Tag Archives: Evangeline Girls

An Extrapolation of My Gulf South History and Humanities Conference Speech

Based on the Speech given on October 14, 2016 at the

Gulf South History and Humanities Conference — Mobile, Alabama

Frank W. Summers III B.A., M.A.

Presented as a speech and Related Paper in Session Fourteen, titled:

Change and Continuity in Southern Identity

Emerging Views: The Reemergence of American Identity in Postwar Acadiana and the SONJ Documentary Projects

Prologue: 

This blog version may have little effect other than preventing me from getting the paper published elsewhere  — or it may happen that I do get it published else where. That would be a more perfect and less conversational version than this one in almost any acadmeic review or journal. This blog however is by its nature an unfinished place a set of windows looking into the office I do not really have most of the time. I will probably edit it from time to time but less than I should. But even if a truly academic version of this paper is ever published it is not motivated by the factors that motivate younger scholars with higher hopes to do work which will secure their position in the historical profession. This is not a paper so much about great events or trends which directly shaped the entire South but about how important events in a particular part of the South may be relevant to Southern and American History as well as being otherwise relevant. One event within the whole Standard Oil of New  Jersey experience with employing Documentary image makers is especially  crucial to understanding  this subject that event is the playing of the film Louisiana Story in Abbeville. That’s in part because of editing and production that occurred there not very far from the Dixie theater. The remainder of the experience of the interaction between the documentarians and the Cajuns and others of the Acadiana region has some climax in that great premiere to which we will return later in this discussion.[1]

In my oral presentation at the Gulf South History and Humanities Conference I got pretty aggressive about presentation of the main points in the twenty minutes I had allotted to me. I will keep that vigorously stark numerical introduction here.. I wish to cover six essential points; these listed points make up the entire argument of this paper.

1. The Cajuns were, as the Acadian people, a preexisting people with a history in Louisiana before the Louisiana Purchase. They also had a relationship with New England which predates the founding of the Republic of the United States of America.  Their greatest injury was largely planned in New England and their greatest poetic portrayal was written there after the founding of our republic.

2. Through the American Revolution, the Louisiana Purchase, the War of 1812 and a variety of events related to the Civil War they acquired a strong identity as Americans in the 1840’s and on into the 1860’s. This is the period of emergence of American identity among the Acadian people as they were also becoming the Cajun people in some ways and remaining the Acadian people in other ways. The specific Louisiana term was part of their Americanization process.
3.They lost that identity almost entirely except in public, legal and formal ways by 1875. This happened through  through a variety of significant causes to a significant degree.  This is what I call a process of alienation.
4.The World War Two period helped them to recover their American identity.
5. The SONJ projects capture that reemerging identity and demonstrate the leadership of Oil in forming a new American identity in which they will participate.
6.Louisiana Story and the SONJ projects brought Americans together in that new identity. This is an identity that was in particular flux during the postwar period.

Royal Proclamation

This list of points  just given is chronological. It is not the order in which I discuss them from now on. Starting with the third point — that there is in Cajun history a period of alienation. Reemergence comes out of alienation and a quick survey is essential. When studying the restoration of  a particular identity in the Second World War we are discussing arriving at what had been achieved only after  the French and Indian Wars before the USA, the American Revolution and the War of 1812 with the USA. This complex American journey defined a specific Cajun identity different from the one that reemerged but not utterly distinct from it. That identity of the mid-nineteenth century like the one of mid-twentieth century and the years since was both a special ethnic identity with a connection to a gneral American Identity and a separate emphasis  within the American Identity as Cajuns conceived their society’s total self perception and alongside the American identity in their own minds as Cajuns. The Acadians were going to become and did become in the period from 1875 to 1940 alienated from an identity evident from the 1840s to 1860s when Louisiana had a Cajun governor and other dignitaries.  A Cajun led the  Louisiana Secession Committee before the Civil War. Longfellow and Andrew Jackson had in very different ways had incorporated their story into the fabric of the American story and made in them a sense of union incarnate. Those themes of unionism and secessionism are both real facts which seem contradictory. The contradictions had their effects and in the late 1850s they fought bloody battles among themselves to determine the kind of American vision they would support. In that period they had a fully developed American identity. America was different in ways that mattered to Cajuns — first Louisiana Constitution was written in French and English and in the 1840s there were laws passed assuring public schools with English Only, French Only and bilingual education would exist. But in the defeat of the South in the Civil War and the death in battle of Acadian General Alexander Mouton leading the decisive charge in the last  major Confederate Victory the old Acadian- American synthesis had stumbled not to rise again. Later the spiral of doom continued and  the prohibition of French in schools in the 1920s, even the publication of Parkman’s History of France and England in North America were, taken together very alienating factors for the Acadians . The termAmerican came to identify people who were not Acadian or Cajun within the Cajun community. However today Cajuns generally feel American.

Try to recall  all six of those points first mentioned. The paper has a reach from at least 1604 to the 1990s but it also has a focus even more narrow than the 1943 to 1953 period that defines the SONJ Documentaries. Despite the huge battles and losses of life yet to come in the war, the  start of a postwar  vision of America may well have begun in 1943.   People began to imagine a world after the war and people like Roy Stryker and the executives at Standard Oil began to act on that imagined future.   In this paper I really focus on the last three points of my list. They can be summarized as: Fourth, In World War Two Cajuns recovered American identity, fifth Standard Oil of New Jersey showed oil industry leadership in forming  a new American identity which included various distinct communities and sixth, Louisiana Story and the Stryker photographers like Webb and Eagle all helped form new  American identity in postwar Acadiana.

A final somewhat repetitive  introductory remark is that the film Louisiana Story in Abbeville is the heart of this paper and the rest of the projects are related to that.

Louisiana Story is a film by Robert Flaherty which was commissioned by Standard Oil of New Jersey in conjunction with an enormous photographic project overseen by Roy Stryker. Both Stryker and Flaherty had established fame in the documentary work of the New Deal. Flaherty was in addition considered to be the Father of Documentary Film — with a body of work going back to the era of silent film.

There were two articles on the front page of the local paper –the Abbeville Meridional in that issue which was devoted in significant part to the movie premiere. This amount of journalistic coverage in itself showed the movie was important  but deeper inside was an extravagant full page pictorial spread that told readers it would be at the Dixie Theater from the next day, Sunday, February 20, 1949 to the following Thursday. The newspaper also had a regular advertisement for its films which showed too mainstream films playing as a double feature on Friday and Saturday which were its biggest money making days. That same advertisement did however give the “Southern Premiere” of Louisiana Story bigger billing than either of the other two films. But in addition to being extravagant for such a spread in this particular paper it has the following telling lines on the side among others:|

Showing In The South A GEM! Abbeville has been chosen as the “Premiere City for this great film,LOUISIANA STORY, because it was filmed here and stars Vermilion Parish people. It’s- film is the everyday story your friends and your relatives.[2]

The story of Acadiana in the Postwar period is not a simple one and it is not only a story of the Acadian people. But I do want to say more than once that I am discussing Acadian more than Southern or American experience in this paper and Acadians as Southerners and Americans  is close to the center of this paper. Some effort is made here to deal with the complexity Acadian identity as its own Academic subject and of that reality of identification and alienation with the South and with the United States which people lived and with the efforts of other — academic historians and otherwise who have attempted to discuss and analyse this complex ethnic identity and its interaction with the structures for identity in the South and in the United States of America. I write this blog version of this paper in distinction to the copy of the speech I posted on the post before last.  This one is more of an advertisement than the speech was (and in a  sense as a synopsis as well) for a book manuscript. But it is also very much based on the panel format twenty minute lecture and a hoped for academic article.  For the real strangers who read my blog I want to make sure they understand here that this is a story about people with whom I most identify in the Cajuns and also about the photographic family around the world with whom I identify as well (although these days who does not?).  I also identify elsewhere but have no real claim to identifying with the oil industry — I have not been untouched by it. In fact it has shaped so much of my life I would have to write a specialized autobiography to detail all its impacts but they have been the connections of an outsider. I am a Cajun and a photographer  but I am not an oilman. I am  writing mostly about the Cajuns and am discussing a people with a complex  identity. It was  a welcome but very real challenge to set up the research and writing which I have already done in terms of the topic I proposed to the conference. The reemergence of American identity in the region is in fact a very important theme in the manuscript but it does not structurally have its own chapter but is woven in with other large and somewhat related themes.

Merely to attempt to discuss the reemergence of American identity begs the question of what identities were prevalent.  Am old friend of mine who is a Southern historian made some interesting comments about Southerners feeling American again as soon as he was aware of the title of the paper. That is certainly a relevant identity in this paper as I have tried to describe.    I do not in anyway mean to assert that any of these identities were not American in the sense of being excluded from a valid sense of American participation and civilization.  I post this blog post just a couple of weeks before America’s presidential election. American identity has been an issue in this political season from the statements by some in the Black Lives Matter Movement and among some Muslims and Hispanics which have expressed alienation in different ways. The process of alienation for those people is different from what I describe in my third point. In fact any identities preceding or following such alienation would have a very different history.  But I cannot post this without mentioning the relevance of the issue.

There also seems to be among many today not only a concern about the effects of  whatever is undesirable or excessive immigration but also the effect of an uncertainty about what if any shared ideals or exemplars of Americanism remain at the center of our focus of identity. Our current President who had a Kenyan father and an Indonesian stepfather and two of those who claim to be his intended political opponents — Donald Trump who married a pair of immigrants and only one native born American and Ted Cruz who was born in Canada to an immigrant father who once extolled Castro — we must all celebrate that these people are the essence and very distillation of American identity in human form are we do not belong in polite society. I presented this paper at the Admiral Hotel in Mobile and it is named for my fellow Catholic, fellow American, fellow traveler to many lands and fellow devoted resident of the Gulf South. He was also a Confederate and this year has been a year to see many crises related to the significance of Confederate monuments and their connection to American identity.  I am one of those who thinks Raphael Semmes should keep on being an American.  So Confederate Identity is for me an American Identity but it is not central to this paper. It was however central to both the zenith of the first Cajun -American identity and the collapse of that first Cajun -American identity.

The questions raised by evaluating the inclusiveness of American identity are looked at a bit more in my book. However, I mean specifically I really mean to say that the reemergence of Cajuns and other people in Acadiana as persons who said confidently — “I am an American” has a place in our understanding of the Postwar era in the South.  In preparing this paper I rejoined a lapsed thirty-odd year correspondence with Dr. Mark Schultz of Lewis University with whom I once attended the Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio. From his own specialty he has assured me that the Fourth of July was not celebrated in Hancock County Georgia until World War I.[3] It is of course important for me at this conference especially to take into account themes and causes of alienation which relate to the entire South as it emerged from the Confederate experience.

The relative complexity of different aspects of local identity are perhaps raised well enough to be reasonably evident in one of the last articles that the Meridional featured on the Louisiana Story.

LOUISIANA STORY—A REVIEW Premiere Film Uses New Technique To Tell Story Of State Marshes

By Gene Yoes, Jr.

“Louisiana Story”, the great documentary film about the marshes ‘ of Louisiana and of Vermilion parish has come and gone. Behind it, it leaves some who did not appreciate the picture But the vast majority of those who saw the stirring film acclaim it as magnificent “Louisiana Story” is the recital of ‘ the life of an Acadian fur trapper’s  son—told through the all-seeing eyes of a camera It is a true to life story, a story that is happening every day in the marshes at our back door It shows the fur trapper’s son, played by young Boudreaux, as a child of nature almost untouched by the synthetic mechanized world we live in.

But, as the story develops, we see this child’s playground, the marshes, invaded by an oil exploration crew. We see the ordinary calm of his life, at first, disturbed, later altered, by the man-made machinery.’ Then, the oil company leaves. Left behind is a child who feels empty because of its departure!, but a child who very easily slips back into his normal, everyday way of life. Two of the most magnificent sequences in the film were presented without the use of words—a technique that is new, and many times as powerful as the shopworn phrases of Hollywood. After the oil well had “blown out” with dangerous underground gas and. water, the crew was waiting! for orders to move to another location The child, in his desire to keep his newly found friends from leaving, poured the contents of his evil-spirit-chasing-salt into the well to remove the “hex” that was causing the well to “blow out”. This dramatically demonstrated the change in the child, his acceptance  of this new mode of life. In the other sequence, the child was fondling his new rifle that his father had bought in the city. His pet raccoon, which he thought had been devoured by the alligator, returned. The child dropped his new rifle, and went to his coon. “Told” without the use of dialogue, this sequence powerfully shows the child as he rejects the mechanized world, the artificial world created by machinery, and returns to his native environment, to his native way of living. Some have said that the film gives a “bad impression” of this area of Louisiana, that it presents this area as a large swamp. But, we think that they may have missed the point of the story. At the beginning of the film, it is implicitly stated that the movie was made in one particular locale, Bayou Petit Anse.

It is true that the people of the Northern part of the United States may believe that all of Louisiana is a swamp. “Louisiana Story” will not change their opinion—no amount of films or stories can change them. But, after seeing this film, we are sure that the occupant of a penthouse on the richest ground in New York would gladly exchange his property for the property of John La-tour or any property in the marshes of Louisiana that are capable of spouting black, liquid gold. Robert Flaherty’s product was not an ordinary film—it was not’ made with the flourish that is typical of Hollywood films. For its locale, the producer picked the area around Bayou Petite Anse in Vermilion parish. For its star, Flaherty picked native Acadians—Lionel LeBlanc of Abbeville, Joseph Carl Boudreaux of Little Pecan Island.

The cost of the film was less than one-fourth that of a Hollywood production—but the film has been acclaimed as great by the New York Times, New York Post, New York Mirror, Harper’s Magazine, the Brooklyn Eagle, the New York Herald-Tribune, Life and Star. And the comments of many of those who saw the film here—Miss Evelyn Parkinson Keyes, (noted author), W. B. Cotten, Jr., (Baton Rouge), F. A. Godchaux, Sr., Mr. and Mrs. W. B. MacMillan, Mr. and Mrs. Matt Vernon (Daily Iberian), President and Mrs. Joel Fletcher of Southwestem Louisiana Institute, and many others echoed those reviews[4].

I am writing from a place of identification with the American mainstream and society not much different, really than that of Gene Yoes Jr., my predecessor in writing for our town’s local newspaper — and it is our town’s paper.  Gene Yoes Jr. was writing not as an academic but as a community journalist, yet he raised some issues that should interest historians. His review is not a mere reportage of fact. He is attempting the sorts of analysis and evaluation which I hope that we all attempt. I am writing a paper which is intended to face any academic critic or institution on its own technically sophisticated intellectually complex ground but the basic conceptual structure of the paper is not particularly complex. The title suggests that the Cajuns and Acadiana had an American identity in the past and it was then hidden, eclipsed, degraded or obscured and was emerging again in the postwar era. This period when the American identity returned to prominence was captured in some way and affected in a variety of ways by the great documentary projects undertaken with the funding and support of Standard Oil of New Jersey.  The result of this renewed sense of American identity has some kind of historic importance and its study has some significance to the scholars who might attend this conference.  The Second World War I will argue was blip in the upward direction or more than a blip in that period of generally increasing alienation. Cajuns serving in France in that war  forged a sense of Cajun identity with a  connection to the United States and the American way of life.  But that did not produce the results the Second World War produced. It was after this First World War that French was outlawed in public schools.

