December 1963 | Volume 15, Issue 1
Louisiana was America’s first melting pot. Here the mixing of races and nationalities from the four corners of the globe, which began early in the eighteenth century and continued well into the beginning of the present one, has resulted in a region that is absolutely unique in the United States. Nowhere, perhaps, has the triumph of the Great American Experiment been demonstrated more vividly.
The mixture occurred mainly in the southern part of the state, which accounts for the tact that today northern Louisiana (which is predominantly AngloSaxon and Protestant) is closer culturally to the adjacent states of Arkansas, Texas, and Mississippi. The speech you will hear from, roughly, Alexandria up to the Arkansas line will be very similar to that of the rest of the Deep South—a lazy drawl, with hillbilly overtones. And the food in a town such as Shreveport will not vary considerably from that in Little Rock or Houston or Hattiesburg, where (if you escape the levelling influence of the Howard Johnsons) the chances are that you will be served fried chicken, butterbeans stewed with corn and tomatoes, mustard greens, hot breads, and a peach or blackberry cobbler—and, of course, grits tor breakfast. Even the topography of northern Louisiana is unlike that of the southern part, for around Alexandria the flatlands change to hills and the soil takes on a deep red color.
Northern Louisiana is all of a piece, but southern Louisiana exhibits an ethnic and cultural heterogeneity that is nothing short of bewildering. The biggest and oldest influence is, of course, the French, and this influence came from two sources: directly, from France, and indirectly, from French Canada. The indirect source was actually the earlier, for the First permanent settlement in what is now Louisiana was begun in 1718 by Jean Baptiste le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville, a member of a prominent Quebec family which had been raised to petty nobility by Louis XIV. The settlement was located on the Mississippi about 115 miles from the Gull and five miles from Lake Pontchartrain, at a point where the river described a semicircle, and it became the city of New Orleans.
An intimate rapport existed between French Canada and Louisiana from the very first; a considerable number of Canadian woodsmen, some of whom had married fndian women and made the long trip south by way of the Mississippi, had already settled in Louisiana when the first shiploads of immigrants began to arrive from France. Their motives in leaving Canada were often dubious: as early as 1714, four years before the founding of New Orleans, Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac, Louisiana’s fifth governor (the same who founded Detroit and gave his name to that expensive automobile) complained that some of these early settlers were “the very scum and refuse of Canada, ruffians who have thus far cheated the gibbet of its due, vagabonds who are without subordination to the laws, without any respect for religion or for the government, graceless profligates, who are so steeped in vice that they prefer the Indian females to the French women!”
After 1718, however, the colony was mainly populated by Frenchmen who had been lured to Louisiana by the propaganda of John Law’s Mississippi Company, a dubious enterprise which enjoyed the backing of the French government. They came mostly from the south of France, and their surnames—Bordenave, Capdevielle, Cazenave, Cieutat, D’Abbadie, Labat, Lapeyrouse, Oubre, Peyiefitte, Pujol, and Sabatier, to name a few—are still common in southern Louisiana. Unlike the Canadian aventuriers de bois , these Frenchmen appear to have preferred the comforts of city life, such as they were, to the vicissitudes of a forest existence, for they settled mainly in New Orleans. Too, as it became increasingly difficult to attract settlers to Louisiana (word having reached home that things there were not exactly as Law had depicted them), this original contingent came to be augmented by a less desirable element: fugitives from justice both in France and Canada, and even the inmates of prisons and brothels.
Such, then, were the beginnings of Louisiana and her largest city. During the Spanish occupation, which lasted some thirty-seven years (1766-1803), there were occasional migrations of Spanish-speaking people from the West Indies, from the Canary Islands, and even from Spain herself. Perrin du Lac, in 1800, reported that one fourth of the white colonists were Spaniards, “generally from the province of Catalonia.” This is perhaps an exaggeration; in any case the majority of the population remained French, and the Spanish language, while spoken by the governors and their assistants, never supplanted French as the popular tongue. Moreover, the people were loyal politically to France rather than to Spain, as Governor Manuel Gayoso de Lemos admitted when he wrote home: “I fear that if war were declared on France, we would find but few inhabitants of Lower Louisiana who would sincerely defend the country from any undertaking of that nation.”
