Tulane historian Judith Schafer delves into world of New Orleans' 19th-cent

Historians in the News

Tulane University history professor Judith Kelleher Schafer loves uncovering the truth, whether it be pleasant or not.

"I need history to tell me what to write," she said. "I couldn't make up this stuff. The truth is so wonderful."

Schafer's third book came about by happy accident. While researching archives of the First District Court of New Orleans and the Daily Picayune from 1846-1862 for her award-winning book, "Becoming Free, Remaining Free: Manumission and Enslavement in New Orleans, 1846-1862," she kept noticing all these charges for "keeping a brothel."

"And 99 percent of them were dropped before they went to trial," she said.

She began to keep track of these cases, taking notes as she went, thinking she had an idea for a book. The result is "Brothels, Depravity, and Abandoned Women: Illegal Sex in Antebellum New Orleans," a revelatory look at the pre-Civil War period to the Union occupation.

"No one's ever looked at this period, and it was so wide-open," she said. "I think it was a wide-open port town. There were characters like Delia Swift who kept running around and stabbing men.

"New Orleans must have been something else. You could buy liquor in a grocery store by the glass. And the politicians are all in it up to their necks, and the landlords were the ones making the money. The police were totally underpaid and understaffed. They didn't even have uniforms. They had badges, but no uniforms."...
Read entire article at Times-Picayune

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