The study of change over time requires, I believe, a flexibility of mind which allows us to see how the subtle experience of connections to the past may change over time.  The World Wars both speak to my period of 1943 to 1953 and so does the Confederacy. The admiral who was the name patron of this paper’s original venue was an officer in the Confederate navy during the American Civil War fighting for Dixie and the movie house in which the Flaherty film premiered in Abbeville was called the Dixie theater.  Here you will see it called bothe the Dixie and the Frank’s. Prior to being a strong Confederate, Semmes had been a serving officer in the United States Navy from 1826 through 1860, the Acadian Confederate  general Mouton mentioned here also served under the United States flag but much more briefly. His identity thereafter is the sort of thing historians can and I think should argue about, because our discussions are likely to be both more civil and more productive than most and are likely to better inform others who will struggle with issues of identity.[5] In turn, these people will have a better chance of reaching good resolutions to the crises which impel them to various forms of struggle if they have been properly informed. Since being invited to give this presentation I have incorporated these few words about Admiral Semmes and have decided to mention as well that when thinking of the American Civil War a person like me who is not a specialist in the area remembers that Semmes was captain of the cruiser CSS Alabama, which I have been informed was the most successful commerce raider in maritime history. What I would not remember is that late in the war, he was not only promoted to rear admiral but also served briefly as a brigadier general in the Confederate army. Semmes is the only North American to have held both exalted naval and army ranks simultaneously.  Semmes was also an accomplished and skilled writer who among other things sought to understand American history — I was proud to have him as my ghostly inspiration in excerpting this paper from my book.

20161015_051733

It is interesting that one name which does not appear in the article is the name of a man who may have been mentioned more often in the Abbeville Meridional during his lifetime than any other local person and possibly more often than any other person at all. However, I cannot say that I have actually counted all possible contenders and only that in my research I have not noticed that there were any close contenders. That name is Dudley Leblanc — he is also a very relevant name and someone who features prominently in the book.  About a month and a little bit more ago I saw the opening of an exhibit which I jointly curated on the life of Dudley Leblanc and his achievements. It is important to say that whatever evolutions are transitions occurred in Acadian identity in the postwar era they occurred in direct interaction with this particular man and his particular life and work which involved making lots of money in business, giving lots of money to charity, having French language radio shows, holding and running for political offices and writing books important to those in this small field of history. However he has not usually been seen as relevant to the SONJ documentary projects by anyone at all. But in my work his is one  of the lives that continues to matter in this as in all other aspects of life and public affairs in the Acadiana region for quite a significant period of time. This period like many others  is marked largely by being in the life of Dudley Leblanc as far as Acadiana is concerned. This man is relatively complex in many ways and compared to people who are identified with a single pursuit above all others it is less obvious what his position might be as regards any other data in society but despite not being so famous elsewhere  and requiring a bit of work to understand Leblanc  stands as a useful reference point in this paper and in the larger manuscript. The life he lived is a stark reminder of continuity across all the periods from the prewar period through World War II and on into the postwar period. In fact Dudley Leblanc has a much longer period of regional significance even than the period combining all of these periods. He was surely always an American and always an Acadian and so one can ask what significance there is in examining his life in the terms laid out for this paper. But I do think he allows us to see the very shift that is discussed here although not in a stark way. But the Cajuns are and always have been devoted to the American experience and identity even during the long spell between about 1875 and 1940 when most Cajuns only called themselves Americans in a legal or very formal and explicit context. Nonetheless, in all those years there was an effort to merge effectively with each era of American institutions. But the Cajun vision of America did not always resemble the mainstream vision very closely: Nonetheless, in understanding a man like Dudley Leblanc it is useful to understand this desire to  succeed as a true American and to see Cajuns succeed as true Americans. This second glimpse from the Meridional shows that aspect of Leblanc and of Cajun life as well. It does so in a subtle and not very flag-waving kind of way. I do not object to certain amount of advocacy in Academic history nor do I see any lack of it either.  Two very important texts on Acadian identity are the books Acadian to Cajun[6] and Acadiana: Louisiana’s Historic Cajun Country[7]. Each does a good job in a very different way of laying out how the Cajun people and the region called Acadiana came to identify as they do. But they treat of formative processes which are not exactly where our particular interests as we gather for my section of this discussion will be found.  Likewise the authorized biography of Dudley Leblanc by Trent Angers[8] is also not exactly the image of Leblanc which will emerge in this paper. Knowing Dudley to be in fact a voice and a symbol deeply associated with Cajun identity we find him not particularly alienated as far as signs of functioning within the American and Southern mainstream long before World War II.

DUDLEY LEBLANC NAMED. ON LAFAYETTE BOARD

Lafayette, La.—Announcement of the election of 12 directors of the reorganized Lafayette Chamber of Commerce was made at a meeting last Thursday night at the courthouse. The board, which will meet soon to name officers, is composed of E. E. Soulier, Mike Donlon, J. J. Davidson, Jr., Dudley J. LeBlanc, T. M. Callahan, A. F. Boustany, Dr. L. O. Clark, E- E. McMillan, Donald Labbe, A. M. Bujard, Felix H. Mouton, and J. L. Fletcher.[9]

 

The Chamber of Commerce in Lafayette at that time and in any part of the United States at any time is an institution devoted to the relatively optimistic pursuit of commerce, development and well being in the context of  the commercially viable and economically vibrant United States of America. Dudley Leblanc who was not less an ethnic activist than many other form better known communities, was also a member of the Chamber of Commerce and accepted most of its values and vision for America.

download HADACOL

HADACOL was once the second largest advertiser in the United States.

 

Acadiana had never been in its very substantial historical tenure — and Acadians have never been in their much longer tenure — isolated in the sense that a handful of places are which is one of the big questions raised by Flaherty’s selection of the Cajun Country for Louisiana Story. Alienation and isolation are of course very different things. These days we wonder if Mr. Colin Kaepernick is alienated from American identity are not — but we know he is not isolated from it[10]. Some are offended by his stance and others are quite energized by it[11]. Rather it had always been a place of commerce, change and  migration since the time the first Cajuns began to emerge as such. In this text one of the challenges has been to try to show an ethnic community which is in continuous change within a larger American social and cultural context. Dudley J. Leblanc was a voice for the region and also for the Cajun people. It is important to understand the totality of his involvement in the issues of his time and the life of the state and the region.  The questions of whether he lived in better  times or worse for the Cajuns and for this region cannot be answered fully here. But to the degree that this text sees him as an influence over the SONJ Projects and over the region that they came to document  he must be properly understood or nothing much is gained by way of understanding in  referring to his influence.  In some of the earlier chapters my book length manuscript the concern with Dudley Leblanc is focussed very largely on his role and influence and exemplary status as regards Cajun  or Acadian identity. His role a President of the Association of Louisiana Acadians is a single fact which removes all question of his significance as a representative of the ethnic community in question and as a valuable point of reference for anyone seeking to understand that culture. Leblanc also wrote two books about the Acadians. The True Story of the Acadians[12] which features the word Story in its title along with the documentary film which I am discussing. This book appeared in two versions before the SONJ projects began. The latter book appeared long after they had left — that book was The Acadian Miracle[13].   I was privileged over the last few months to be one of two curators of and exhibit at the Acadian Museum in Erath recognizing the life and work of Dudley Leblanc and celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of Acadian Miracle. The two Leblanc books have also been released again in new editions in honor of this anniversary and in conjunction with this exhibit.  While working on this exhibit my fellow curator and the Museum Director Warren Perrin received into the possession of the Museum the diary of Corinne Broussard and we spent quite a bit of time discussing by email. Corinne Broussard was later to marry and change her last name to Murphy but her brother was the Louisiana State Senator Sam Broussard who would go on to being a major participant in the founding of an organization known as CODOFIL or the Council for the Development of French in Louisiana. He was also the featured central figure in the Pat Mire film Mon Cher Camarade which among other things was able to receive significant air time on Louisiana Public Broadcasting[14].  Broussard along with the still living Robert Leblanc of Abbeville were among the Cajuns who by character and dialect played a unique role in the intelligence operations of the United States military in France during the Second World War.[15] This was her diary of her time in pilgrimage as an Evangeline Girl with Dudley Leblanc in 1930 on the pilgrimage of return to old Acadie or Nova Scotia. Whatever else one might say about Dudley Leblanc there is really no reasonable argument to be made that he was not a prominent, well connected and highly visible symbol of the Acadian and Cajun people. The Documentarians cannot be excused if they gave him less than reasonable recognition as such a symbol. The Evangeline Girls are somewhat known in Louisiana and somewhat more known in Acadiana and fairly well known among ethnically conscious Cajuns. But that does not mean much is known about them. Most people in Louisiana are possibly at  least vaguely familiar with a fact related to the Evangeline Girls but they are unaware that this fact is related to the Evangeline Girls. One of Corinne Broussard’s companions on her journey was Yvonne Pavy who five years later was married to a very gifted and prominent physician Carl Weiss who assassinated Huey Long for his assaults against her standing and that of her family. Weiss was able to return Dudley Leblanc to full participation in the life of the State with a single bullet because Huey had in effect driven him into economic exile in Texas. [16] In my book I am eager to point out the difference in the way that Harnett Kane’s book on the Cajuns was treated by the documentarians in contrast to all of work, activity and writing produced by Dudley Leblanc[17]. But aside from a few interstitial parts and a chapter dedicated wholly to him my study is not one of the very interesting Leblanc.  Mostly my treatment of him has been the only focus of discussion in this regard of there being a compelling ethnic figure and some brief applications of that aspect of his life and work to the film Louisiana Story. I get into a bit more depth in my current version of one chapter devoted to him and I think that should I find a publisher I would edit the whole book to treat of him in a more compelling way; but a great deal more remains to be put into writing about his life discussed if he is to be at all understood. Trent Angers has written an authorized biography [18]and Dudley Leblanc’s own granddaughter Michelle has produced a compelling film for public television and other distribution[19]. Those are  good places to start for those interested as is the Acadian Museum in Erath. That website, for which I can take no credit whatsoever, has good brief biographies of those inducted as Living Legends and that roll includes some people mentioned or cited in this paper. The Postwar period is one in which Dudley Leblanc was associated mostly with HADACOL the second largest advertiser in the United States of America at one time. But his role as a voice of the Cajun people was ongoing and anyone studying those people in the region itself could not really avoid knowing about his many activities on behalf of the community. Nonetheless, he was less of an ethnic symbol during the relevant postwar years discussed in my current work and at which time these Documentarians were active than at many other times earlier and later in his life.

The postwar period is interesting to me in terms of its significance for the sense of American identity taking shape among the Cajun people. That would make it compelling for me in any regard. However, the really singular reason I have focused on this period is because it is the time when the Standard Oil of New Jersey documentarians under Stryker and Flaherty went to work in Acadiana. They were of course paid by the oil industry. However the oil industry is far more than merely the source of funding which occasioned the documentarians coming to the region. The oil industry had a really good reason to hire these people — they were a powerful and influential change agent in the Acadiana region and in the United States of America which was defining the postwar era in many ways. They provided an economic focus and vision and set of opportunities which could at least approach the importance of defeating the Axis powers. They stepped in as much as any other force to show a future which an America and an Acadiana shaped by the Second World War could accept. A vision of a powerful economy, well organized and technically superior to its past was part of the American identity achieved in the crucible of World War II. The Oil industry would also offer a future for an America with a powerful economy, a well organized workforce and a path to sustained technical superiority to its competitors.

In my unpublished manuscript Emerging Views: Postwar Acadiana, The Louisiana Story and the SONJ Documentary Projects[20] I have the scope to discuss quite a few aspects of regional identity which will not be included in this paper. In Chapter Twelve I remark that Dudley Leblanc’s thirty-fourth birthday party was an occasion for him to receive a kind of tribute from people from a variety of industries but not the petroleum industry.  It is also true that we have discussed how the Broussard Brothers became a very successful firm and remains so today but its growth as a major named focus in the oil industry on the Attakapas Prairie has been a fairly slow process. The firm was located mostly in Chalmette at first and then has gradually assumed more prominence in the region. Only in recent years has it bought the prominent and fairly stately office building in a leafy neighborhood where it now holds sway.Chris Crusta Flying Services was operated by Danny Babin of the Gueydan area and by Chris Crusta of Abbeville. Both were pilots with distinguished military careers however, the firm which provided crop dusting services across the Parish  for many years also helped to launch the business career of one of the leading figures in the oilfield in Vermilion Parish and the Prairies.  Revis Sirmon was a French speaking native of the region whose family farmed rice and who married a Cajun girl, name Lorraine Breaux,  many of his closest friends were Cajuns. Yet Revis Sirmon was a distinctly non Cajun person with his own set of folklore and religious experiences shaping his life.  His close relationship with the wealthy rice-milling  Godchaux family was a relationship with a white Creole family. Possibly there both not being Cajun entirely formed a common part of their identity in the intensely Cajun region. Revis Sirmon flew fifty combat missions in Europe in World War II and loved to fly. However, after a few years of of the risks of agricultural aviation and with two small children to worry about leaving orphaned he was ready to spend more time on the ground. He went into the oilfield fluids business called the mud business with the backing of Frank Godchaux III. Revis Sirmon’s memoirs, Eternal Pilot, a book co-written with Joseph Chaillot  do a good job of charting his life in Acadiana and the tensions between Cajun identity and residence in Acadiana.[21] They also provide a useful glimpse of his rise in the local oilfield world and its ties to world commerce and it also is true that the book like so much else describes many people whom I knew well although it also leaves out a great deal and a great number of people whom I know were involved in the events described.    But whatever angle on takes in viewing these things it is different than the take of a book like this one, the scholar has to bring something to the research as it is not the book’s purpose to address any or all of these questions directly.  Revis Sirmon was encouraged by the ethnically prominent Charles Broussard of the Flying J. Ranch to ask Edwin Edwards (who has always identified as Cajun) to appoint him to the Mineral Board, while in that position he raised the royalty payments made to the State for mineral leases. However, as an active commercial oilman he was disqualified from future service after seven fairly distinguished years on the board when new ethics rules defined his operations as a conflict of interest. He resigned rather than before the newly propounded rules would have formally disqualified him. My maternal grandfather was in business with Revis Sirmon in a company called Riptide Investors and in developing a port known as Freshwater City. However, almost all of this oilfield story is outside the scope of this book. Almost all but not quite all. It was in 1953, the very end of this period that the pilot known as the Scatterbrain Kid founded his mud company. This was just one more sign of the growing importance of the oilfield and related industries in the immediate region where Louisiana Story had been filmed.

