Spear brings together archival evidence from three different languages and the most recent and respected scholarship on racial formation and interracial sex to explain why free people of color became a significant population in the early days of New Orleans and to show how authorities attempted to use concepts of race and social hierarchy to impose order on a decidedly disorderly society. She recounts and analyzes the major conflicts that influenced New Orleanian culture: legal attempts to impose racial barriers and social order, political battles over propriety and freedom, and cultural clashes over place and progress. At each turn, Spear’s narrative challenges the prevailing academic assumptions and supports her efforts to move exploration of racial formation away from cultural and political discourses and toward social histories.
Strikingly argued, richly researched, and methodologically sound, this wide-ranging look at how choices about sex triumphed over established class systems and artificial racial boundaries supplies a refreshing contribution to the history of early Louisiana.
A paradigm of ineffectuality and weakness, the mollycoddle was "all inner life," whereas his opposite, the "red blood," was a man of action. Kevin P. Murphy reveals how the popular ideals of American masculinity coalesced around these two distinct categories. Because of its similarity to the emergent "homosexual" type, the mollycoddle became a powerful rhetorical figure, often used to marginalize and stigmatize certain political actors. Issues of masculinity not only penetrated the realm of the elite, however. Murphy's history follows the redefinition of manhood across a variety of classes, especially in the work of late nineteenth-century reformers, who trumpeted the virility of the laboring classes.
By highlighting this cross-class appropriation, Murphy challenges the oppositional model commonly used to characterize the relationship between political "machines" and social and municipal reformers at the turn of the twentieth century. He also revolutionizes our understanding of the gendered and sexual meanings attached to political and ideological positions of the Progressive Era.