by Carl A. Brasseaux
Haitian immigrants have established a significant community in New Orleans
over the past two centuries. These emigrants from Hispañola are by no
means the first to reach Louisiana. During a six-month period in 1809, approximately
10,000 refugees from Saint-Domingue (present-day Haiti) arrived at New Orleans,
doubling the Crescent City's population. Approximately one-third of the refugees
were white, an additional one-third were free persons of color, and the remaining
one-third were slaves (primarily domestics). The vast majority of these refugees
established themselves permanently in the Crescent City.
The early nineteenth-century immigrants had a profound impact upon New Orleans'
development. Refugees established the state's first newspaper and introduced
opera into the Crescent City. They also appear to have played a role in the
development of Creole cuisine and the perpetuation of voodoo practices in the
New Orleans area. More importantly, they were responsible for preserving the
city's French character for several generations.