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a.Creole..called "Beaumont"

Source.. Sybil Kein Author



A Creole Poet



Joe (Joseph) Beaumont was born in New Orleans in 1820 and died in that city in 1872, having spent his entire life there. His even temperament and kindly attitude toward all his fellow men won for him in return their highest esteem and love.

As a poet he was ingenious and natural. He composed attractive verse and never failed to impart the truth in his writings. One observes these qualities above all in his Creole songs, which always reveal a depth of thought and teach a moral based on life as it is. He was a Creole poet of distinct merit.



Beaumont showed his special talent as a Creole song writer on the occasion of a lawsuit that took place in our city a short time before the Civil War. The dispute resulted from a quarrel among some children on the street. One of the children called another a Negro. A fight ensued that created quite a disturbance, so the defense claimed.

The person attacked, rightfully sought to justify her claim that she was of the Caucasian race, that she was white, as the expression was then used. The prosecution proved that she was of African descent, and so she was recognized by the state supreme court.

1. The Toucoutou Affair refers to a well-known lawsuit that took place in New Orleans shortly before the Civil War. It became the subject of Beaumont's songs and, later, of Edward Larocque Tinker's novel Toucoutou (New York: Dodd and Mead, 1928).



This Case attracted attention because many people in doubt about their origin had been turning to the law to establish a desirable identity. Persons who proved their civil status in court passed as white and enjoyed the rights and privileges accorded this standing. An adverse decision on the other hand proved disastrous, fatal, because it resulted in the loss of all prestige for the complainant, who never again could live under the same social conditions.

These circumstances created division among our people. Some approved, others disapproved the idea of wishing to pass into white society. The dissidents were in the majority, and Beaumont, although a quadroon, was in full sympathy with that group. It was thus he became interested in this famous case for which he acted as historian.

Unfortunatelyewe do not have all the poems that Beaumont composed relative to this occasion, but we trust the following extracts will suffice to prove his genius and to show how our people reacted to the foolish controversy over the color of the skin. The poet explains the beginning of the trouble thus:


My master flew like a teal

Coming out of Bonfuca.
He came to bring the news;
To take his sister in his arms;
To say: "Dear Toucoutou,
I think we are going crazy."

The sister indignant answered:

What's all this talk about?
Here in my parlor?
Why do you speak thus to me?
Like an evil vagabond?
A white person! Ah, are you crazy?...
My name is not Toucoutou.

Then, the philosopher-brother explains to his exasperated sister that some people of color who were trying to pass them-selves off as white were exposed to the contempt of their neighbors. The poet says this:

Oh well, dear Anastasia,
When the Negro tries to be white,
Society will finish him,
You better hide under a tin plate.

On another occasion during the prosecution, Anastasia, believing she saw advantages on her side, put on an air of disdain. She threatened her frightened adversary as indicated in the lines:

She looked at poor Eglantine,
Who was almost dying of strain,
And said to her: "My stubborn one,
You will really know me tomorrow."

Anastasia lost the case. Her brother came to tell her the bad news, saying that he had been present and had heard the judgment of the court from the very mouth of the judges:

I visited the Court Supreme,
To see what they were doing,
I heard the judges and the lawyers say
That we have lost the suing.

But the most popular song Beaumont composed at the time of the trial of Toucoutou is the one in which he interprets the spirit of the people. In this remarkable composition, Beaumont uses all the irony of his joking nature. After showing how the Negroes would be unhappy if Anastasia had succeeded, he tells of the prestige and social advantages she has lost and ends by hoping that the lesson would serve as an example. Here are the couplets just as they have come down to us:




If you win your lawsuit

Indeed, O Negress, this is bad;
Bad for those who force it
And the harm cannot be disregarded.


Refrain: Ah, Toucoutou, we know you!
You are a little Mooress.
Who does not know you?
No soap will make you white.

At the theater, if you go there,
Like all white people should,
They will treat you like Jacdeloge,
Who did not pass so well as white, did he?

Refrain: Ah, Toucoutou….
When these white lawyers give a dance
Will you be able to go?
Will you, O beautiful devil,
You who love to dance so!


Refrain: Ah, Toucoutou…
I have finished my little song
Because I want to sleep;
But I think the lesson will serve,
For a long time to keep you meek.

Refrain: Ah, Toucoutou….

The lesson did not serve the purpose the poet thought it would.
One can say that Beaumont was the Beranger of the Creole people.


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