Humble Oil and Standard Oil lend their names to the Fourteenth chapter of my manuscript and especially the capitalization of the words Humble and Standard in its chapter title  “A Relatively Humble Standard”. They have since merged but at the time of the focus of this study from 1943 to 1953 they were both relatively autonomous and certainly legally independent corporations and each had a distinct and significant role that they played in the production of these photographic projects and the film Louisiana Story. The two companies had national and global connections and so forth but both came from distinct regions in the United States outside of Louisiana where they retained significant rootedness.  It is not easy to minimize the importance of the oil industry and of Standard Oil of New Jersey and Humble Oil in the production of these projects more than has been done here without leaving aside  a very significant part of the story indeed. The truth is that cramming what is left of the essential parts of that story into one chapter is not an entirely satisfying solution either.  But it is the solution which is achievable in this case. The story of the making of Louisiana Story has been told before. No telling other than the Louisiana Public Broadcasting television documentary  Louisiana Story: The Reverse Angle has really attempted to relate the film to Cajun realities on the ground very much at all in my opinion[22].  The film A Boatload of Wild Irishmen has touched on the Cajun and Louisiana side of the experience in significant ways in its attempt to see the otherside of all Flaherty’s work.   But the most interesting previously published source relevant to the Louisiana Story aspect of my research is probably Filming Robert Flaherty’s “Louisiana Story”: The Helen van Dongen Diaries.[23] In this book among other things there are the useful Abbeville entries in Van Dongen’s diary. That book makes a good attempt  to deal at least briefly with the role that the oil industry played in the film. Standard Oil with very specific postwar concerns is perhaps the best claim or connection that this paper has to the attention and interest of participants in this Conference. What were those interests?

The best source I have for that comes from a video recording form archived film which is attached here and there and not easy to footnote for a scholar of very limited means such as myself. Some issuings of Louisiana Story on DVD include in the special features an interview  given by the widowed  Frances Flaherty to Robert Gardner at Harvard’s Peabody Museum in 1960, discussing her husband and collaborator  the great filmmaker, Robert Flaherty, who died in 1951. In that article the widow, co-writer and photographer  reads from a letter sent by Standard Oil of New Jersey to Robert Flaherty which launched the great collaboration between the Father of Documentary Film and the Oil Industry. The letter in part proposes that Flaherty produce a film that would be:

“A classic—a permanent artistic record of the contributions in which the oil industry had made to civilization. A film that would present the story of oil with dignity, the epic sweep it deserved, and assure the story of a lasting place on the highest plane in the literature of the screen. The film would also be such an absorbing human story that it would stand on its own feet as an entertainment anywhere. Because of its entertainment value it would be distributed theatrically, through the regular motion picture houses, both in America and abroad.”

Frances Flaherty refers to this as a princely commission. That adjective is not only justified by the obvious ambition and ego driven nature of the letter of proposal but is also justified by the  check for $125,000, the granting of almost all imaginable right to Flaherty and the way in which the physical first print of the film was to be preserved as an academic treasure. Further than this the company made Humble Oil resources available to Flaherty at reduced or in many cases no cost and used its vast influence in postwar Acadiana to open many doors to Flaherty, his unit and the other documentarians associated with him. The ambition of the Oil Industry coming out of the World War is surely very important in understanding American history of this period. The fifth and six points of my listed argument can be paraphrased as stating that we can see something about what the oil industry hoped to accomplish by looking at this set of images. When we combine this view of what the industry was attempting with what we learn about how the Acadians were we can find in the focus of this study I believe allows for a very specific and clear insight into that ambitious and vigorous postwar identity which formed and continues to form American life and society.[24]   

The period of 1943 to 1953 includes two enormous wars — yet I use the term postwar. This is not only laziness or brevity this is an era which is not quite the same as many others. Many participants in the Korean war outside the two Koreas usually define the period as a time following World War II and not as one leading into and involving the Korean War.  China is able to look at The Great Leap Forward and overlook the Korean War to a significant degree. Americans, Brits, Japanese and the rebuilding Europeans are able to find many domestic concerns that seem more important to history than the Korean War despite the fact that it was large and bloody and its legacy is still with us. The countries that did not fight with the United Nations were still affected by the war in some way — but my book is no different. The Korean War is tangential to my interests here and is  partly so because it was so well ignored at the time.   In the minds of many writers there is a sense that simply in being read at all there is a dimension of victory. For those in an intense and broad struggle of ideas that are not very compatible being read seems to indicate that the writers side has won through, because the writer feels, his or her opponents are by and large through with  reading the sort of things the writer is producing.Cajuns and other people in Acadiana were not extremely and broadly concerned about the SONJ documentary projects. That is one of the most definitive  realities that cannot be escaped as one researches the response to the documentarians and to Flaherty’s somewhat autonomous film crew within the Stryker SONJ organization. These creative and observant outsiders were the objects of gossip and news-gathering but they were not major objects of either. Largely, this is a story of a people caught up in a period defined by the end of a war they did not believe was going to lead to any certain and enduring peace.  As a whole the regional press was very concerned with rebuilding Germany and Japan, with the threat of Communism and with what would happen to the economy, The press also reported on the progress of the oil and gas industry in the region and the country, Movies also commanded some attention. But reporting on the SONJ projects as such was limited.  Neither do I allow my own intense interest in these activities to distort the portrayal of the larger response to what was being done and thus to distort the story more than I can help it. The documentarians on the other hand show little sense that they had sold out their integrity and point of view to big oil. They seem to me to be aware that they are creating serious work in a documentary tradition that would stand alone before the judgement of history.  Whatever greatness we believe the documentary tradition to have, we remain condemned by their words and efforts if we do not consider these projects to have been part of that tradition.So in terms of influence and identity we have a number of relationships to try to keep in mind. First there is the relationship of the war which was ending or had ended during the SONJ documentary activities. The war affected everyone and everything and in terms of forming identities and shaping what America itself was becoming.  Then  there is the relationship of the Oil industry and Standard Oil itself (together with Humble Oil) to  America’s war efforts, to the State of Louisiana, to the Acadian people and to the documentarians who were hired for these projects. Next there is the relationship of the people doing the work other than the Cajuns in Flaherty’s cast and crew to either New England or to some other region through New England and their sense of belonging to a community of New York Documentarians in which the Flaherty’s and Roy Stryker as leaders and many others as individuals had achieved some recognition. The perspective of that documentarian community continues to inform a great deal of the scholarship, journalism and analysis which defines any understanding of these projects which does in fact exist. In the rest of this paper we will look at this film and the documentary process as Louisiana and Acadian history. Scholarly, technical and critical writing about Flaherty and the Louisiana Story, has almost entirely come from a perspective other than that of Louisiana history. The big exception is the film Louisiana Story: The Reverse Angle as mentioned elsewhere.  None would argue that Flaherty who produced and directed the film depicting the wetlands oilfields of the 1940s intended to produce an academic history.  Yet at the very least, his film forms a small part of the history of the region.  It was largely from the study of outsiders’ perceptions of assimilation  and persistence and especially as it related to what they did and did not wish to shoot that this essay on the Louisiana Story emerged as a tentative thesis proposal many years ago.  Because the time and place of Flaherty’s production was studied from a more general historical perspective, the film has emerged in the context of influences which have not yet received much attention.  Louisiana Story differs from Flaherty’s first film Nanook of the North which creatively documented the hunting life of an Eskimo family.  The principal character was in fact named Nanook, the places filmed were actually his hunting grounds and the family was actually his family.  Louisiana Story was not a documentary of a place or a culture in the same way as Nanook of the North.[25] Rather, Flaherty’s last film was a fine piece of drama and myth in film. But it was a film where real Cajun clothes-makers, pirogue wrights, trappers and animal wranglers among others were employed to do things that Cajuns really did. It employed a real Cajun cast and it was beautifully shot and edited. In fact it may have been harder to sell a film name Lionel of the manicured Jungle Gardens Park than one named Nanook of the North. there is plenty of opportunity to discuss the ethics and values of the project but it is neither all one thing or all another. That has been written before and will be repeated again.

Louisiana Story uses a relatively small  Cajun cast and a few Standard Oil and Humble Oil people directed by Standard Oil of New Jersey but these people were in fact part of a meaningful ethnic community with an evolving ethnic identity in which the Oil industry is playing a transformative role. One must not look here for a great anthropological or cultural history research project in fact  the use of  people of no great numbers for a modest cast overall and achieves an economy both perceptual and financial. Yet this was not a very cheap film not is it a nature film with just an odd human shiot now and then,  Given the small number of words, the audience achieves a surprising rapport with these few characters.  Yet each character is a type even more than a person.  One little boy, one father, one mother and one driller allows the audience to focus on the impact of the oil industry upon Acadians and their wetlands, and the universal meanings associated with changing times and the dreamlike state of childhood.  Like the walrus scene and sequence in Nanook involving the hunt, the alligator scene combined some authentic action with a touch of highly improbable drama.

Most important to me and to the work I am doing but perhaps less in tune to the Conference theme is the relationship of the Acadians or Cajuns to the United States of America, to the State of Louisiana, to the South and to the other peoples and places which were specifically linked to their own heritage.  Identity is formed in the  interplay of relationship very often and that interplay can be very complex. I am also interested in how Cajuns have continued to relate back to these events and their product such as the photographs and Louisiana Story. It is in that relationship of the Cajuns with their past that we can really see what last effect the postwar period and these images and image maker may have had on forming American identity or what impact they may have had on anything else for that matter.

That past goes back to the long history hinted at in the first point of my chronological list. This is a point which Dudley Leblanc would discuss at length in his books. The book that existed in the 1943 to 1953 period has the word “Story” in its title and I believe Leblanc played a role in moving the Flaherty’s from the type of film outlined in the “Christmas Tree” as first written and into Louisiana Story. The Flaherty’s were talkative but also secretive and disingenuous — it may well be that this word is a nod to Leblanc’s influence in the development of their screenplay. But whatever, the case it is history in that sense discussed in the first point of my outline which most defines the Acadian people. However, there is another aspect of history which is very important — that is the historical moment at which these things occurred. things changed a lot in ways more subtle that battlefield events between 1943 and 1953.

It is not worthwhile to simplify a comparison of Donald Frederick who died in Abbeville and who is mentioned again a bit further down in this paper and Whitney Leblanc whose Korean war record was kept in obscurity for most of his life in which he survived in the United States after the War they lived and fought in two very different wars and the fact that the Korean War forms a blurry end to the postwar era for me and many others is an indication of how hidden it is. Clay Blair ‘s book on Korea titled The Forgotten War [26]seems to have more than a little currency and relevance — nobody much refers to these years as America’s Korean War Period.  But the era does seems to be different in subtler ways that affect both perceptions of war and peace. Acadiana seems to have joined a more individualistic America than when it named a street for Donald Frederick after Pearl Harbor. In 1953 Whitney Adam Leblanc of Iberia Parish was involved in one of the most bloody and violent encounters in U.S. Military history. Nobody was making a movie about his experience  or carefully documenting his days in pitched battle in still photographs. He endured a great deal in battle and afterwards his records were confused or misfiled and the consequences of that battlefield confusion stayed with him later on. By the time the Battle of Pork Chop Hill was over his family had more or less lost track of him for a while. It may not be much more than a coincidence but there is an individualism within a broad national context that seems to describe and define Whitney Allen Leblanc’s wartime homecoming. Years later after some deliberate restorations of ethnic and regional institutions had been made his son Roger would help to restore his war record to good order. In 1953 he was somehow more than a little bit alone in that vast and terrible conflict. This bloody combat would be portrayed in The Battle of Pork Chop Hill, a movie that focussed only on the last few days of what was actually the longest battle in the Korean War. That movie lay in the future, the film and the lasting name of the battle came from the shape of the hill on a contour map most soldiers never saw. But those who were there fighting related to the name because it was a place where men did not merely die but were reduced to chops of flesh lying about unburied on display. Surely an incident like that ought to define this year, but graphic and significant as the Korean War may have been for the Cajuns who fought in the war or lost loved ones in it  it has little to do with this study except to mention that it had so little influence on the regional experience of daily life as a whole. There seems in many ways to be little connection between the year at war as the troops lived it and the experience of being or observing Cajuns in 1953 I am mostly considering those experiences at the end of my book length text, I choose to include the Korean War in this paper because it suggests significant social change. We consider a year marked not by great violence and risk but by a sense of being caught between the past and the future.

The complexity is hidden in the lack of significant events that marked the lives of most Cajuns who did not serve in the Korean War. Acadian history is not uneventful and this period contrasts with many others as not being so starkly distinguished by conflict and upheaval as many other periods in history.  There is no Grand Derangement, no War of American Independence, no War of  1812, no Civil War, no Reconstruction and the great turmoil of the Civil Rights Era  in the Deep South had not yet begun. It is pardonable and perhaps even  reasonable that many people would look at this era and see it as a peaceful, prosperous and optimistic time. Many people both within and outside the Cajun community more or less take that view of the 1950s as a happy, prosperous and optimistic time.Just after our period of 1953, in 1957 came the turmoil of hurricane Audrey, a terror to great to describe here. J.C. Boudreaux lost his first house to a hurricane in that storm and would lose another in hurricane Rita which came the same season as the more famous Katrina which was featured in Angels of the Basin.[27] Robert Leblanc the Brigadier General whose life is a part of the framework of this story was at the forefront in fighting the horrors and devastation of the storm with the largely Cajun units he commanded in the National Guard.  But aside from hurricane Audrey many Cajuns take a positive view of the fifties and among those who take that view there is usually a fairly positive view of the oil and gas industry. It is not the intention of this text to see the region as merely an oil producing region. Many other forms of economic activity and employment survived. But for many Cajuns oil and gas related activity provided the main chance for a good future and survival in the present era.

My own view is that in this period a new sense of being American emerged. This is something I have looked at especially as regards the Acadian or Cajun People and really the other peoples of the region are discussed only in reference to their experience and changing perceptions of themselves and perceptions of them by other people. That shifting perception which forms the other side of evolving identity is treated seriously as relevant to emerging social challenges and tensions across the South and across the United States of America. Compressed as this paper is for this purpose what appears in this paper can be summarized as being a more nuanced view than has sometimes been taken of what this period meant for the United States, Louisiana and the South. I simply refuse to reduce the elements of the era into a simple statement of what the realities might be if they were conveniently organized for the benefit of scholars. It makes easier lesson plans, textbooks and lecture formats if a period is either optimistic or anxious. It makes for simpler and clearer political history if this is a time of ascending or declining cultural identity. What I believe to be the case that for Cajuns in 1953 America was in a period of fairly rapid transformation which had both threatening and promising possibilities.

 

So if my first point is summed up as that Acadian history did not begin in the United States in World War II. It is important to remember that in the 1943 book by Harnett T. Kane which very much influenced the documentarians he briefly and poorly discusses that history as he launches into a current description of the people called Cajuns. His book Bayous of Louisiana formed the template for their work. Flaherty, I argue added some influence from  Dudley Leblanc experience as a leader of the current people and his writing about their past.

