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Places to Go: A Creole From Louisiana by George Marion McClellan

Written by Rachael Norris, 23rd October 2020

In this week's Places to Go feature, we're looking at an extract from A Creole from Louisiana by George Marion McClellan with The Reader's National Hub Leader Esther Harsh. The full text can be found and downloaded in part three of our Bread and Roses Anthology. For the whole month of October our Daily Readings are based around Black History Month download the calendar here.

I hope you enjoy this extract from A Creole from Louisiana. I first discovered it this year in one of our ‘Bread and Roses’ issues. Having lived in the deep south for over six years of my life, I was taken back to those beautiful summer mornings where the fresh air has the sweetest smell, and one feels almost consumed by the beauty all around.

Although this is just a short part of the story, and there is so much more to learn about the experience of these characters, it is a moving moment.  For me, I felt as if my imagination was transported and filled with wonder and beauty going to a different time and place, and hearing how the world and feelings are described from another voice. It made me think about how we each see and define beauty. It helped me learn more about our deep capacity to feel love for someone. I wanted to continue to spend time with Lizzie and Bertie.

As an African American poet, minister and educator, McClellan also self-published a novella and four short stories in a collection entitled Old Greenbottom Inn and Other Stories (1906). By writing in such fictions about the people and places familiar to him, McClellan showed how African American lives were rich with material deserving of serious literature. 

The story ‘A Creole* from Louisiana’ runs to over fifty pages, and concerns the lives of two different women. At the point at which we join the story, the woman of the title has not yet been introduced. Instead, we have begun with Lizzie Story, whom we learn was ‘free born’, her parents having previously escaped from slavery. Having lost both her parents by the age of twenty, she is now a teacher at the ‘colored free school’, and early on in her teaching career, she takes on the care of a local boy following the death of his own mother. Bertie Stein had a Jewish father and a mother of ‘mixed Negro and Anglo-Saxon’ descent, so at the time he is considered to belong to ‘that large class’ of people in the American South ‘who belong wholly to no race’. After six years at Lizzie’s school, during which time Bertie and Lizzie have been close companions, Lizzie decides to send him away to university. The two keep in close contact and in his fourth year, Bertie returns home for a short break. 

   * creole: in this context, a person of mixed French or Spanish and black descent

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