Priceless National Heritage: The Taking of Fazendeville

Priceless National Heritage: The Taking of Fazendeville

Priceless National Heritage: The Taking of Fazendeville

GCC professor of history Alyssa Arnell presents this year’s Dovi Afesi Lecture, part of a series for emergent scholarship related to BIPOC history.

 

In 1865, Pierre Fazende parceled off seven acres of land situated downriver of New Orleans in neighboring St. Bernard Parish. He sold plots to newly freed individuals and other people of color. For a century, the community of Fazendeville thrived. At its peak, Fazendeville boasted over 100 families, two grocery stores, and a school that doubled as a dance hall where Fats Domino was known to perform. Fondly nicknamed “The Village,” Fazendeville was a community known for its collective political and economic action. However, Fazendeville was situated on a parcel of land coveted by heritage and memorialization associations due to its connection to the War of 1812. In 1815, Andrew Jackson led a diverse army to victory against invading British forces that marched across this field. This victory, known as “The Battle of New Orleans,” was the last engagement of the war and propelled Jackson onto the national political scene.

In 1962, Congress passed legislation creating a national military park in celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Battle. This law granted the Secretary of the Interior authority to demolish Fazendeville, arguing that the military park must represent the land as it was in 1815 so “that our citizens may gain a deeper appreciation of the priceless national heritage represented by the Constitution.” The sesquicentennial celebration was a segregated event, and white visitors looked out over an empty field where a Black community once stood. Arnell argues that Fazendeville’s razing was the result of a calculated and well-organized effort by governmental agents and a powerful local leader within the women’s heritage movement. Ultimately, the demolition was an effort to legitimize the history of the Confederacy by connecting the Lost Cause mythology to the War of 1812 and the last battle that solidified U.S. Independence. In contextualizing Fazendeville’s removal, Arnell pays tribute to the fearless resilience of a politically and socially organized Black community displaced at the height of the civil rights movement.

Alyssa Arnell is the Chair of History at Greenfield Community College. She holds a master’s degree in history from Florida Gulf Coast University and a master’s degree in legal studies from Kaplan University. She is currently a Ph.D. candidate at the University of New Hampshire. From 2016-2017, Alyssa worked for the National Park Service in New Orleans and at the Chalmette National Park, also known as “The Battle of New Orleans” site, where she focused on racial healing projects and community building. Additionally, she taught history at Dillard University in New Orleans from 2013-2016.

Free and open to the public.