But on the whole the French got along well enough with the Spanish, as numerous marriages would testify. Nevertheless, the effect of Spanish rule was mainly external; after the disastrous fires of 1788 and 1794, which destroyed most of the original dwellings, New Orleans was rebuilt with relatively permanent houses in the Spanish manner. It was rather singular, this typically Spanish architecture in a city that remained essentially French. Today, in the American city, it is of course even more singular, and constitutes one of the many paradoxes of the place. AIany of the buildings of the socalled French Quarter are indistinguishable from those constructed in the West Indies, Mexico, and Central and South America during the Spanish colonial period, which explains the resemblance of this part of the town to the older sections of cities like Havana and Mérida.
The descendants of these early French and Spanish settlers are called Creoles.‣ The word, spelled with an acute accent over the first e , is standard French, and exists also in Spanish, from which it derives, as Criollo . Since in those languages it refers to colonists of French or Spanish ancestry anywhere in the New World, Louisiana has no monopoly on the term: the natives of French descent on Martinique are Creoles, as were also the natives of Mexico and Cuba when those countries were under Spanish rule.
‣ This is the original sense of the word and the one in which it is still commonly used in Louisiana. A secondary meaning, unacceptable to many Louisianians hut allowed hy Webster’s Third International Dictionary, is “a person of mixed French and Negro or Spanish and Negro descent speaking a dialect of trench and Spanish—used especially in Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida.” The omission of Louisiana from this group of states is probably significant.
The second great migration of French-speaking people to Louisiana occurred shortly after the middle of the eighteenth century. In September, 1755, the British ordered the deportation of the entire French population of Nova Scotia. The process took over a decade, and it is estimated that more than 8,000 Acadians, as these unfortunate refugees were tailed, were driven from their homes, loaded onto overcrowded ships, and banished into exile. Nearly half of them died at sea of smallpox and other contagious diseases, a few went to France, and the remainder scattered along the Atlantic coast from Massachusetts to Maryland. They concentrated in the latter colony, which was the first to receive them hospitably, and from here they began their journeys island and to the south; Longfellow has recorded the heartbreaking story of their wanderings in his poem Evangeline .
The date of their arrival in Louisiana is uncertain—Charles Gayarré, the dean of Louisiana historians, plates it as late as 1765, but there is evidence pointing to an earlier date. At any rate, they were welcomed enthusiastically by the French governors: they were given land, seed, and’ temporary provisions. Very few of them settled in New Orleans; they were mainly farmers, trappers, and fishermen, to whom the rich alluvial soil of the Mississippi Valley, the variety of fur-bearing animals, and the teeming waters of the nearby Gulf of Mexico (readily accessible by means of winding streams called by the French bayous, from the Choctaw bayuk , or creek) were infinitely attractive. What they must have thought of the midsummer climate they wisely kept to themselves.
Unlike the settlers svho came directly from France—and chiefly, as we have seen, from the southern region known as the Midi—the Acadians had emigrated to Canada from the northern, central, and western parts of France, especially from the provinces of Normandy, Brittany, and Picardy. They retained the patois of these regions, which formed the basis of the Louisiana dialed known as Acadien , corrupted by the Americans to Cajun , a word with somewhat pejorative connotations. Needless to say, the Acadian language in Louisiana has many affinities with modern French Canadian. But the linguistic resemblance is not the only one: with a few concessions to the local climate, the refugees built their new homes of the same sturdy materials and in the same style as their old ones. I have seen, scattered along the St. Lawrence between Montreal and Quebec, and north of Quebec as far as the Sagucnay, wooden farmhouses with sloping shingle roofs that exactly resemble those in the vicinity of Lafayette and St. Martinville.
This is the part of Louisiana where the French element is most pronounced, ft is rarely that one hears French spoken in New Orleans anymore, but it is still possible to stumble upon certain out-of-the-way towns along Bayou Teche and Bayou Lafourche where the Acadian dialect is at least as common as English. You will even hear an occasional scrap of French as far west as De Quincy and Sulphur, near the Texas line, where it sounds odd in the mouths of cowhands wearing ten-gallon hats and western boots. Some twenty-five years ago, as an undergraduate at the state university, I more than once found, on taking a trip into the country around Opelousas, that I could not easily make myself understood in English. I doubt very much if it would be so today. In 1929, when the distinguished poet Paul Claudel, then French Ambassador to this country, visited southwestern Louisiana, he could not conceal his astonishment when he witnessed young people singing folk songs and dancing folk dances which were almost forgotten in France; here, in the isolation of the marshes, they had survived virtually intact. Today, the younger generation is doing the Twist—with one difference: the boys wearing side-burns, Levis, and black leather jackets take their chicks to the nearest jukebox in the dugout canoes called pirogues rather than on motorcycles.