In addition one has to concede that the  Second World War is a factor in the reemergence of American identity among Cajuns or Acadians but not the creator of that identity from nothing. Rather, the French and Indian Wars, the American Revolution and the War of 1812 were all American experiences of war along with the vents leading into and out of those wars which were more deeply defining of a specific Cajun identity within the American Identity and alongside the American identity in their own minds as Cajuns. The Acadians of the 1840s to 1860s had Cajun governors. Cajuns led the  Louisiana Secession Committee before the Civil War. Longfellow and Andrew Jackson in very different ways had incorporated their story into the fabric of the American story and made in them a sense of union incarnate. In the late 1850s they fought bloody battles among themselves to determine the kind of American vision they would support. In that period they had a fully developed American identity. The first Louisiana Constitution was written in French and English and in the 1840s there were laws passed assuring public schools with English Only, French Only and bilingual education would exist. But in the defeat of the South in the Civil war, the prohibition of French in schools in the 1920s, even the publication of Parkman’s history there were huge alienating factors. The term American came to identify people who were not Acadian or Cajun within the Cajun community. Today it does not mean that and Cajuns generally feel and believe that they are Americans. In my booklength manuscript  I discuss each of the facts asserted here but in this paper cannot do so. Here my sole focus — rambling as it may seem to some of you — is the reemergence of American identity in the postwar era.  That is complicated because the sturdy involves varied groups of Americans. It is also complicated because American identity itself was changing. But I view the postwar era as crucial to the reemergence of American identity in postwar Acadiana.

The moment in history when the documentary makers came to South Louisiana was a very specific moment.  Sam Broussard was serving in Europe in the Second World War and at some point was devoted to leading specifically Cajun men as bilingual operatives and translators dealing with the French Resistance and underground orMaquis against the Nazi occupation. Broussard did a good job of documenting these adventures and worked with New Orleans based historian Stephen E. Ambrose in preparing materials for an historian to use in understanding that experience. In recent years with the help of several south Louisiana institutions, Pat Mire and those working with him have done a good job of documenting that service in the military as Cajuns precisely and that service was a key part of that moment in historical documentary film Mon Cher Camarade. Among those featured in the Mire film is this writer’s long time acquaintance and distant relative General Robert Leblanc. The General was then a young man working with the resistance who provided  the allies with assistance in securing bridges, guarding prisoners and sabotaging rail transit.  The testimony within the Mire film given by sons of Vermilion Parish such as Abbeville’s Leblanc, Erath’s Lee Bernard and others in the film such as Sam Broussard shows that, during World War II, the  hundreds of French-speaking Cajun men from South Louisiana enlisted in the U.S. military not only did their duty as American soldiers but did many things that only they as the Cajuns they were could have done. Broussard’s work does not spend much time discussing the fact that the same thing had happened in World War One and that while it was on a much smaller scale than what occurred in World War Two it had the effect of helping to raise the ethnic consciousness of key figures like Dudley Leblanc and his brothers as well as their wives children and associates. The bad times that followed the First World War had not only included the general woes of the Great Depression in the narrowest sense but the struggles of agricultural and waterfront Americans which were a bit unique and cruelly affected all of  Acadian  heritage regions. But perhaps more often than is recognized some leaders among the Cajuns sent the generation that went to World War II off to war with a definite expectation that they would make a unique contribution in Europe and other Francophone regions and with a determination that if better times followed this war then their contributions  should not be forgotten. From the Cajun point of view there were many layers of disappointment and resentment through which to view the world in which they live, Many Cajuns calculated and deeply felt that the  linguistic skills and French heritage of the Cajun people had been denigrated for decades in South Louisiana. Despite whatever consciousness  had come from the First World War and may have been articulated by a few Cajun leaders this French heritage was, as the testimony of many in Pat Mire’s film points out,  ridiculed as well by American officers in the military induction and processing centers at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, and Fort Polk, Louisiana. These men would be coming back before our period of interest is over the process had just started in 1943 when we begin to consider the region. But the process would go beyond intelligence units and soon Cajus would be selected for such service across the breadth and depth of the invasion.

Preeminent Cajun and Acadian historian Carl Brasseaux and Acadian and Cajun folklorist Barry Ancelet have noted that the value of the French which resembled the French spoken in the rural areas where the invasion occurred was uniquely valuable to America. That is in addition to the capacity to speak French in general which also had great value. These were men who had been punished for speaking French in school and who had been humiliated by their homeland in various ways for preserving that linguistic and cultural heritage. The film shows as those who are Cajuns are likely to have had their relatives remark that these same somewhat alienated men found that their ability to speak French became of measurably valuable importance to the American war effort in French North Africa and in France and Belgium.

Indeed, Brasseaux points out that the Cajun translators were as important to the American war effort as the now more acclaimed and well known Native American “Code Talkers, ” yet, the Cajun translators’ contributions in this regard have been largely ignored until now. This is an important part of a new look at the American experience, from a South Louisiana perspective. But it is not the whole story my grandfather whose mother was a Leblanc and who was named Frank W. Summers was commanding a ship in the Pacific and his brother who also a Summers named  for the antebellum Vigilante Severin Leblanc their ancestor and mine — they and other Cajuns did their duty in a theater where French was rarely needed. The Cajun G.I.s of World War II were American citizens, they served everywhere Americans in large numbers served but  their cultural pedigree was relevant to the European theater  and their prowess in war there was a tribute to something other than the typical American experience. Their families shared all the experiences that many others had around the country. Those experiences of G.I.s were killed, wounded or came home unscathed to the naked eye as did other troops. The scale of this Cajun involvement can be seen as dwarfed by the scale of the conflict as a whole, by the scale of the American role in that conflict and even by the scale of the involvement of the State of Louisiana in that conflict. However, it is also possible to remember that the Cajuns were a group of people and the  launch of individual people who were very much involved in this huge global conflict, in the massive American campaigns and in the role of Louisiana in that war.[28]

C. The Long American History of the Cajuns and the Longstanding Relationship with

and History of  Perceptions by New England

The unpublished  book from which this paper is derived is as has been said before  about two very specific sets of photographs in large part and also very much about the Cajun people and the Acadiana region at the time those photographs were taken. One set taken by those working directly under Roy Stryker  is largely a collection of stills and the other although it includes some stills that are part of our story is largely a group of photographs exposed on movie film in movie cameras to make the movie Louisiana Story.[29] But each chapter so far has reminded the reader that perception is conditioned by those doing the perceiving and also tends to have some kind of real effect upon those people and patterns which are perceived.  This chapter goes beyond the previous chapters in the depth and seeking to understand what the documentarians employed by Standard Oil were doing. Still however there will not be a great deal of technical sophistication and detail in this part of the study. The aspect of sound  as it was operating at the time and specifically in the case of Louisiana Story and the brief mention of other technical aspects of the photographic or cinematic process in only a handful of cases will be worked into study however partially. This does bend some of the conventions of what a history text about South Louisiana might be expected to be but  not in the direction of becoming a manual for professional photographers. I like to believe I know a little something about photography but I  am far more interested in photographers as regards this text.  Taylor Calder-Marshall titled the most authoritative  and seminal biography of Robert Flaherty The Innocent Eye and the idea that Flaherty had an innocent point of view and was at his best depicting pristine cultures has been a widely held and broadly supported idea about his work. Thus in title and concept this chapter focuses on Flaherty’s work more than on the SONJ stills although not to the exclusion of that project or its images. How Louisiana Story fits into the body of Flaherty’s work is a question importance in determining how to evaluate it. Some idea of how it is regarded in the scholarship of documentary film can be gleaned from Ronald S. Magliozzi’s biographical essay on Flaherty which appears in the 1998 volume titled Filming Robert Flaherty’s Louisiana Story: The Helen Van Dongen Story. Magliozzi writes,”Louisiana Story was Flaherty’s return to themes of wilderness, exploration and innocence, and to the style of poetic humanism that distinguished his most highly regarded films.”  The context for the view of Cajun culture which was portrayed in the film also has a context within the documentary film community in the largest sense as it existed then and as it exists now. In the same volume just named, in his essay “Discover and Disclose; Helen Van Dongen and Louisiana Story” Richard Barsam discusses Flaherty and reveals how the community of critical and in a sense historical scholars view this body of work by a great American documentarian.

Flaherty’s view of the world was founded not only on a humanistic

faith in man but moreover on a romantic neglect of human evil. This tender vision embraces the human not the material continuum of this world.  Flaherty agreed with Rousseau that the most “primitive” or least advanced people are the happiest and the least corrupt and that the arts and sciences that comprise what we call civilization corrupt man’s native goodness. [30]

One may note that in this book terms like sexism and ethno-centricity are sometimes used but so are terms like misogyny and bigotry. It is hard to say how ethnocentric Flaherty may have been as a documentarian and a New Englander viewing the world. But I really do think it is important to remember that he made Man of Aran[31] about the extremely rural part of  Irish population coping with the extremes of nature. I feel that Flaherty felt as connected to an Irish sense of identity as much as to any other form of identity with which he was born. If that is even remotely true then it does something to prove along with other evidence that he was not a bigot. He knew the family he created in Louisiana Story was purely fictional and that his actors were quite different from the people they portrayed. However sometimes he seems to have been a bit seduced by his own fiction, perhaps almost any filmmaker would have been seduced by the beauty of the work.

Lionel Leblanc was a real trapper, could really speak French and really knew the wetlands. J.C. Boudreaux really had a way with a pirogue, with animals and really hooked and pulled in an alligator when asked to do so for the film. Evelyn Bienvenue could really cook and keep house in a remote cabin if need be. Choosing these people and not professional actors was part of Flaherty’s integrity. In a later chapter we will Cajun character and mainstream American perception of that character in more detail. However, perhaps here it is fair to ask what the American audience  could be expected to accept about anyone like the Cajun trappers. One might argue that cowboys and other groups were portrayed with no greater authenticity and that although almost all of the cowboy films were both openly fictional and set in the past  nonetheless the American people were absorbing an image of the cowboy that really people had to live with and which was in various ways misleading. An increasingly urban society may have needed to believe that this in extreme wilderness or rural environments were more “other” than they actually were. Many American communities were still developing a more urban and suburban identity and the a kind of insecurity about this new life in an industrial superpower of large and midsize cities created a need to show that people living and working  in the vast wildernesses of this country were not just Americans who had some differences with their countrymen and countrywomen. The people had to be a bit more exotic. I believe the Cajun trappers were a bit exotic. I also believe that Flaherty did not attempt and did not achieve an academic ethnological film capturing their way of life. He created a work of art which preserved some real visual and other information.  Flaherty was certainly not unique in bringing a great number of parameters and predispositions to his efforts to portray a subject. Rather he was normal in that regard.

We must remember what was uniquely Cajun and what was generally American about the end of the war. The end of a Second World War that would create the postwar conditions which more generally define our period in this text. Leaving aside many important influences, facts and considerations let us consider the end of the war and the growth of the oil industry as the major defining characteristics of the moment in history at which all of this began. Now we can turn to the historical  tradition that defined the Cajun people.

Those who live on the gulf coast today or for other reasons watch a lot of televised or online weather reporting may be familiar with the “cone of uncertainty” that predicts a hurricane’s path from where it is a at any given time to where it may be in ever increasing intervals of time. The end of the cone is wide and it’s scary to be in it but the chances that the worst part of the storm will hit any particular place is not very high in that wide end, On the other hand the end just near the present location of the hurricane is very narrow and there is a lot of certainty about it. Not so many people are likely to be scared but those in that ned are almost sure to be hit by the storm’s fury. In Acadian history this metaphor is more apt than it would be for most places. It is very easy to show the connection of current Cajun culture through history to the coming of Louisiana into the union in with the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. The nest period is from 1755 to 1803 and it is a complicated period in the extreme. It starts with the exile famously described by the great American Poet William Wadsworth Longfellow in his epic poem Evangeline. Then there is the period in Acadie in what is now Canada and had begun to be Camada when the Cajuns were living there before the exile. For many people that is the totality of Acadian history. However in this chapter we will briefly consider the possibility of Acadian anxiety that exists on the other side of the Atlantic. Finally, we come to the very tenuous and somewhat mythological history of the Acadians before they were French. It is a lot to consider and it will not all be proven either. We are concerned with what existed as a possible historical sensibility of  the Cajuns of our historic moment and geographical region. We will at least acknowledge the possibility of all the Cajuns in some earlier form may once have been.  But in considering the tradition we do not look away from the people they were in that very exact period of time which we are considering.   It is not easy to select out a few aspects of this long and rich tradition to include in a chapter such as this. But something must be provided before any more detailed questions can be really answered about what the documentarians did or did not see and how America correctly or incorrectly sees the Cajuns. It is also true that one wishes to appeal to a reasonably broad readership and not much prior knowledge can be presumed of a reasonably broad readership. For all those reasons before any of the questions of perception that form the heart of this study  can  receive much attention the story of the people and their place (often referred to here as Acadiana) must be briefly repeated and summarized.  This is an attempt at a cultural history and the difficulties of tracing the origins and dating the true beginning of a culture are manifold.  With a work of even the most creative history of a nation state if it but meets the duly  meticulous standards of Academic political history then it is possible to talk of roots and origins and yet still write with confident authority of a year or perhaps even an instant when the political unit being discussed became fully itself.  Such confidence  eludes one who attempts the history of a culture.  There can never be a single date when the cultural complex which was the civilization of the crumbling Roman Empire’s Western Provinces became the culture and civilization of Medieval European Christendom.  Between 476 and 800 A.D. a complex variety of forces was weaving a new reality far more complicated than changing the role and legal prerogatives of the Emperor. “Europe” does not really have a birthday and I am inclined to think any scholar who gives it one more than a little bit of a fool.

 

the unique problems of doing a history of Acadiana may seem paltry compared to a history of all Europe but they are significant enough and for any particularities they may have they also resemble the problems of cultural history as a whole.  The study of culture by anthropologists relies for much of its rhetorical  and cognitive structure on the ethnographic efforts at what Clifford Geertz has called “thick  descriptions” and upon the efforts of ethologists to translate numerous “thick descriptions”a database for comparative analysis, termed ethnology.  The cultural historian must perform some of the same descriptive and comparative tasks as the anthropologist but must also attempt to show change over time and create a narrative or expositive structure which remains true to the muse Clio and her particular demands.  This sacred muse demands something beyond the anthropologist’s “ethnographic present.”

Lauren C. Post, professor at San Diego State university, Carl A. Brasseaux and James H. Dorman, a colleague of Brasseaux at U.S.L. and then at the same institution named the university of Louisiana, are three seminal influences on this my own interpretation of Acadian history.  Post and Brasseaux’s work shall find its way into endnotes from time to time.  Dorman’s work is a separate case in that it primarily finds its place here in this early part of the first real chapter beyond general introductions.  Dorman’s The People Called Cajuns:  An Introduction to an Ethnohistory  has made very good use of Frederick Barth’s work which defines culture not in terms of changeable content but in terms of boundaries.  To carry forth Barth’s hypothesis to a clear extreme, among a great many people in the United States and elsewhere Anglo-Saxon cultural identity prevails despite the nearly unbridgeable gap between Graham Greene and Beowulf or between nuclear missiles and woad-smeared warriors the culture persists although over time it has changed a great deal. Such change ought not even to be presumed to weaken the culture. In  a great deal of its content the modern life lived in the setting which Princess Catherine visits with nostalgia as Kate Middleton’s hometown  may more resemble life in contemporary Japan than in thirteenth century London, yet traditions and customs reinforce loyalties which go back through a people’s history — England really is still England.  These analogies are not Dorman’s, nor are they entirely appropriate to the the points he is trying to make and which I am agreeing with so emphatically.  The point is that cultural content functions to maintain a sense of shared identity — “we-ness”–and that where such identity exists a culture exists.  Culture like all living things can be young or dying or both or neither.  Culture must allow for the individual variety among individuals and sub-culture within the whole. The houses one lives in and the food one eats all have a lot to do with one’s cultural identity but the whole is both greater than and distinct from the sum of its parts.

