Mardi Gras, other wise known as “Fat Tuesday” is celebrated many places around the globe. Most know of it from the carnival season in New Orleans leading up to the Catholic day of Ash Wednesday. It has historical roots that go back to the Roman Empire with the pagan festivals of Saturnia and Lupercalia. Saturnalia was a festival held in honor of the god Saturn usually held from December 17th through December 23rd on the Julian Calendar. Lupercalia is derived from Lupercus Februus the patron deity of the festival of “purging” called “Februa”. Both of these festivals celebrated the purging of evil spirits and expression of the joyful well-being of man. This is symbolic to the contradictory nature of Saturn’s wife Rhea, who represents wealth, resources, and abundance, and his other wife Lua ,who represents destruction, dissolution, and loosening.
Mardi Gras has roots in the United States spanning back to the arrival of Louisiana’s first European settlers. Pierre Le Moyne', a French colonialist, set up a camp name “Pointe du Mardi Gras” at the mouth of the Mississippi River with French colonial troops in 1699. After talks between native Indians and French troops failed, an eight year war erupted leading to the establishment of the port of Nouvelle Orle'ans (New Orleans).
The port of New Orleans became a valuable location to France for trade. France traded corn, vegetables, rice, livestock as well as Indian and African slaves. Slaves were sold in the French Quarter beginning in 1719 a year after the oldest cathedral in the United States was built - St. Louis Cathedral. As early as 1725, some African slaves escaped from their captors and survived off the land with help from the native Indian population. As the Africans and Indian assimilated, their descendent tribe became known as the Mardi Gras Indians.
Gradually African slaves began achieving freedom after the “Natchez Revolt” where Natchez Indians joined African slaves to revolt against plantation owners around 1732. Mardi Gras began to be celebrated openly by slaves in the “Place of Negros” (Congo Square) where free men of color and area slaves would trade to buy their freedom. While these celebrations embodied the excitement of a liberated people, the tradition of eliminating the boundaries of societal hierarchy during Mardi Gras stem back to the Roman festival of Saturnalia where slaves, concubines, and kings were held in the same honor.
Mardi Gras continued to morph into various forms without losing its true roots that originated in pagan Roman societies and transcended upon America in Roman Catholic society. It became an celebratory amalgamation of all members of Louisiana culture including creoles, black slaves, and even the more affluent citizens.
Muddy History of the Civil War South
Members of creole and African slave lineage participated in conflicts of 19th Century Louisiana including fighting alongside Andrew Jackson in 1812 to save New Orleans as well as in Civil war battles with Robert E Lee. Some creole and Cajun citizen soldiers were a part of the Civil War militia including the revered Donaldsonville Canonniers who fought all over the country including in Williamsburg, Yorktown, Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, and others.
The Civil War did not stop Mardi Gras celebrations. Even President Jefferson Davis' daughter, Winnie, reigned as Queen of Momus. Edward King, a writer for Scribner's Monthly, chronicled Mardi Gras in 1867 as a unifying event.
“White and black join in its masquerading, and the Crescent City rivals Naples in the beauty and richness of its displays.”
Much of the challenges produced by the Civil War changed the cultural landscape of Louisiana. The collapse of Southern plantations due to economic hardships propelled by the fall of the Confederacy was also chronicled by King.
“There was no longer the spirit to maintain the grand, unbounded hospitality once so characteristic of the South. For it was a grand and lordly life, that of the owner of a sugar plantation; filled with culture, pleasure, and the refinement of living;-- but now!”
Racial divisions remained despite the 13th Amendment. Housing shortages due to the migration of blacks to Baton Rouge caused increased tensions while white and black plantation planters suffered economic hardships.
Through all of the hardship Southern culture persevered. Former Confederate Generals P. G. T. Beauregard and Jubal Early started the first Louisiana Lottery which eventually yielded the Louisiana Treasury $40,000 annually which helped fund public education and health care, including Charity Hospital in New Orleans. Public schools increased from 100 to nearly 1100 and supported all children regardless of race.
Former slaveholder John McDonogh, who devised a manumission scheme in 1822 to allow his slaves to buy freedom, left a large fortune to New Orleans and Baltimore for education. He was also a contributor to the American Colonization Society which funded the emigration of freed slaves to return back to Africa. Paul Tulane, owner of a successful dry goods and clothing business, donated large amounts of real estate within New Orleans to support local education. This would lead to the eventual establishment of Tulane University with help from another Confederate General and Louisiana Democratic representative Randall Lee Gibson.
Louisiana racially integrated the Agricultural and Mechanical College which merged in 1877 with the all-white Louisiana State University. Devastated rice and sugar crops near Avery Island from Civil War battles yielded only the most durable crop – the pepper. In 1968 Edmund McIlhenny produced the first bottles of Louisiana’s most well-known hot sauce –Tabasco. Tabasco is symbolic of how the turmoil of war and the salt of the Earth can produce a relentless legacy of Louisiana Culture that reaches table tops all around the globe.
The Cross Roads
New Orleans and the broader Southern Louisiana culture is being challenged by anti-New Orleanian and more broadly an anti-American threat. Chicago-style Marxist-Leninist left wing activists echoing the failed materialist philosophies of early 20th century Eastern Europe, have descended on New Orleans and planted their red flag to claim a new battleground against capitalism. They have begun exhuming the rotted corpses of our dark past while discarding the beautiful soul and diverse culture that our struggles had created.