A very intimate rapport existed also between Louisiana and the West Indian colonies, both French and Spanish. During the Spanish occupation the government was administered from Madrid by way of Havana; under French rule, ships stopping at New Orleans called also at other colonial ports in the West Indies, and planters from Martinique, Guadeloupe, Haiti, and Santo Domingo frequently exchanged visits with the Louisiana settlers, comparing notes on agricultural and other problems. Following the successful slave uprising in Haiti and Santo Domingo, an off-shoot of the French Revolution, numerous French refugees came to settle in New Orleans, among them a group of actors who opened a theatre on St. Peter Street in 1792, where they presented the first professional performances in Louisiana. Later, when Napoleon invaded Spain, a large number of these refugees who had settled in Cuba were obliged to relocate because of anti-French feeling there, and they came to New Orleans; between 1805 and 1810 as many as 8,000 arrived in the city, the biggest wave in the spring of 1809, when thirty-four vessels containing 5,500 immigrants docked at the city wharves, causing a shortage in housing and food supplies.
French, Spanish, French Canadian, and West Indian were not the only influences in the shaping of southern Louisiana. It is easy to forget about the Indians, those aboriginal inhabitants who mixed their blood, legitimately and otherwise, with that of the early colonists. And yet no one reading contemporary accounts like those of Le Page du Pratz, who came to New Orleans from France in 1718, will make the mistake of underestimating the importance of the Indian influence, the Choctaw in particular. Some of the poorer colonists married Indian girls, and the wealthier ones frequently acquired Indian slaves of both sexes: one colonist, as du Pratz, records, even bought an entire village! Many words in the Louisiana-French dialects are of Indian origin: chaoui (raccoon) from shaui; choupique (bowfish) from shupik; mitasses (leggings) from mitas; pacane (pecan) from pakan; pichou (wild cat) from pishu ; plaquemine (persimmon) from piakimin; taïque (squaw) from tek. The Indians enjoyed a well-earned reputation for the practice of simple medicine and homeopathy: du Pratz, records instances where, the French physicians of New Orleans having failed to cure him, he was treated successfully by the Natchez. The Indians also cultivated aromatic herbs used in cooking, and as late as the beginning of the present century Choctaw squaws selling herbs and spices were a familiar sight at the old French Market. Even today, especially in rural Louisiana, it is no novelty to encounter the high cheekbones and straight, glossy black hair that suggest Indian origin.
The Negroes were another matter. As slaves, they had been present in large numbers almost from the beginning of the colony. The New Orleans census of 1721 places the white popidation at about 1,200 and the Negro at 523. But intermarriage was forbidden by Bienville’s Code Noir , issued at Versailles three years later: “Article VI forbids marriage of whites with slaves, and concubinage of whites and manumitted or free-born blacks with slaves, and imposes penalties.” It is interesting to note that the condition of color was apparently less important than the condition of servitude, since not even concubinage was tolerated between free Negroes and slaves. The implication is that marriage between them was also forbidden, yet Article X states that “if the husband be a slave and the wife a free woman, the children shall be free like their mother; if the husband be free and the wife a slave, the children shall be slaves.” For this the only explanation appears to be that a slave of either sex might occasionally achieve freedom after marriage, independently of his mate.
The Spanish were less strict in practice. The Code Noir was one of the few French laws they retained, but there is reason to believe that they did not enforce it very rigidly, and it may have remained on the books only as a concession to popular sentiment. Spanish settlers, especially of the lower classes, had mixed their blood freely with Negroes in other colonies (it was one of the charges brought against them by the French), and they did the same in Louisiana. Paul Alliott, a French physician in New Orleans during the Spanish occupation, wrote: “Mulattoes and Negroes are openly protected by the government. He who was to strike one of those persons, even though he had run away from him, would be severely punished. Also twenty whites could be counted in the prisons of New Orleans against one man of color. The wives and daughters of the latter are much sought after by the white men, and white women at times prefer well built men of color.” (The phrase “men of color,” incidentally, was never applied by the French to full-blooded Negroes, only to mulattoes, who comprised a separate class.)