In understanding the emergence of identity it is possible to look at Acadiana and the Acadian ethnic community in two contrasting ways. Perhaps in a very Cajun way I see both the view that Cajuns have something to say about the evolution of the whole country as being a very valid point of view and I also value the point of view that they are unique and somewhat different than the rest of the country or any region in the country.  That is  not to hold two contradictory opinions but is rather reflective of a larger structure of opinions and understandings of how the United states and societies in general operate and evolve.

I was not born until 1964. Therefore for me all of this period is in fact history outside of my personal set of recollections. But anyone my age cannot help but feel that this is a world much closer to the one we all know.   This story ends not with some great conflict or transformation. It simply stops as the world is going on for a pople still caught up in change, still living between the past and the future. So having spent the first part of this conclusory chapter telling how the legacy endured in specific forms I truly end in 1953 remembering what it was like or may have been like at the point when the SONJ projects ended.

C. How That Lifestyle Has Been Remembered: The Evolving Perception  and Memory of the Reality behind the Film and the Pictures.

World’s Deepest Oil Well

Brought In At Weeks Island

The world’s deepest oil well was brought in as a producer this week on Weeks Island by the Shell Oil Company, it was learned today.

The Well Smith State No. 3 is the fourth producer brought in by the company on Weeks Island. A fourth well is the Myles Salt Company well.

The well was completed March 27 at a depth of  13,867 13,868 feet officials said….   [32]

The article goes on to tell of other deep wells in the area and how much they are producing.  The oil industry was certainly very much on the minds of the people in the region as Louisiana Story was being made. That leaves aside the promise of offshore drilling which was in many ways an outgrowth of Louisiana wetlands drilling. The oil industry did offer a future. The local Cajun community already discussed problems with canal planning and spills but there was a need and a desire to work with the industry. In times where Angels of the Basin and the struggle related to the BP spill and the legacy lawsuits and so many matters come readily to mind  for Cajuns and others in Acadiana who view the drilling scenes in the Flaherty  film they are not the only things that come to mind Most Cajuns and other residents of this region still want to work with the oil industry for the foreseeable future. Much has changed but that has not changed even for the ones who are most critical of this industry as it currently exists. Only a few would would like to see the heirs of SONJ and Humble go before the resource is fully exploited. The struggles and tensions between the marsh and the drilling rig continue with the images stilll speaking to real lives and communities.

One cannot watch the blowout scene in Louisiana Story without thinking of these events. The perception of events from the more distant past is shaped by images from the more recent past.

My own work on this project began in 1991 and I was not the only person in the area thinking about these topics at that time. Here is an excerpt of other work being done more or less at the same time. Almost no real coordination or communication occurred regarding these things. But the notice following this paragraph appeared in the Abbeville paper when I was researching and writing early drafts of this topic at LSU while earning my Masters degree. In Abbeville the memory of Louisiana Story has endured. It also is featured prominently in Angels of the Basin which is a film which deals with such current  crises and coastal erosion and such a recent event as Hurricane Katrina. So there are many reasons why not only film and photography but this film and these photographs have remained highly relevant to current discussions of film and photography.  The struggle for a full understanding of Cajun life and identity today must address these images. There is no way to ignore the role in shaping the image and identity of a people and a place without greatly limiting the understanding of how that place and people moved into the world of mass communications through film and photography.

In 1991 Abbeville added a new feature to its local architecture as the Abbey Players acquired their current theater building and set it up for business. It was also the year that I began graduate study in history. It was not long after that that Louisiana Story found its way into my research and their theater in different ways.  I use these long cites from the Meridional in English so that readers can form their own ideas of how much and how little this represents a place that is like the places they have studied are different from those places.

Abbeville Meridional June 5 1992

PATRONS NIGHT COORDINATION— Abbeville Fortnightly Club coordinators have teamed up with the Abbey Players to coordinate  several  wonderful patrons nights for the summer production of “At the Picture Show on Magdalen Square”, a musical to begin here next week.   Patrons Nights will be June 17 and 18 and a jazz brunch on June 21 Fortnightly members Susie Bertrand and Tracy Russo met with Abbey Players Deborah Atchetee and Marie Vaughan Regular performances begin June 19 Tickets are available at The Apple Tree in Abbeville, Raccoon Records and Video in Lafayette

Take a nostalgic trip back to Abbeville in the 1940s and come to the Abbey Players for their original musical  “ At the Picture Show on Magdalen Square” it written and directed  by F. Wade Russo, an Abbevillian now living in New York. Patrons’ Nights are on Friday June 17th, Saturday June 18th, and a Jazz Brunch noon on Sunday, June 19th.. For information call 893-2442. Regular performances begin June 19th for a limited run, with’ performances every Wednesday through Sunday through July 4th. Tickets are available at The Apple Tree in Abbeville, Raccoon Records in Lafayette and Verna’s Hallmark in New Iberia. The Abbey Players in happy to announce that, starting now, there will be reserved seating for all shows (Patron’s night excluded). Get your tickets early for this limited run musical. See you at “The Picture Show”.

The truth is that the writer F. Wade Russo has had the kind of stellar career at places like Juliard and the Boston Conservatory. He had left behind life in Acadiana and was proud of his Sicilian heritage in Cajun Country. Nonetheless, he celebrates his  heritage in the region as well. In addition he certainly had many Cajun friends growing up and the established Sicilian community in Vermilion Parish has many ties by blood and marriage to the Acadian ethnic community. But still, the Cajun connection to the work is a complicated one at least.  My own connection to this community is not without complications and it is in fact a complicated community. Brasseaux’s book Acadiana[33] cites the judgement of other scholars and the direct evidence presented in his book to show the great cultural complexity of the place and its peoples.  Only a small glimpse of that aspect of Acadiana’s identity and essence has been presented here. It also deserves to be said that Louisiana Story is not like Evangeline it does not have the same towering respect and also pervasive influence that poem has had in the culture. But Wade Russo’s musical revue was certainly a sign that the movie had become part of the local cultural scene in many ways. Some of the material taken from the 1992 press related to the production will show how it lived again in the popular consciousness:

Abbey Players Theatre will open its doors this evening for the first production of the original musical ‘At the Picture Show on Magdalen Square.’ In honor of the special occasion, Abbeville Mayor Brady Broussard has proclaimed Friday, June 19. as ‘At the Picture Show on Magdalen Square’ Day here. Written and directed by Abbeville native (Staff photo {of Russo included here} by Angie Hebert) Wade Russo. the musical is based on the premier of the 1940’s movie, ‘The Louisiana Story’ — but with a local twist.[34]

To have a day proclaimed for it is far more than is typical for events in the Parish or this small city. The interest in the return of the successful Russo to his native roots is likely one of the  reasons Abbeville got behind this celebration. The article continues:

. To read these names brings back precious memories of the gala premiere of the ‘Louisiana Story* at Frank’s Theatre and the good old days. Residents and businesses are remembered in scenes throughout the production; including the late Donald Frederick who lost his life when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Abbeville paid respect to Frederick by naming a boulevard in his honor As the musical says, from the church on the square to the Audrey Hotel and the smell of the syrup mill, Abbeville is where our hearts belong.[35]

The cohesion of the community goes back to the way the film was dealt with by the paper and others at the time and does not seem to have diminished.  The names in this list are left in place partly so that the reader can remember seeing some family names earlier in the text and also be fairly sure of not having seen others. The original production in 1992 was about as big a dramatic and musical experience as Abbeville has ever seen. Few can equal or surpass it in a town that does have a good bit of music and drama. This is just an affirmation that this film has remained highly relevant to the way in which people of this region and locale currently define and identify themselves.

Eight years after the rather extensive support that the original production of the Wade Russo work had received Abbeville celebrated the sesquicentennial of its founding ( that’s right 1850 after saying it is rooted in the 1840’s but the founding was based on act act late in the total process of founding — its incorporation — most of the work was done in the 1840s). Mayor Brady Broussard chose Russo’s musical revue as the centerpiece of the celebration and it was largely billed as a celebration of life in Abbeville in the 1940s. That may be fair enough but I think we have seen that the premiere was by no means a typical day and the issues and interests it brought to the fore were by no means limited to Abbeville.  Louisiana Story has remained however part of the consciousness of this city and a mayor named Broussard could appreciate that reality.

One of the reasons that Dudley Leblanc features prominently in this paper is because is because of the rather complicated relationship I believe that he has to the evolution of the screenplay. The second reason is because of his connection to the region, people and newspapers. The third reason is because of his writing about the past in the first point sense as regards my outline.

The rather cumbersome and lengthy title of this paper indicates the importance of both Acadiana and the Standard Oil of New Jersey  Documentary Projects. The purpose here is not to examine either reality without reference to the other. The purpose is to examine the reality of both without forgetting that they are each distinct and large realities that have in fact influenced one another but that either reality could exist without the other. However, the actual works produced about Acadiana from individual still shots, to collections called stories to short films  like Pirogue Maker[36] by Arnold Eagle and on into the great film Louisiana Story, those things could not exist without Acadiana and the Cajun community.

The pictures and the film funded by Standard Oil tell a story and one important question is whether it is to any degree the story they came to tell is a true story. Whether the story they did tell was in any way a true story. My undergraduate studies were heavy in literature and I have a high regard for the truth of fiction itself. But fiction is not the same kind of truth as sportswriting for example which I have sometimes done for a living. This study takes a look at the degree to which this group of skilled observers and communicators did communicate fact and create historical documents or sources.  We have already examined that question a bit from the point of view of the subjects themselves, the question perhaps is not so simple in resolution as some might assume that it would be. However, all though not directly exhausting the subject or even doing it justice the study has made clear the evidence sufficient to show that the Cajuns were not a pristine culture. The Cajuns were not pristine in their contact with the New England environment. They had fought with New England Yankees in every war since the Civil War and against them in the Civil War. They had played a unique if debatable role in the War of 1812 and the American Revolution. None of these qualities were true of Flaherty’s Samoans, Inuit clans or people of the Irish outer islands. Although of course with the rural Irish there are greater similarities. These are Flaherty’s connections of course. The people of the SONJ project coming together mostly from the FSA experience are more oriented to see the Cajuns as rural Americans and that is generally these sense one gets in the difference between the two groups of images. The SONJ pictures had they formed a movie would have captured more of the Acadian experience of moving into the mainstream. That was of course a major theme in Flaherty’s film as well.  So we still in a recent book have New York’s elite discussing the primitive Acadians. That theme of misunderstanding is a very old one. But the truth is that New England is in general perpetually born unaware of its connection with the Acadian experience. This is true even though the  New Englanders and Acadians  of this region have fought on the same side in most wars since the Revolutionary War or War for American Independence.

But the people  being photographed had an even older relationship with New England than the Revolutionary era of course.  Pierre Maisonnat had been a scourge of New England shipping long ago. One might wonder to what degree the struggle between Acadians and Yankees continued in yet another century in the propaganda value of selection of decidedly backwards subjects to shoot compared to the most forward thinking or looking subjects. Lafayette, Louisiana was not Boston no matter what but neither was it the La Tour cabin. Perhaps some of the people they shot with cameras may have descended from Maisonnat or his men born in Acadia who fired cannon at New England ships or they may have descnded from some other Acadian privateer under the French standard. Less than perfect relations between the regions and peoples of Acadian and Yankee designation is an American story too little told and studied,  Pierre Maisonnat  dit Baptiste was born in Bergerac, France in 1663 in the larger region of Western France which besides Bergerac included La Rochelle and Poitiers  from which most Acadian colonists came. Flaherty and Webb had not grown up hating Maisonnat but that is not the only way a tradition of hostility can find its way into subsequent traditions. So whether it seems fair or not this study will not presume goodwill was an essential part of whatever perspective distinguished these documentarians. The relationship  between New Englanders and Acadians was not all hostile and negative. One chapter in Brasseaux’s Founding of the New Acadia[37] is devoted to tracking the positive aspects of the relations between what amounted to neighboring communities. Those good relations between wars included trade, personal friendship and varied forms of what amounted to political and diplomatic cooperation. But the point of all this is that in no way whatsoever was this a pristine culture in the sense that Flaherty was recording either an aboriginal culture which had been in this place since before the start of the historical record nor was this in any way a culture which had never been observed by the people who most defined the basic culture of New York and the North Eastern Seaboard of the United States. There is a third way in which the Cajuns might be a pristine culture for Flaherty. They could be pristine in the way that they faced the natural environment without the support of a larger outside society before the coming of the oil industry.  In the chapters so far it has been shown that the most rural Cajuns participated in a cash economy, were connected to many institutions in towns and communities and  in many other ways were not pristine. But it is also true that while a trapper might buy all his traps he respected the trapper who could make his own if  he needed to and maybe ran one or two handmade traps. The trapper’s wife might buy most of her vegetables but still respected the trapper’s wife who had a garden, chickens,ducks, turtles and a few fruit trees within the distance a woman could walk carrying a baby. That was still an admired accomplishment. The average trapper might not live a pristine lifestyle at all in this last since but perhaps had rags and patches of  pure subsistence capabilities and a view that those trappers would prosper most who made their money in the larger market and kept most of it by producing a great deal themselves when no trapping would or could occur. The SONJ photographers certainly captured many images of these varied kinds of economic activities near the home which were often either directly in support of the man’s work far from home or were undertaken by women. In addition to subsistence, women could generate cash income from excess eggs, chickens and produce. This could be even more important to farmers and cattlemen than to trappers although the farmers and trappers usually had more money and wealth. The farmers and cattlemen only got paid a few times each year in many cases and these small sales provided cash flow to the families which could make a large difference in the survival of the farm or ranch.    So generally, there was no pristine culture to record by any real meaning of the word.

It is important to realize how much Acadiana had been defined and how deep Acadian roots were before the Second World War. That is especially true in a presentation given during the Obama administration.   There were deep and powerful traditions shaping identity that neither the Second World War nor the Post War period could be likely to alter very much. A tiny glimpse into that history is permissible here despite the limitation of space and presentation time.

This writer has read and researched thoroughly a great deal about the Acadian people of most of half a century and all of that forms a sort of comprehensive cross reference which is yet subordinated another much smaller body of research either cited or at least catalogued here. This thesis seeks use all of that research to evaluate that evidence appearing in the documentaries funded by Standard Oil of New Jersey in these years.Whatever innocence Robert Flaherty may have been famous for it was not contagious to the SONJ photographers or to Roy Stryker. We will leave most questions of method to Chapter Four but a few things must be said here to show why a scholar should at least presume to take the documentary work of the SONJ photographers seriously.

