, the transition from the European colonial sovereignty to American sovereignty, and their changes. Race relations changes in the law, creating a new political class, and how this ethnically divided city, at least the power brokers are going to work together to really rake it in as-


Larry: -all that profit starts flowing down the river from the Midwest.

Susan: One of my favourite books is The World that Made New Orleans: From Spanish Silver to Congo Square by Ned Sublette.

Larry: The other way he embedded the idea of the Spanish tinge in New Orleans music, in the New Orleans crew. It's part of the history of the New Orleans groove.

Susan: It is.

Larry: When he tells you about it in person, he can almost do the rumba beat.

Susan: He does. That's why we are the northernmost city in the Caribbean.

[‘Longhair’s Blue Rhumba’ by Professor Longhair]

Susan: Then of course, there's A Company Man: The Remarkable French-Atlantic Voyage of a Clerk for the Company of the Indies by Marc-Antoine Caillot.

Larry: Yes, and a shirt chasing clerk at that.

Susan: Yes. [laughs]

Larry: That was another book I wish I had my hands on and Erin Greenwald did a great job .

Susan: She did a great job.

Larry: Great job with that book. They're just a gracious plenty of great books. Freddi Evans' book on Congo Square. A couple of seminal ones, of course, is Gwen Hall even though it's about the state, but it's really about New Orleans, and Daniel Usner's book on Indians, Settlers, and Slaves in a Frontier Exchange society.

Susan: Then Emily Clark's given us a look at The New Orleans Ursulines in Masterless Mistresses.

Larry: Absolutely. You didn't realize the role of women, and writing about women during this period is pretty doggone hard, because the sources are not as plentiful as they are for white males, European males. She really did a splendid job, and I think the book she's followed up with, The Strange History of American Quadroon. It is really blown out of the water, the whole myth of the plaçage. It's much more complicated than that, and to be understood, the background of the Saint-Domingue exiles.

Susan: She's really done her homework with those books.

Larry: Yes, she has. Everything she does is top-notch and a touch of the first-class scholar.

[‘Dance A la Negres’ by Dr. John aka Mac Rebennack]


The Reading Life in 2010, Susan Larson was the book editor for The New Orleans Times-Picayune from 1988-2009. She has served on the boards of the Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival and the New Orleans Public Library. She is the founder of the New Orleans chapter of the Women's National Book Association, which presents the annual Diana Pinckley Prizes for Crime Fiction.. In 2007, she received the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities lifetime achievement award for her contributions to the literary community. She is also the author of The Booklover's Guide to New Orleans. If you run into her in a local bookstore or library, she'll be happy to suggest something you should read. She thinks New Orleans is the best literary town in the world, and she reads about a book a day.

👋 Looks like you could use more news. Sign up for our newsletters.

* indicates required
New Orleans Public Radio News
New Orleans Public Radio Info