Some of the mixture of white and Negro blood in Louisiana, especially in New Orleans, undoubtedly dates from the Spanish occupation, but only a part of it—and a small part at that. The Code Noir notwithstanding, illicit unions between white masters and female slaves may be presumed to have taken place fairly frequently throughout the colony from the beginning, and during the American occupation—at least prior to the Civil War—with even greater frequency. The offspring of these unions constituted, as has been said, a rather special class in Louisiana society, and were referred to not as nègres but as gens de couleur . They were seldom slaves, since it was customary when a white man had a child by a Negro slave for him to free the mother, whereby the child was freed automatically. Gens de couleur could marry neither their own slaves (they sometimes owned large numbers) nor those of whites; however, through marriage within their own class and concubinage with whites their number increased rapidly. In 1769 there were only 31 gens de couleur in New Orleans; twenty years later, there were 1,700. The mulatto women were sometimes very beautiful, and though they did not mix socially with the white women, they frequently lured away the latter’s sweethearts by giving balls which exceeded those of the whites in gaiety and magnificence. Often a white gentleman would adopt one of these girls for his mistress, installing her in a little cottage where, even after his marriage, he would continue to visit her.
The gens de couleur fought with distinction in the Battle of New Orleans, and during the Reconstruction some of them became prominent officeholders, like Oscar J. Dunn, lieutenant governor of the state. It was not until the advent of Jim Crowism, about thirty-five years after the Civil War, that they came to be equated in Louisiana with their darker brothers. Before the Jim Crow legislation, a single drop of white blood had been considered sufficient to guarantee special privileges for its possessor; from then on, a single drop of Negro blood was considered sufficient to deprive him of them.
Louisiana’s African heritage is by no means insignificant: today, in New Orleans, one out of every four citizens is “colored.” The cultural differences between him and his white neighbor, however, are less evident in the city than in rural Louisiana, where, especially in the less accessible areas, the Negroes still speak a patois that is all but incomprehensible except to themselves—a queer mixture of French and African knowrn as Negro French or Negro Creole, which philologist William Read says is “composed of a highly corrupt French vocabulary, some native African words, and a syntax for the most part essentially African.” Certain African words also found their way into the white French dialects—for example, gris-gris (charm, amulet), zinzin (baldpate), and gombo , which derives from Congo quingombo (okra). The okra plant, native to Africa, was introduced into Louisiana either directly or by way of the West Indies, and its pods are an indispensable ingredient in the thick stew, usually made of seafood, known as gumbo. The potent influence of the Dark Continent is therefore not merely a matter of language and genetics. The slaves brought with them many strange superstitions that survive in the local folklore, as well as the voodoo cult which flourished surreptitiously almost until the beginning of the 1930’s. And of course there is jazz, the only original music to come out of the New World. It evolved from African slave dances and remained for many years the monopoly of New Orleans Negroes.
Other Europeans besides the French and Spanish came early to Louisiana; John Law’s propaganda also attracted many Englishmen and Germans. In 1723 about 250 of the latter settled some thirty miles upriver from New Orleans in what are now St. John and St. Charles parishes (counties in Louisiana are still called parishes, an interesting vestige of ecclesiastical influence), where their farms soon aroused the envy of the countryside. They intermarried with the French, whose language and customs they eventually adopted: many of the French names in southern Louisiana are of German origin, like Trosclair (from Troxler); Oubre (from Huber); and Hymel (from Hummel). The extremely cosmopolitan nature of New Orleans in 1800 was noted by Berquin-Duvallon. “It is,” he wrote, “a confused mixture, a shapeless composition of people of all countries and of all professions: créoles of the country, French, Spanish, English, Americans, Germans, Italians, etc., a veritable tower of Babel. Here one can scarcely be understood by his neighbor; and the only language intelligible here to these diverse beings is that of self interest.”