Throughout the letters of Todd Webb and the Rosskams one finds reference to interviews with local informants and with experts.  There are references to discussing local history with journalists and professors associated with Louisiana State University and also with Southwestern Louisiana Institute (now University of Southwestern Louisiana or USL) . Photographic sets were made from fairly objective samples taken by floating down the Bayous.  Bayou Teche and Bayou Piere Part were especially well documented.  From the worf of the Stryker photographers a blend of subjective creativity with social science emerges.  Their picture of Louisiana folklife can be correlated with other sources of information.  The historian can then produce a more complete vision of the past than might be possible without using the largely honest and truthful if not necessarily unbiased photographs. FOr one’s biases do not make one dishonest. The overall effort was in may carefully formed opinion an effort to tell the truth. There is another question not so easily  be answered. Does a skilled artist produce the kind of information that most interest a cultural historian studying that subject which the artist is also studying? From that question derives another question, don’t the artist and the cultural historian perceive and wish to perceive and present something very different from one another?

While in this text I clearly pay more attention to the photographers as subjects themselves than I do to most journalists writing strict reportage the gap is not infinite. I believe that they photographed the Cajuns in Cajun country and that is what the reader is invited to believe as well. Vastly more attention is paid to the photographers as minds than another scholar might pay to census takers and rightly so — BUT,  the photographers are secondary to the attempt to use their work in order to write about the subject both of the photographs and the thesis. That subject is the Cajuns and at the same time how the Cajuns were perceived by the larger society in the United States especially,

The history of the region can not subsist only in a few sources but rather in a large number of diverse sources and in fact the need for perspective has led this writer to discuss remote events which make the photographs and other documentary sources intelligible.  The photographs will mean little to anyone who approaches them without knowing that the people of South Louisiana have a history very distinct from the people of central Mississippi, western Virginia, or the hill country of South Carolina. In other words while deeply identified with the Confederate Ordeal of the Civil War and all the periods flowing from it that never became as important an identifiers. Beyond that they had many differences between themselves and others in the region. These differences were deeply in a distinct historical experience. A cursory summary of that experience is necessary to continue to speak of the Cajun people and to mean anything intelligible.

From approximately 1604 until approximately 1640 a widely scattered population of French colonists developed in the first Acadia, which  is now known as Nova Scotia in Canada.  These colonists suffered all of the handicaps of a scattered and ill organized population in a new place.  By about 1640, a relatively large increase in immigration from Centre-Ouest provinces and from Normandy began to settle in Acadia and to build farms and villages.  They began to build levees and to construct a hydraulic system which allowed them to manage this area which was very susceptible to floods.  A distinctive French colonial community had begun to develop along with a modicum of prosperity and the steady growth of the population.  Politically however, this community was soon to become a minority culture in the control of aliens. How can something that far back matter to this paper? Many might ask this question legitimately enough. But the whole history of Acadians is one of both preserving identity and evolving it. In addition I believe it to be very relevant both to federal theories and practice of American government and to the life we must all share as Americans who see a country marked by tensions between Americans who identify as such and also have other identities.

By the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 the 2,000 or more Acadians along the Bay of Fundee became officially British subjects.  While this was the first of many terrible political disappointments which would shape the history of these people it does not seem to have quashed the optimism of these people for their young colony.[38]  Tension with the British, and continued immigration from La Chausec, Poitous, France indicate the relative confidence of the people and their desire to control their own destiny.  This ambiguous state of affairs continued until the sporadic violence of the past developed into the war known to American schoolchildren as the French and Indian War.  The undeclared agreement of most Cajuns, maritime Acadians and scholars is that during the violence between 1753 and 1755 the Acadian culture became something truly distinct from French or even French Canadian culture.  By 1755, the population of Acadia had approached 15,000.  The British authorities coerced as many Acadians as possible into ships and scattered 6,000 of these people among the British colonies of the New World.  Many of those scattered were refused entry into the colonies and died attempting to reach France and Santo Domingo.  Numerous others did in fact arrive at both their ancestral homeland and at the West Indian colony.  A number of others settled amongst the colonies which would become the United States.  In Acadia, Joseph Broussard dit Beausoleil commanded and organized a sizable resistance which, in league with some Indians and with the sympathy of all Acadians who had been able to remain on their own or other farms, maintained intermittent military pressure on the British until his surrender in 1759, after the fall of Quebec. Today, anyone can go to Nova Scotia and visit the Grand Pre historic Site. The development of this as a place of tourism and pilgrimage especially for Cajuns without excluding other people from what it has to offer. Eighteenth Century Grand Pre was an economically and otherwise significant small town in the colony of Acadie through several changes in the politics and Imperial organization of the region.. Today there is a statue of Evangeline the Acadian heroine of Longfellow’s epic poem [39]. There is also chapel reproducing the one where Acadians were imprisoned prior to expulsion. There are murals, engraved names and other aspects of the memorial preserve some of the events of Le Grand Derangement. I have made a pilgrimage there  with some family members and friends as many Louisiana Acadians do and the spot was visited by Dudley Leblanc during the years after this study and others although the changes in the presentation and form of the place is a question beyond that of this thesis  In recent years a decent number of  scholars have turned their attention to the Acadian experience before and during the expulsion but for a good treatment of the colonial era I think that there is no substitute for the brief and highly readable book by Naomi Griffiths. One fact which needs to emerge and that is that clearly the Acadians who held to this Acadian identity were people who had clung to a heritage in which small towns and the farms, countryside and surrounding wilderness could be important places. The documentarians who worked for Standard Oil had a definite center of their community and it was New York City. The countryside of Nova Scotia was a place few of them had visited but was a part of the consciousness of all Cajuns.

The troubles of the Acadian people and their enormous productivity and the horror of their loss has been well documented by John Mack Faragher in his book,  A Great and Noble Scheme: The Tragic Story of the Expulsion of the French Acadians from Their American Homeland[40]. It is important for the reader to understand that just as moral outrage is at the heart of many historical texts about the institution of slavery, women’s  civil status and the Third Reich this writer also believes that British behavior towards the Acadians in this period was a moral outrage. But it is not enough to say that it was a moral outrage. British behavior was perhaps mostly motivated by greed but the complexities of the time were greater than that single set of motivations that derive from greed for the beautifully developed dykelands and associated territories of the Acadians.

The resentments of the British towards the Acadians had been marked by many instances of bloodshed. The Acadians had developed many aspects of the martial reputation which would most often typify them over those centuries which are most clearly traceable in their history, The British would use the claim or pretext of treaty violations at the Battle of Beausejour in justifying their expulsion of the Acadians. The Acadians had become known as the French Neutrals through the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713. Really this was a process of several minor agreements subsequent to this larger treaty. The Acadians diligently provided large agricultural surplus to the British, as a community they promoted peace between the Empires and as an asset to the British Empire they cultivated a peaceful prosperity in a secure and stable set of relationships with the MiqMaqs. But they remained Roman Catholics, insisted on their rights to trade with the French  and were never in doubt that they had long fought against the British Empire. As required they greatly reduced their arms but they continued to drill their local militia units to a substantial degree  without any flag they could fight for in a major war. The British had agreed that they not be compelled to fight against their fellow French. Finally the time came when one more British victory would end the French presence in their region. That Battle of Beausejour would certainly end their chance to survive as a buffer between empires if the British won.  This  battle was a British victory during a time of many triumphs over France and the French. The British had a major objective in a small conflict seeking to secure the Isthmus of Chignecto under British control. Control of the isthmus was crucial to the French  and its fall would be disastrous because it was the only gateway between Quebec and Louisbourg during the winter months. Acadians were already neutrals although less than before but believed securing the Isthmus in peace was vital to their future and a token force were in the area and were caught up in the conflict. The fighting began on June 3, 1755, when a British army under Lieutenant-Colonel Robert Monckton  acted on long discussed plans made across the British Empire but staged out of nearby Fort Lawrence, and attacked French, MiqMaq, Acadian and other interests by attacking a fort of emerging significance when he besieged the small French regular garrison and a handful of other forces at Fort Beauséjour.  After a fortnight under siege, Louis Du Pont Duchambon de Vergor, the fort’s French commander, capitulated on June 16. It was this disastrous defeat at Beausejour that sealed the fate of the Acadians  This fighting became an infamous treaty breach in some circles and the Battle of Beausejour was a causis bellum and provided a workable legal issue for the expulsion planners among the British. One of the combatants in that battle accompanied by a few picked men was a man known as Joseph Broussard “dit Beausoleil.Beausoleil” means “beautiful sunlight” it is also the name of a village in Acadie where several families including the Broussards from which Joseph  lived.  Those are the accepted explanations of the  identifying handle of Joseph Broussard dit Beausoleil or “called Beausoleil”.However at the level of the mermaids and werewolves at the start of Louisiana Story there is a somewhat whispered and denied tradition that Beausoleil is also a code name for Basileus which means king in Greek. The currency of the name remains might in Cajun culture at the time of this writing. That is true both of the Broussard family’s name and the handle  Beausoleil is also the name of a band led by Michael Doucet which has been a successful part of the ethnic music scene for decades.

Shortly after the battle of Beausejour  the horrors of the expulsion and exile began. Joseph Broussard and a number of men with the Broussard and a few other clans escaped deportation and organized disgruntled bands of MiqMaqs and attacked British forces for quite a while. Some argue that there is a tradition of twelve raids by bands led by Broussard. His son Amand who would fight in the Battle of Baton Rouge was said to have led a small squad when he was very young indeed. But in the end the Broussard led force would surrender. That first great scattering by the British forces in which so many died and so many others separated has become the central event of Cajun history and literary tradition and is known as Le Grand Derangement. These troubles also led in many ways and to a controverted extent to the creation of the forces which brought about the American Revolution. This has been written as well by Douglas Edward Leach as by anybody else in his book,  Roots of Conflict: British Armed Forces and Colonial Americans, 1677-1763[41].

The period between 1754 and 1765 saw a great deal of suffering and a struggle for security among the scattered Acadians.  During that period it is likely that at least a few of those driven from their homes made their way in small groups on an inland route into Louisiana down the Mississippi River and into the French colony of Louisiana.  Many died in the Chesapeake area and others were subjected to near slavery.  During the 1760’s nearly 3,000 went to Santo Domingo and among them Beausoleil Broussard, at the lowest point in his career.  Troubled politics still plagued the Acadians, rebellions and revolutions successful and otherwise would strike New Orleans, the Thirteen British colonies, Santo Domingo, and France itself before the end of the century and either the revolutions of the preparations for them would affect the lives of most of these Acadian refugees and immigrants, perhaps heightening their desire to carve out a place for themselves to reunite their people and to live in peace.

In 1763, early in the scattering, the Treaty of Paris gave possession of Louisiana to Spain.  It was into Spanish Louisiana that the first large and well organized Acadian immigrants came.  Beausoleil  brought approximately 4,000 Acadians into the territory once occupied by the Attakapas Indians.  Attakapas country consists of the present Louisiana parishes of St. Martin, St. Mary,  Lafayette, Iberia, and Vermilion.  This region combing marsh and prairie was the first area developed into a new Acadia.  The population of Attakapas spread into the prairies to the West.  Those western prairies were known as the Opelousas country and extended to the present border of Texas.  The successful establishment of the Acadianos in these two regions attracted the attention of their remaining relatives and allies.  In 1785, Olivier Theriot brought another large group of approximately 3,000 Acadian refugees and others associated with them from France.  These Acadians settled along the Bayou LaFourche then known as “La Fourche des Chetimaches” after the aboriginal inhabitants of the area.  La Fourche and its environs, nearer New Orleans and composed almost entirely of elongated riverine villages, developed a somewhat different way of life than the “prairie Cajuns.”  The inhabitants of Bayou La Fourche are sometimes referred to as “bayou Cajuns.”  The Attakapas and Opelousas area make up the heel of the boot which is the foot of Louisiana and the La Fourche region forms the ball of the boot.  The instep or arch, to sustain the visual metaphor, consisted of a vast swamp only lightly used by Chitimacha Indians known as the Atchafalaya Swamp.  This region was settled partly by a few adventurous families from the Attakapas region during the late eighteenth century and more significantly by Acadians from La Fourche who sold their earlier farms to American slaveholders during the early decades of the nineteenth century after the Louisiana Purchase in 1803.  The swamp, the ecosystem where Louisiana Story is set has always existed on the edge of Cajun residency, development and identity. Kathleen Duval in her book Independence Lost: Lives on the Edge of the American Revolution[42] describes the life of one of Joseph Broussard’s sons Amand during the American revolution. One fact which this book brings out is the importance of cattle for the Acadians in Spanish Louisiana.   Le Grand Derangement has had an impact so powerful that despite the acculturation of later immigrants to the Acadiana areas of settlement during the nineteenth century this tends to define Cajun identity.  Trent Angers’ book as well as countless periodicals attest to the popular perception in the area of how the people were formed in crisis  and the exiled migrations that began in Acadie and ended in  Acadiana.  Furthermore, while Longfellow’s Evangeline may not hold sway in the literary canon of the late twentieth century it did influence other Americans’ understanding of the Cajuns for a long time.  In reality the migrations were enormous within the context of North American colonial migrations of time and they did have a deep impact upon the descendants of the migrants. the upheaval also affected the world over the next many years.

Joseph Broussard was not to survive his arrival in Louisiana by very long. But there is an online article by Donald J. Arceneaux of the Attakapas Historical Association[43]  which does a good job of summarizing the less controversial aspects of his life and role in Louisiana. I will quote this article at great length once and save space over most alternatives. But first it is useful to spend a few lines on the term Attakapas which applies to the region where the Louisiana Story was filmed. The Terre des Atakapas is named for the Attakapas an aboriginal American tribe known for small numbers, ferocity and cannibalism who were very diminished in wars with other aboriginal American nations, the Spanish and the French before the Acadians under Joseph Broussard came to this region. The Prairie where Abbeville and Lafayette sit is the Attakapas country in Acadian and Louisiana parlance and folklore and also in the realm of folklore and semi historical rumor it is believed that a good number of Atakapas (or Attakapas or Atakkapas) were killed in skirmishes and their wives and children taken as mistresses and second families by the Acadians. Some of their descendants joined the Houma who also interbred and intermarried heavily with the Acadians. The Attakapas name was so hated by neighbors that only people who are almost pure European White have ever dared to use it since first contact. There are remnants but no tribe. The remnants are spread over a large area.

Before the region was settled there was an experience and set of events in New Orleans that are significant. As Arceneaux points out, the Acadians arrived in New Orleans and engaged in the fulfillment of many religious duties and transactions at the Catholic Church there. they also tended to financial transactions involving problems with currency exchange. Later in this introduction in conjunction with the events of the 1880s the importance and the names of some of the women in these events will be revisited. This is considered by most Cajuns to be the start of the large scale cattle industry in the United States. Then Arceneaux describes as well as anyone what happened next.

