Parisian Playwright from Louisiana
by Charles Edward O'Neill
"Victor Séjour, f.m.c." In antebellum Louisiana, free men and free women of color were legally obligated to indicate their status in every legal transaction or public announcement. The usual method was simply to give the letters "f.m.c." or "f.w.c." Whites and free persons of color were thus constantly reminded that the latter occupied a distinct place in Louisiana society: free, but not white; black, but not slave.
This work is the first full-length, published biography of a Louisiana-born f.m.c. By following Séjour's life, the modern reader can explore the antebellum free-black community's distinctive way of life.
Haiti, France, and Louisiana are linked together in Victor Séjour and his family. The Séjours remind us that a sweeping arc of French culture reached from the St. Lawrence River through the Great Lakes down the Mississippi River out to the Antilles: Quebec, Montreal, Detroit, Nouvelle-Orléans, Port-au-Prince.
It was thus only natural that France became the home of Victor Séjour, who emerged as one of mid-nineteenth-century Paris's most celebrated playwrights. Through the pages of this prolific playwright we enter into mid-nineteenth-century French theater and its relationship with the French governments of the era. We learn not only of the stage, but also of the "real world" outside, from which the theatergoers came into be entertained, to be uplifted—or simply to be seen at the theater.
Race interrelations, Louisiana bilingualism, Haitian contacts, French theater, Napoleon II's regime—all are part of the life and work of Victor Séjour, who was born in 1817 in the most vibrant black community of the antebellum South and who died in 1874 in a Paris that was struggling to rise from military defeat and civil war.
Charles O'Neill presents here a "warts and all" portrait of the playwright and his work.
Hardcover, 176 pages, ©1995