The American element naturally increased after 1803, the date of the Louisiana Purchase. The newcomers poured in from Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, and even from east of the Alleghenies. They came to trade as well as to settle, their merchandise piled high on Hatboats and keelboats (the steamboat had not yet been developed), and at first they were feared and despised by the Creoles—often with good reason, for some of them were professional rowdies. Those who remained in the city—respectable businessmen for the most part—concentrated across Canal Street from the French Quarter. Thus, in time, there came to be two cities, one American and the other Creole. It was not until the Battle of New Orleans, when Creoles and Americans fought side by side under Andrew Jackson against a common enemy, that they began to settle their differences. In certain proud old Creole families, however, the prejudice against les Américains (or “Kaintucks,” as they were sometimes called with indiscriminate contempt) lasted right down to the present century.
A rather singular group assisted Jackson in his brilliant defense of New Orleans: the pirates who, under Jean Lafitte’s leadership, infested Barataria Bay and the labyrinth of bayous flowing into it. These men, whose activities had long been a source of embarrassment to the new government, were pardoned by President Madison as a reward for their part in the battle. As vicious a band of cut-throats as ever assembled in the New World, they were of all races anil nations. Some of their descendants live today on Grand Isle, where there is perhaps a greater mixture of blood than anywhere else in Louisiana.
As the nineteenth century advanced, New Orleans lost much of its Creole character (by 1820 the Americans outnumbered the Creoles three to one), but it became, if possible, even more cosmopolitan. About 1850, groups of Dalmatians began arriving. The men came lirst, settling along the bays and lakes east of the Mississippi and south of New Orleans. They became oyster fishermen—the best in Louisiana—and eventually they were able to send for their wives and sweethearts. A few of them married French-speaking girls from the bayous. The villages of Olga, Empire, Ostrica, and Oysterville were built up almost entirely by Dalmatians, and in time they were joined by other Balkan immigrants from Serbia, Montenegro, Greece, and Albania. The oyster industry, one of the most profitable in the delta, would not be what it is today had it not been for the Dalmatians, who have permanently identified themselves with it in Louisiana. Some of them, such as the Popiches and the Jurisches, moved to New Orleans to become oyster wholesalers; others started restaurants there which are still thriving.
Later on in the century a colony of Spanish-speaking Filipinos gathered in the Terre aux Boeufs area along Lake Borgne. No one knows exactly how they got there—there was a rumor that they had deserted from ships in New Orleans—but their number increased until they constituted a substantial settlement. For many years, before liaisons were formed with Spanish girls from New Orleans, it was a place utterly devoid of women. Lafcadio Hearn, who visited the Filipino colony in 1883, wrote that it was “as dead to the civilized world as the heart of Cambodia.” These men were shrimpers, and they came to be identified with the shrimp industry in much the same way as the Dalmatians had with the oyster industry. Later they formed another and larger settlement across the river, Manila Village, which attracted immigrants (many of whom entered illegally) from China and the Malay Peninsula as well.
From the middle of the nineteenth century onward, great immigration waves from Ireland, Italy, and Germany began to inundate both the city and the state. The Irish worked as unskilled laborers, thereby competing with the Negroes, whom they despised; in New Orleans they settled at some distance from Canal Street in an area that is still known as the Irish Channel. The Italians, like those in other American cities, came mostly from Calabria and Sicily, and the language which they developed among themselves, a mixture of the dialects of those regions with English, is almost unrecognizable to a native of northern or central Italy. Vegetable farming was their specialty, and they scattered all over the southern part of the state, concentrating in the suburbs around New Orleans. In time the French Market came to look more Italian than French, and most of the produce dealers there today are of Sicilian descent. As for the Germans, their number in New Orleans was large enough in the 1850’s to justify the publication of a daily newspaper, the Täglische Deutsche Zeitung .
Between 1835 and 1840, in the heyday of the steamboat, New Orleans was the fourth largest city in the United States; her exports exceeded New York’s, and Lloyd’s of London predicted that she would become the greatest port in the world. She was the most colorful city in America: at the busy wharves you could hear the chant of Negro slaves mingled with the hum of a dozen different languages, while the streets resounded with the cries of hawkers; stolid Indian squaws squatted in the French Market selling sassafras root; saloons, gambling halls, and bordellos enticed the prodigal and the profligate: steamboats raced each other on the Mississippi; cock fights were going on all over town; the St. Charles Theatre and the Théâtre d’Orléans played every evening to packed houses; the Quadroon Balls in the magnificent Salle d’Orléans were scandalizing the Creole ladies; Negro slaves, some of them straight from the African interior, danced the bamboula and the colinda on Sunday nights in Congo Square; mulatresses with brilliant turbans sold gris-gris and love potions; professional gamblers with Howered waistcoats and enormous diamond rings strolled with women of easy virtue as gaudily dressed as themselves and chatted with steamboat captains.