The Acadians had the experience raising crops and cattle in their old, north-temperate-climate homeland. A contingent of the Beausoleil group consisted of former residents of the Isthmus of Chignecto region, where profitable Acadian cattle ranching had been well established for decades. After only about a week in New Orleans, the new immigrants were apparently offered land in the far western Attakapas frontier. Frenchmen Antoine-Bernard Dauterive and André Masse were Attakapas land partners. On 2 March 1765 in the City, the partners relinquished title to their frontier land, presumed to have been along Bayou Teche in the vicinity of present-day St. Martinville. In exchange for this ceded tract, the partners were given a large expanse of land named La Prairie du Vermilion located well west of St. Martinville. It is written that the Acadians were to settle specifically on the partners’ ceded east-bank land opposite St. Martinville. It is also reported that the partners’ relinquished land extended from the east-bank all the way to the mouth of Bayou Portage. Dauterive had cattle in the Attakapas. On 4 April in New Orleans, he made a compact with eight Acadian “chiefs” including: Joseph dit Beausoleil Broussard, Alexandre Broussard, Joseph Guilbeau, Jean Dugas, Olivier Thibodeau, Jean-Baptiste Broussard, Pierre Arseneau and Victor Broussard. These eight leaders were possibly also acting for their comrades not present at the formal meeting attended by the governor. Dauterive agreed to furnish five cows and one bull to each willing Acadian, once the newcomers were on the western frontier. After six years, Dauterive would get half their herd’s increases. From their shares, the Acadians would also return to Dauterive his initial investments.

On 8 April in New Orleans, the governor gave Joseph Broussard a title and a responsibility. Beausoleil was named “Captain of Militia and Commandant of the Acadians going to settle on the land of the Acutapas [sic].” The governor reported on 24 April 1765 that the Beausoleil group had “departed New Orleans.” They traveled in boats with supplies bound for their new sub-tropical homeland. On that same date, possibly somewhere along the Mississippi River near present-day Plaquemine, the pastor at St. Francis Church of Pointe Coupée baptized one-day old Marguerite Broussard, daughter of Joseph [Petit Joseph] and his second wife, Marguerite Savoie. These parents were recorded as “Acadians going to establish a new settlement at Attakapas.”[44]

Cajuns in the prairies are separated from the City of New Orleans and the Acadian settlements of the Eastern part of the state by one of the largest riverine estuaries in North America. This is probably still the largest riverine estuary and it is where swamp life occurs most. Marshes are more common in the trapping culture of the prairies although swamps occur. Louisiana story depicts a swamp which is a forested wetlands the marshes are prairie like wetlands. Both environments have fur-bearing animals and alligators.  The  Atchafalaya was the traditional Aboriginal American territory of the Chitimacha or Chetimache people. In the decades since the 1953 end of the years this text discusses this swamp produces a great deal of the crawfish, fur, alligator meat, fresh water fish, retting moss, sunken cured cypress, ecotourism revenues and freshwater sports fishing revenues for the State of Louisiana. It is the place where many of the most important Aboriginal American archaeological sites have been found. The area is sacred to the Chetimache traditional religion and retains a sacral character among Chitimacha, Acadian and Creoles of Color who within the context of an orthodox Catholic Christianity inculturate the Gospel into folk religious sensibilities. But in day to day life one reality is that swamp life is also very much a cash driven existence. It has long been a mix of subsistence and cash funding which is suited to the region. But there is also a sense of how much the place is beyond normal modern life. that sense of separation is not available in the same way in any of the wilderness of Vermilion and Iberia Parish.

The generation born to  Joseph Broussard and others is  largely a generation not born either in their Canadian homeland nor in Louisiana. Men like Amand broussard and his wife, some of his brothers and others fought in the Battle of Baton Rouge was a brief siege and attack by the Spanish Colonial  forces and regulars against the British.during the American Revolutionary War and War of Independence in which the Acadians made up part of the St. Martinville militia and were busy forging ties with Creoles and Spaniards against the British Empire. that was decided on September 21, 1779. The Acadians were still arriving over a period of time and a large group would not arrive until 1785 but they were committed to Galvez’s war.  Baton Rouge was the second British outpost in which they saw action which fell to Spanish arms during Governor and General Bernardo de Gálvez’s march into British West Florida. Spain  and its empire officially entered the American Revolutionary War on May 8, 1779, as Su Majestad Catolico Carlos III issued a formal declaration of war and another on July 8 that authorized Bernardo de Gálvez, the colonial Governor of Spanish Louisiana  and other in the Empire to open lines in this war on Britain. West Florida which would become part of the State of Louisiana later on was  thus conquered in small part by the Acadians along with others who were in the Spanish Empire’s Louisiana. With the coming together of the Attakapas region and the West Florida region there is a foreshadowing of the polity that will one day be the State of Louisiana. So there is no real concept of Louisiana or the United States in my view which is not tied up in Acadian history.  The conversation here is about the reemergence of an old identity.
This paper is put together in a rush from a project that has probably gone on longer than any book project should. Last year Zachary Richard who is interested in many of these same issues which interest me won a prestigious award which recognized his long labors in this field. I owe my opportunity to address this association as far as I know to two contacts from my own studies at the Louisiana State University History Department  but I applied and did not get in there last year who know if there  would be a more positive tone in this paper if I had gotten in. But really this is such a brief and edited version of the paper  leaving out so much of the dark side that any brighter tone is one other than than I really want to set.  Film and photography are a particularly important part of the struggle for preserving the culture, language and identity of the Cajun people. In 2016, as I was on the waiting list for admission to  Louisiana State University’s Doctoral Program in History, Zachary Richard was named Humanist of the Year by the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities. And his work as a musician, poet and songwriter have been enormously impressive. However, he has always been connected with and aware of the camera and its role in communication, in communicating environmental concerns and  making people aware of any aspect of cultural development and structure. Film and photography form a set of focal points in many of our lives. Itis possible to argue a whole set of facts about Louisiana’s connection to Cajuns and Cajuns connections to Louisiana. A great deal of it comes down to what is good and bad. Also one can discuss what is right and wrong.  I am quite comfortable with such discussions but they are not the subject of this paper. In addition this paper has not mentioned before this sentence the evolution that occurred from the original Flaherty screenplay presented to Standard Oil and titled “The Christmas Tree” and the classic film known as Louisiana Story. It is that transformation which justifies the most interesting aspects of my study of Dudley Leblanc. In this paper it is a bit less clear why he matters so much. But I return your attention to a complex interplay of relationships. The relationships between all aspects of this study are both loose and complicated. But what is not unclear to me is that Acadians were reawakened into American identity and that happened in this time period of the SONJ projects and we can learn something about those changes from the right study of those projects.

The SONJ photography project supervised by Roy Stryker ended completely somewhere else and the occasion was not much noticed in Acadiana. The previous decade had carried the world from the greatness, horror and weighty contests of the Second World War to something else. The something else was a period of emerging American prosperity. It was a period of urbanization. For the first time the US Census of 1950 showed that more residents of Louisiana lived in cities than outside of them.  The period  of this study began when the Louisiana Maneuvers were the largest training drill in U.S. Army history. By 1953  despite the heroic action of some Cajuns and some of their neighbors in the Korean War and the pervasive influence of the Cold War with the Soviet Union on society Louisiana had the character of a region long at peace in the eyes of many people. Compared to the wars on their own soil and the mass mobilizations of World War II the role of the military in the state was greatly reduced. For Cajuns the early 1950s were a time of uncertainty. The region itself was changing. Dwight D. Eisenhower was the new President of the United States and although few could imagine all it might mean people were starting to talk of a system of highways that would change rural America like never before. The Mississippi River Gulf Outlet was promoted in the 1950s was to help rectify the limits of the Industrial Canal and other features of New Orleans shipping to help it compete with the rest of the world in a changing era of navigation, bigger ships need different kinds of canals. By 1953 many rural Cajuns had already noticed problems with natural drainage disruptions on a smaller scale as oil companies  changed waterways to allow deeper draft vessels to work in many location and then abandoned the canals as improvements without any real plan or inventory. A few were already concerned about the effects of  some plans to correct Louisiana’s  deep draft deficiency by permitting deep-draft vessels to access the Industrial Canal inner harbor in a new feature. But the kind of very distinctive rural and wetlands Cajuns who most discussed these things tended to have a fading influence and little voice to speak of in those years. In addition Cajuns had built many miles of levees and canals for centuries and were hopeful that the emerging national power would make good choices. There was no organized Cajun resistance to the authorization for the MRGO was formally provided by the United States Congress in the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1956. The world had begun to rely on fewer people per ton to crew a ship or a boat, produce an acre of crops and local militia duty in small boats and infantry units was more or less fading into the past. Chris Park in his book Sacred Worlds: An Introduction to Geography and Religion states that Roman Catholic religious affiliation has been in decline among Cajuns since 1945. He also the extremely important role that Roman Catholicism played in maintaining a distinct identity for French Louisiana throughout its history within the largely Protestant and Anglicized United States of America.

The forces that would make the coming years had not yet fully matured but for those most aware of the limits of the new era there was no doubt that powerful forces were reshaping America. It was a time of anxiety about the nuclear war.The Soviet Union had by then detonated a nuclear weapon and begun building more and the Cold War had begun in earnest. In 1953 Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were first United States Citizens who were both civilians and executed for treason by their government. The world clearly faced new dangers that were unfamiliar to the long and complex heritage  with which they associated themselves.    Mostly the Cajuns were at peace and in prosperity as they lived out their lives. For them, as for most Americans the Korean War was a far away thing following a terrible war with Japan and hopefully part of avoiding an even more terrible war with China and Russia. For Whitney Adam Leblanc of Iberia Parish and some other Cajun soldiers it was a struggle nightmarish violence in which they fought two actions known together as the Battle of Pork Chop Hill in 1953. For them the year was spectacularly violent. But there would be nobody to meet Whitney Leblanc at the bus stop when he got home. The Korean war was a war mostly of individual Cajuns and individual Cajun families in the smaller sense of the word. These people felt at once very Cajun and very American but the two identities had little connection in this experience. For the purposes of this book the Korean War is fairly or unfairly largely ignored. It has often been largely ignored in recountings of the period as it was perceived by Americans at home. One cannot help but note that the war was fought far from any Cajun or Acadian homeland, neither the enemies nor the allies spoke much French and the nature of the struggle was poorly understood across many sectors of American society. The contrast between the experience of being involved in the fighting and being left behind was even greater than is normal in the long history of war.

It is hard to say how much the Louisiana Story and the SONJ photographs were viewed, discussed and remembered but clearly they were already objects of nostalgia. Already the vision of their world before the growth of the oil industry was seeming like something  tied to a distant past. The world that children learned about in school and the world that was reported in the media was most a world that seemed likely to share values that were continuous with those of their past. Increasingly there was a specialization of cultural functions within the community. People who identified themselves as Cajuns were more than ready to support those who preserved cultural expressions and traditions to some extent. However, the sense of continuity of communal interdependence which relied on culturally distinct institutions was in decline. Language, religion, the basic components of the economy and many other  aspects of life were in  a real sense changing in the face of a world that was less amenable to preserving their distinct identity than ever before. This has not been and will not now become a comparative history text. However, other rural communities and other minority groups were becoming aware of a rapidly changing world as well.Louisiana Story had been released again as Cajun  the year before this final year of the SONJ project and the tone of its distribution was less respectful than previously. the Stryker project for Standard Oil was ending and it was not much noticed. America was moving into the period that was recognizably the 1950s and in many Cajun towns and villages there was a strong effort to go with the flow of the new American consensus. Cajuns were generally proud to be Americans and were also wondering as individuals and in groups of different sizes and types exactly how American they were welcome to be.  Some Cajuns were fighting in Korea under the American flag and a few had already returned from action in that war. Those who had known or cared a great deal about Flaherty and were interested in movies noted that Flaherty had been credited as one of the directors on a final Academy Award winning Documentary about Michelangelo called Titan. That laurel earned in 1950 would be one of his last, by 1953 had been dead for more than a year. He had died in Vermont and Louisiana seemed to be just one of many places where he had spent some time.

Film editor Helen Van Dongen was still alive when I began writing this thesis and I had begun the process of contacting her but never did. Since that time she has published a diary of her experience on the project and that diary has formed a valuable counterpoint and compliment to other points of view and observations throughout this book. She seems to have gone from Flaherty’s company to restore the long and complex relationship with Joris Ivers after Louisiana Story.  She was certainly at least relatively young and vigorous in 1953 Forty-four years old  and near the end of a career in film that had begun back in her native Netherlands when she was in her teens.  Born overseas in Amsterdam, Netherlands she did one last film after Louisiana Story. A film to commemorate the  Universal Declaration of Human rights was a work she produced edited and directed. She married a pro-Soviet US Journalist named Kenneth Durant and all three of them were in Vermont when Robert J. Flaherty died. It is hard to be sure what she was thinking about her stay in Cajun country in 1953. But she was in another part of rural America. She had edited Flaherty’s work The Land produced or commissioned by Pare Lorentz and so with her time in Cajun country and her long final stay in Vermont her commitment to rural American life was really very substantial. Her life was also deeply shaped by the experience of the Cold War in her marriage to her husband. But one has to presume that she left Louisiana and the Cajun mostly in the realm of memory. Not interviewing her is one of those missed opportunities for which there can be no substitute.

Cultural history to be truly all it can be still seems to me to need to embrace the historical truth of all those in the subject study. Here Documentarians, Cajuns and the oil industry all have something to say to us. Whitney Allan Leblanc coming home with nobody to meet him from his terrible battle at Pork Chop Hill, Leblanc selling HADACOL and having it go bankrupt because he feared investigations by the FDA — but not because he thought they were right. These were just a few signs that history had not stopped and the era is not all the stuff of nostalgia. I began this project with more personal optimism in 1991 than I am ever likely to have again.   But I am glad to have a chance to put some of it out to be read. My life is in many ways much too much of a failure to end this essay as it should end. I should be able to write of the hopes of the region and its peoples and other American for a better future but I am not the one to write such a thing.  I am at this time seeking any work I can find to survive almost anywhere else doing almost anything. But despite all that I do remember this as a time of hope.    Of course it is scholarly memory — I was not alive. I am not sure that there has ever really been much hope in my own life nor am I sure of all the reasons that might be.   But I have had joys, successes and pleasures — that is something. More than many have had.

 

[1] First of endnotes:

The passage in which first letter to the  Corinthians where Saint Paul refers to himself as one born out of due time seems proper as regards my involvement with the 2016 Gulf South History and Humanities Conference. When I was first given the news by Dr. Donald Devore that my paper had been selected for review and presentation among this distinguished group of peers in and from this Gulf South region I was pleased and grateful. This Gulf South Region is pertinent to my subject in this article and in other research and is personally dear to my heart. I realized that having submitted an article rather late in the game I was unusually fortunate to have a chance for this . It seemed even more so as the title included a word — Reemergence_- some would say I have coined although in fact it has been around a while and the only real question is whether reemergence can be considered standard usage or not. The paper discusses the emergence  once again of an identification as Americans by nearly all Cajuns and across almost all parts of the region called Acadiana. In the book, I come closer to really proving my points than I do here and use some of anthropology’s scientific method to prove various points  but in this paper I still marshall a good bit of evidence and hopefully will get some of that across in this presentation.   While this paper is not about my own return and emergence into or reemergence within the academic community it is nonetheless a sign of that very thing for however well are badly this may go it is surely a new level of effort on my part to connect with the profession. I also attempt here to connect with anyone who might not be a member of the Historical profession in any sense and in that sense I seek to address some of the news that seems relevant to the topic. That will be limited as I would like to continue on in this conference after making those remarks and all relevant topics are both emotionally charged and controversial. So I will mention the political race, the Confederate monuments controversy and Colin Kaepernick as illustrations of the idea that American Identity is a relevant area for educated people and even learned societies to discuss.  I am not sure there are any other relevant connections between the state of my academic career and the state of ethnic and social identity among the Cajuns in the postwar era. Dr. jeffrey Owens indicated that it was not necessary to thank him for posting this opportunity and for his advice in preparing a suitable presentation — therefore I will not thank him although he richly deserves it. I did tell Dr. Devore by prompt return email that I was honored and grateful and I still am.