Statues representing members of New Orleans and Southern Heritage have become targets symbolizing colonialist capitalist oppression rather than being reminders of our cultural tumult and perseverance. The new narrative being painted by loud mouthed community agitators is that New Orleans is not a product of a very colorful history. Instead New Orleans has become a battlefield that is separated between blacks and whites and rich and poor. These radical activists stand at the forefront of this class war fomenting disdain and hatred of our history while ignoring the valuable lessons that have created the spirit of New Orleans.
Despite the horrors of slavery and the turmoil experienced under a Civil War, Mardi Gras remains. It will however come under the criticism of left-wing political opportunists if they follow the same anti-colonialist ideological justification. They will work feverishly to veil the spirit of the Creole and magnify the actions of French colonialists that allegedly stole land from natives. The agitators will attempt to ignore and extinguish any evidence of active reconciliation pursed by New Orleanians like John McDonogh, P. G. T. Beauregard and Jubal Early and only focus on the oppressive grey uniforms they wore as Confederates during the Civil War. They will disrespect the millions of people that have lived in New Orleans since before Reconstruction that fought for and achieved the abolition of slavery and established a more cohesive society.
The Neo-Marxist front group “Take Em Down NOLA” and The New Orleans Workers Group are working under the direction of the Communist group The Workers World Party to foment this racial division for a broader war against capitalism. Class warfare is the prescription.Take Em Down has now vowed to pursue the removal of many of the cultural symbols in the New Orleans community that have any hint of what they call “White Supremacy”.
Iconic names and locations like Lee Circle, General DeGaulle Drive, Claiborne Avenue, McDonogh 35 College Preparatory High School, Touro, and even Tulane University, have been chalked up as “White Supremacist”. They are also targeting Jackson Square. These historically short sited and philosophically ignorant political Progressive activists will attempt to tear down the history of one of America’s richest cities to perpetuate the ideologically corrupt Marxist-Leninist worldview which discards the spirit and replaces it with the material rot.
We are experiencing the second Battle of New Orleans with a similar enemy. Red coats have been replaced with red flags and the American Revolution has become a counter-American-revolution. Those among the ranks of these radical left-wing groups shout about the oppression of the poor while wishing to erect bureaucratic redistribution of wealth systems that will not deliver prosperity but rather make everyone equally poor. The Progressives are not waging a war for the soul of New Orleans. They are waging a war for the material wealth and power over New Orleans. It is absolute power that they seek. The result of this war will snuff out the life blood that is New Orleans.
Mardi Gras is just another symbol of New Orleans that can be seen through dark ideologically ignorant lenses. The name Mardi Gras is not of New Orleans. It was brought here by slave holding Christian Colonialists that settled here and warred with the natives over territory. Through the eyes of a Marxist-Leninist, it is a cultural symbol that represents a foreign invader’s capitalist culture. Mardi Gras will possibly become a target of these radicals no differently then Tulane, LSU, or McDonogh 35. It could be said that Mardi Gras only existed to celebrate the wealth of the rich merchant class.
Instead Mardi Gras represents the celebration of a city that lasted through nearly two hundred years of rich cultural history inclusive of all of the people that participated in it for years. The French, Creoles, African slaves, and even Indians celebrated Mardi Gras. The many steps Louisiana has taken throughout history should not to be ignored. They are for us to learn from. While we should not be attached to material manifestations or monuments representing of our checkered past, we should use these monuments to articulate the diverse background of our culture riches and origination of our peppered spirit.
We cannot allow radical Progressives to drag us down into societal regression and civil unrest. They are aiming to make our future challenges about our imperfect past instead about our pursuing a civil and promising future. They wish to stand in the way of the celebration, renewal, and reconciliation represented by Mardi Gras and the Lenten season that follows. It is time for us to act now to restore the proper expression of our history and the hope for a prosperous path into the future paved by industriousness and individual responsibility.
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Written by Chris Pilie
Freedom Loving American
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A little bit more research needed. The Natchez revolt was about land. The French wanted more land for farming and the Natchez Tribe refused. The French went in and built farms on their land anyway and the Natchez Indians attacked the farmers. The French sent the Freed Men of Color (mostly slaves and a few free Blacks) to attack the Natchez Indians. The Freed Men of Color wiped out every man woman and child in the village and then burned it to the ground. The Mardi Gras Indians was local tribes of Indians that would dress up in colorful feathers and parade around the city like a Second Line. When two groups would meet they would dance and taunt one another and these meetings would end up in bloodshed and sometimes death. The local Priests talked to the tribes and had them quit the fighting. They were incorporated into the the Fat Tuesday celebration at the time. And that was a group of men would go door to door asking for any spare food and booze to be donated for a party at the end of certain routes and all was invited to the party. The Battle of New Orleans was actually in 1814 (after the war of 1812 ended) there was actually 3 battles, 2 sea battles which we lost and the battle in Chalmette. In Chalmette Colonel Jackson with the aid of New Orleanians (white, free black and slaves) and the pirate/slave trader Jean Lafitte and his men fought the British. You also left out that that General Beauregard did not own slaves and was an advocate against slavery before the Civil War. He was also wanting equal rights for the freed slaves. And it was he who started the first streetcars in New Orleans. Even Robert E. Lee did not own slaves. When Lee took control of his ancestral home Arlington plantation he freed all of his slaves and those that stayed with him he gave better housing and paid them a fair wage of that time. And Grant started burying the dead troops there and would not move them after the war. After the war, some freed slaves did go back to Africa. The American government had to buy a couple of hundred acres of land and created Nigeria. We helped build cities, set up a government and everything was fine for the first couple of months then they started selling each other into slavery which more or less stopped in the 1960's or 70's. FYI North and South had slaves until they were freed 2 years after Lincoln was assassinated. Around 10% of Americans owned slaves and around 1% of those slave owners was black. The rest of the story i will not comment on.