All that is gone now. Lloyd’s reckoned without the Civil War, and also without the Erie Canal, whose opening in 1825 enabled farmers from the states beyond the Appalachians to ship their produce east to New York. By 1850, New Orleans had lost her lead in exports, even cotton exports, to New York. When Louisiana seceded in 1861, New Orleans was still the fourth city of the nation, but after the War, in spite of continuing immigration from Europe, her population could not keep step with that of other large American cities. The present century, however, has seen much commercial expansion and the development of important new industries, such as oil: offshore drilling, by the most advanced techniques, is now one of the most familiar sights along the Louisiana coast line. In the last few years, which have witnessed the levelling effects of mass production and of vastly increased communication and transportation facilities, Louisiana has begun to lose many of the characteristics that distinguish it from other places in the Deep South.
Many, but not all. In spite of the bewildering number of influences to which it has been subjected, southern Louisiana still has an essentially Latin heritage, and in many respects New Orleans resembles Havana or Quebec more than it does Dallas or Omaha. The architecture of the French Quarter, thanks to the efforts of the Vieux Carré Commission which protects it, is unique in the United States, and the interest in good food properly seasoned (in no other American city will you find so sophisticated a popular palate) is undoubtedly Gallic. The characteristic dishes, too, are of Mediterranean origin modified by Indian, Spanish, and African influences and by regional factors. Thus, Creole gumbo is a type of bouillabaisse which substitutes oysters, crabs, and shrimp for mussels, clams, and langoustes —and, of course, adds okra.
But it is in the people themselves that we see the greatest difference, for Louisianians, by virtue of their complicated background, are not like other Americans. Their language, especially in the southern part of the state, retains many French patterns, like the use of the objective pronoun at the beginning of a speech in the first person (“Me, I don’t like that”) and the use of an affirmative or a negative at the end of a sentence for emphasis (“That wind is cold, yes”; “He didn’t do that right, no”). And people still, though with far less frequency, make birthdays rather than have them (“He made fifteen yesterday”).
Character differences are equally obvious. Southern Louisianians are a hedonistic lot: they believe a man is a fool if he does not take the most pleasure from life of which he is capable, and their ideas of pleasure are simple and earthy. More value is placed upon charm than upon intellectual ability. New Orleans particularly is a good-time town, whose perennial spirit is perfectly symbolized in the Mardi Gras, the pre-Lenten period of balls, parades, and riotous street masking culminating on Shrove Tuesday.
By contrast with New Orleanians, who are inclined to be extravagant, the country Cajuns are apt to be frugal, not to say parsimonious. Descendants of Norman and Breton peasant stock, they have retained some of the shrewdness and penny-pinching attributes of their ancestors, and they have a well-earned reputation for driving hard bargains. Some of them are downright miserly. They have a strong sense of pride and are rarely insolvent: their virtues are peasant virtues, and they are easily satisfied—the American mania for gadgets, as strong in New Orleans as anywhere else, seems to have bypassed the Cajuns completely, and in this sense they live as nearly an idyllic existence as is possible in the United States today. Only forty miles southwest of New Orleans is the fishing village of Lafitte, whose main thoroughfare is a footpath less than a yard wide which strings for more than a mile along the shore of Goose Bayou. The tiny houses fronting on the bayou (each with its own cistern) are equipped not with garages but with boathouses, and the family pirogue or motorboat is moored therein. The inhabitants of these houses, who go about bare-footed and whose features reveal the mixture of many diverse strains, are courteous and healthy-looking; some of them are surprisingly handsome, and looking at them, you recall what you once learned in a college anthropology course—that cross-breeding produces a vigorous stock. Except for an occasional television antenna and modern outboard motor you might imagine the year to be 1900 instead of 1963, and it is hard to believe that a great modern city lies less than an hour’s drive away. Such contrasts are part of the charm of Louisiana, and help to define the atmosphere that makes this state, with its hybrid heritage, the unique place that it is in modern America.