Xavier Buck

What a Wonderful World: Sex, Jazz and Blackness in New Orleans, 1850-1930

Blackness is often defined by shared histories of slavery or though legal definitions, but a new look at late nineteenth and early twentieth century New Orleans challenges the inevitability of black collectivity and offers a new lens for understanding the processes of race-making and caste as difficult and artificial. In a city with a tripartite caste system, I argue that differences in wealth and culture between creoles of color and the broader black community impeded the process of caste deterioration and black collectivity. More importantly, the state could not impose a black-white binary until they regulated creole wealth-building strategies. My work combines cultural and economic history and has larger implications for understanding race-making on the Gulf Coast, how race was built into urban infrastructures, the expansion of the racial wealth divide, and the history of gender and sexuality.