[2]  “ABBEVILLE MERIDIONAL OLDEST CONTINUOUS BUSINESS IN VERMILION PARISH ABBEVILLE, LOUISIANA, SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 19, 1949 LEADING NEWSPAPER OF VERMILION PARISH SINOE 1856 NO; 8 “

[3]Email from Mark Schultz to author:

To

‘Frank Summers’

Sep 22 at 10:56 PM

Hey Frank,

 

Congrats again.  Cool topic.  Figuring out when southerners felt like Americans again, part of the rest of the U.S. is an interesting question.  In Hancock Co, the 4th of July wasn’t celebrated until WWI.  A common enemy made a feeling of reunion possible.  Good luck with the paper.

 

Best wishes,

Mark

[4]  The March 5. 1949 article incorrectly names Frances Parkinson Keyes as Evelyn and has a few other problems typical of the overworked and understaffed quality of small papers. For while big city papers may have more pressure they also have more resources and so careless errors are ferreted out that a local rural writer carries into eternity on every piece even when they are not added in by other careless errors. The errors are as much the result of cares in many cases as they are of carelessness.

[5] This life also tells us something about Catholic identity in the Confederacy. See:http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/13712b.htm

Naval officer, b. in Charles County, Maryland, U.S.A. 27 September, 1809; d. at Point Clear, Alabama, 26 August, 1877. His family were descendants from one of the original Catholic colonists of Maryland, from which state he was appointed a midshipman in the U.S. Navy 1 April, 1826. He served until 1832, when he was given leave of absence extending until July, 1835, during which time he studied law and was admitted to practice. Rejoining the navy, he served with distinction, attaining the rank of commander, until the outbreak of the Civil War, when he resigned and cast his lot with the seceding state of Alabama, of which he became a citizen in 1841. He was appointed commander in the Confederate States Navy, 25 March 1861; Captain, 21 August, 1862; Rear-Admiral, 10 February, 1865; and retired to civil life after the surrender of the forces under General J.E. Johnston at Greensboro, North Carolina, 26 April, 1865. As commander of the Confederate privateer Sumter he destroyed, during six months in 1861, eighteen ships, and the next year, taking command of the Alabama, he began the famous cruise during which he captured sixty-nine vessels and … At the end of the war he went to his home in Mobile, Alabama, and opened a law office. He also edited a paper, and for a time was a professor in the Louisiana Military Institute. His destruction of the mercantile marine during his cruise in the privateer Alabama so embittered northern public opinion against him that, although he was pardoned with other prominent Confederate leaders under the amnesty proclamation of President Johnson, his political disabilities were never removed. He was the author of “Service Afloat and Ashore During the Mexican War” (1851); “The Campaign of General Scott in the Valley of Mexico” (1852); “The Cruise of the Alabama and Sumter” (1864); and “Memoirs of Services Afloat during the War between the States” (1869)

[6] Acadian to Cajun: Transformation of a People, 1803-1877 Paperback – November 1, 1992
by Carl A. Brasseaux University Press of Mississippi; 1st trade pbk edition (November 1, 1992)
Language: English

[7] Publisher: LSU Press; 1 edition (May 18, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0807137235SBN-10: 0878055835

[8] Publisher: Acadian House Publishing, Lafayette, Louisiana (November 1, 1998)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0925417122

[9]Abbeville Meridional December 29, 1934 in terms of understanding Leblanc’s politics it may be useful to remember that the U.S. Chamber in these years voted to support Roosevelt’s banking and budget measures at the start of the New Deal but opposed legislation introduced in favor of labor unions in 1934 (see: .https://www.uschamber.com/timeline/index.html) Leblanc had business dealings across the country first with the Thibodeaux Benevolent Association and later with HADACOL.

[10] 49ers QB “Colin Kaepernick has rights, but he’s not correct”
By Brian T. Smith Houston Chronicle, August 27, 2016

[11] “Is Colin Kaepernick the new face of American patriotism?” By Ben Rosen, Staffwriter Christian Science Monitor  AUGUST 29, 2016

[12] 2016 90th anniversary edition by M.M. Leblanc, Bizentine Press. Hollywood, California

[13] 2016 50th anniversary edition revised and edited by M.M. Leblanc, Bizentine Press. Hollywood, California

[14]Mon Cher Camarade
2009 58 mins. Color. English Subtitled and French Subtitled Versions, Pat Mire Films. Lafayette, Louisiana

[15] Besides the mire film see also Leblanc’s own book. Another Acadian Citizen Soldier — Public Servant

Edited by Dr. David Moreland, Adrian Vega and Kathryn Joy Vega. Published and Copyrights held by Robert Leblanc. Principal availability is through the Vermilion Parish Library system.

[16] For Yvonne Pavy Weiss’s connection to the Long shooting see the 1993 reissuance by University of Louisiana Press of David Zinman’s 1963 book The Day Huey Long Was Shot. However Zinman is unaware of or does not explain any connection between her and the Evangeline Girls.  For Yvonne Pavy’s status as the Evangeline Girl of Opelousas see the Abbeville Meridional issues for August 2, 1930, August 16, 1930 and September 6, 1930.

[17] The very influential book by Harnett T. Kane was referenced in correspondence and in more subtle ways in the work of several documentarians.
The Bayous of Louisiana,  Kane, Harnett Thomas; Landry and Tilden illustrators
Bonanza Books, 1943.

[18] Dudley Leblanc: A Biography, Angers Trent, Acadian House Publishing, (November 1, 1998)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0925417122
ISBN-13: 978-0925417121

[19]Cajun Renaissance Man: Dudley J. Le Blanc, written by Michelle LeBlanc, Produced and distributed in part by Topaz Productions and Wordsmith Productions
57min | Documentary | 14 March 1996 (USA)

[20] I began this project in 1991 and brought it back on track to completion in 2015. Whether it will be completed or not is a different matter.

[21] 2009 publication available mostly at the Acadian Museum and the Vermilion Parish Library. Rights largely reserved by the Sirmon family and estate.

[22] Louisiana Public Broadcasting, 1998  This high-definition public television documentary explores the legacy of Robert Flaherty’sLouisiana Story. This program brings together the surviving key participants of the original 1940’s movie and allows them to comment on this controversial film, including Richard Leacock, legendary cinematographer and associate producer of Louisiana Story, and J.C. Boudreaux, once the emblematic Cajun boy who personified Flaherty’s optimistic vision. Reverse Angle features diverse commentary from native folklorists, artists, filmmakers, and historians who have both studied and shared in the legacy of Louisiana Story.

[23] :  This book of merely 152 pages is a real work compelling and fortunate efforts — although in my manuscript I take serious issue with at least one of the critical essays included with Van Dongen’s diary in the publication:

Filming Robert Flaherty’s “Louisiana Story”: The Helen van Dongen Diaries Paperback – August 24, 1998
by Helen Van Dongen (Author), Eva Orbanz (Editor), Mary Lea Bandy (Editor)
Publisher: Museum of Modern Art; First Edition edition (August 24, 1998)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0870700812
ISBN-13: 978-0870700811

The film I mentioned is not so easy to get but it is not hard to list:
A Boatload of Wild Irishmen
1h 30min | Documentary | 7 July 2010 (Ireland)

Director: Mac Dara Ó’Curraidhín
Writer: Brian Winston

Production Companies
LMDOC
Léirithe le Mac Dara Ó Curraidhín
Bright Spark Studios

[24] For an interesting look at some of this see Richard Ward’s June 18, 2008 article for the online publication counterpunch.http://www.counterpunch.org/2010/06/18/louisiana-story/

[25] Nanook of the North; Flaherty, Les Frères Revillon, Pathé Exchange; USA and France 1h 18min | Documentary | 11 June 1922

[26] Anchor; Reprint edition (January 24, 1989)
ISBN-10: 0385260334
ISBN-13: 978-0385260336

[27] Directed by Leslye Abbey, 21 July 2007 (USA);
Production Co: Snowflake Video Productions

[28]The best work perhaps for getting a feel  for the contours of Louisiana’s engagement in the war may be in the form not of a text but of a documentary film. The perspective is not Cajun and a Cajun perspective would have produced different results at various junctures.  But the film is able to provide a breadth of understanding for how huge the war was as a lived experience for people in this state.

Louisiana During World War II, documentary film by William B. Robison and Jerry P. Sanson (Baton Rouge: Happy Pigg Studio, 2013), in 6 parts with 16 supplements, beginning with Part 1: Introduction: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jeNQKyOXyz4, with subsequent parts also on Youtube.

[29] There are many creditable releases of the film and I provided in email a link for  the Admiral Hotel to perhaps make available one of the versions which is in the public domain to all rooms during the Conference. My tone implied that it might be good for them  to speak to Conference authorities about how that may best be done and am including this footnote as part of that process.  Those who might wish to watch the film in their rooms after other meetings would better understand my paper whether presented before or after the fact.

[30] Filming Robert Flaherty’s “Louisiana Story”: The Helen van Dongen Diaries Paperback – August 24, 1998
by Helen Van Dongen (Author), Eva Orbanz (Editor), Mary Lea Bandy (Editor)
Publisher: Museum of Modern Art; First Edition edition (August 24, 1998)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0870700812
ISBN-13: 978-0870700811

[31] Man of Aran; Gainsborough Pictures (1934)
1h 16min | Documentary | 25 April 1934 (UK

[32] Daily Iberian April 4, 1947 Front page above the fold.

[33] Acadiana:Louisiana’s Historic Cajun Country;
by Carl A. Brasseaux
photographs by Philip Gould
Louisiana State University Press, Baton Rouge, Louisiana,May 2011

[34] The Meridional goes on with detail and generous allocation of resources here: The entire cast features local talent. Shown performing ‘Riders in the Sky’ are (left to right) Davlon Rost, Jack Smith and Wayne Hebert. See page 1B for more information and photos.

[35] Again the actual length of the cited text is substantial as it goes on: Members of the harmonic cast include Davlon Rost, Jack Smith, Wayne Hebert, Clay Chauvin, Paul Landry, Julien Couvillion, Evona Quails, Dave Pierce, Brown Pierce, Laura Meade, Jenny Meade, Ray Meade, Lisa Nunez, Leslie Campisi, Lauren Orellana, Tiffany Babineaux, Mandy Hebert, John Cramer, Gerald Landry, Shannon Redwing, Ellis Byers III, Casey Pierce, Alexander Evangeline, (Staff photo by Angie Heberf) Abbeville Mayor Brady Broussard presents Wade Russo with key to the city Kim Stagg, Sarah Ortego, Devin Orellana, Margaret Collier, Allison Tine, Jenissa Allen, Rochelle Collier, and Shawn Carter. Coordinated by Musical Supervisor Ronney Mayard, the orchestra consists of Madeline Dehart and Deidre Dartez, flutists, Christy Simon and Jennifer Mula, clarinets; Jerry Dehart, trumpet, Tim LeBlanc, drums; Julian Couvillion, strings; and F Wade Russo, piano. The cast is scheduled to give 12 more magnificent performances at the theatre. The final performance will be held at Abbeville High School on July 4th. Underwritten by First Commercial Bank, tickets for the musical production are available at The Apple Tree in Abbeville, Raccoon Records and Video in Lafayette and Verna’s Hallmark in New Iberia For more information contact the Abbey Players

[36]In 1948, Robert Flaherty was “Louisiana Story”. He was searching for a small boat, or “pirogue” for his young hero played by J.C. Boudreaux. Ebdon Allemon, a Cajun craftsman, was photographed and filmed in the practice of his endangered craft. It seems possible that there was some interchange of responsibilities between Arnold Eagle, Richard Leacock and Robert Flaherty it is not easy to settle all matter of crediting the film. I make assertions in my text but in this paper leave it largely undefined.

[37] The Founding of New Acadia: The Beginnings of Acadian Life in Louisiana, 1765–1803;  Publisher: Louisiana State Univ Pr (May 1987), ( paperback ISBN-13: 978-0807120996, ISBN-10: 080712099), (hardcover ISBN-13: 978-0807112960,
ISBN-10: 0807112968);

[38]  This has to do with their identification in terms of leadership and principal tradition with the coutumes of the paix des coutumes which defined Languedoc and in turn defined France to such a large extent until just a couple of generations before the first colonists came to Acadie.

[39] Evangeline, A Tale of Acadie; Poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow,many forms available — originally published 1n 1847 by Longfellow who taught some students from Louisiana’s Cajun Country during the relative rise of the Acadians in that era when Acadian leaders were attending schools such as the US Military Academy at West Point and Georgetown University. I t seems he spoke with nathaniel Hwthorne about this story and Hwthorne advised him to write about it. His poem made use of dactylic hexameter,  which was used in Greek and Latin classics. It became Longfellow’s most famous work in his lifetime and one of the most popular and respected pieces of literature in the world. My research has tried to explore the  powerful effect the poem had in defining both Acadian history as it evolved and as it was studied in the past and the formation of the operative Acadian identity in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Dudley Leblanc was deeply influenced by and had a great respect for the poem. The Documentarians in general and Flaherty’s group in particular show very little sign that the poem greatly affected their own views of Acadian subjects. Before Longfellow’s poem was drafted from all the sources he examined and published to the world historians focused largely on the British founding of Halifax (1749) as the beginning of Nova Scotia. This was a vastly more false premise than any occasioned by historical errors in the poem. Longfellow’s Evangeline reminded the world of the 150 years of Acadian settlement  and journeys of identity that preceded the establishment of Halifax. This is treated well enough in the recent work McKay, Ian and Robin Bates. In the Province of History: The Making of the Public Past in Twentieth-Century Nova Scotia. McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2010: 40–42
The Expulsion was planned and executed by New Englanders and British. But while a great friend to the Acadians in many ways across time Longfellow was himself a New Englander and  omitted from the poem New England’s responsibility for the event. Also a patriotic American who saw the need for defining an identity across sectional tensions Longfellow defines the British not long before the War of Independence as responsible for the expulsion and its horror. Further America is shown mostly as a place of refuge and there is a people with whom the North can sympathize living in the Southern part of what was by publication the land of the United States of America whose story does not hinge upon slavery and who are not depicted as tied to slavery..

[40] A Great and Noble Scheme: The Tragic Story of the Expulsion of the French Acadians from Their American Homeland, by John Mack Faragher;:Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.; New York, New York,:02/17/2006

[41]University of North Carolina Press; Chapel Hill, North Carolina,  Published: August 1989, ISBN  978-0-8078-4258-4

[42] Random House, New York, New York;  July 7, 2015

[43] http://attakapasgazette.org/vol-3-2014/initial-acadian-settlement/

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