PROJECT THEMES & STRUCTURE
The proposed project is a book with the working title: From Slavery to FreeTown: The Making and Reading of Place, and will include an edited, cross-disciplinary collection of deeply researched and documented academic papers mixed with a diverse range of community histories, genealogies, stories, maps, and graphic studies. We hope to bring to life the complexity of this living place, its history, and how it is illustrative of the importance of place in understanding identity. The project is intended for academics across disciplines as well as for the local community and is to serve as source material for future studies of development, cultural geography and sustainability, historic preservation, and the making and reading of place. Our intent is for a careful reading of place, both geographic and ancestral, to ground contemporary perceptions of identity and the social, cultural, and economic transition of Lafayette from an age of slavery to Freetown today. We are looking to map the relational structures within the community to the lived experiences of the generations and the individuals that that have animated this place.
Our book specifically explores the Freetown-Port Rico-Crapaudville area of Lafayette, Louisiana, often simply referred to as FreeTown [this unique spelling is to help distinguish the original Freetown subdivision proper from the larger, multi-neighborhood community]. It is a case study of the mixing of distinct genealogical and locational threads of early and later waves of immigrants with indigenous peoples. While the FreeTown neighborhoods were once the historic site of Governor Mouton’s Ile Copal Sugar Plantation, which in its heyday maintained well over 100 slaves, this neighborhood today expresses a vibrant ecology of diverse stories, settlement patterns, buildings, and genealogies. Its many examples of both the preservation of tradition and the embracing of new development illustrate a complex and adaptive community with well developed, place-based, social relations that have anchored opportunities for inclusivity and compromise, notwithstanding the numerous historic and contemporary trials it has endured.