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American Routes

Racial Palimpsests and the Transformation of Race

Angel Adams Parham


Paperback: 296 pages
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Publish Date: April 18, 2017
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0190624752
ISBN-13: 978-0190624750

American Routes provides a comparative and historical analysis of the migration and integration of white and free black refugees from nineteenth century St. Domingue/Haiti to Louisiana and follows the progress of their descendants over the course of two hundred years. The refugees reinforced Louisiana’s tri-racial system and pushed back the progress of Anglo-American racialization by several decades. But over the course of the nineteenth century, the ascendance of the Anglo-American racial system began to eclipse Louisiana’s tri-racial Latin/Caribbean system. The result was a racial palimpsest that transformed everyday life in southern Louisiana. White refugees and their descendants in Creole Louisiana succumbed to pressure to adopt a strict definition of whiteness as purity that conformed to standards of the Anglo-American racial system. Those of color, however, held on to the logic of the tri-racial system which allowed them to inhabit an intermediary racial group that provided a buffer against the worst effects of Jim Crow segregation. The St. Domingue/Haiti migration case foreshadows the experiences of present-day immigrants of color from Latin-America and the Caribbean, many of whom chafe against the strictures of the binary U.S. racial system and resist by refusing to be categorized as either black or white. The St. Domingue/Haiti case study is the first of its kind to compare the long-term integration experiences of white and free black nineteenth century immigrants to the U.S. In this sense, it fills a significant gap in studies of race and migration which have long relied on the historical experience of European immigrants as the standard to which all other immigrants are compared.


Angel Adams Parham

Angel Adams Parham is the Rev. Joseph H. Fichter, S.J. Distinguished Professor of Social Science and Associate Professor of Sociology at Loyola University-New Orleans.  She works in the area of historical sociology, engaging in research and writing that examine the past in order to better understand how to live well in the present and envision wisely for the future.  This research focus is rooted in her interest in re-connecting sociology to its classical roots so that sociology is understood to be a kind of public philosophy animated by questions such as: What is a good society? and What kinds of social arrangements are most conducive to human flourishing? She is the author of American Routes: Racial Palimpsests and the Transformation of Race (Oxford, 2017), which was co-winner of the Social Science History Association’s Allan Sharlin Memorial book award (2018)  and co-winner of the American Sociological Association’s Barrington Moore book award in comparative-historical sociology (2018). She has been a member of the School of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, as well as the recipient of a Fulbright grant. She is also the co-founder and executive director of Nyansa Classical Community, which provides curricula and programming designed to connect with students from diverse backgrounds, inviting them to take part in the Great Conversation, cultivate the moral imagination, and pursue truth, goodness, and beauty.


  • Louisiana and the Advent of a New America
  • Racial Systems and the Racial Palimpsest
  • St. Domingue as Training Ground: Color, Class, and Social Life Before Louisiana
  • White St. Domingue Refugees and White Creoles in Nineteenth-Century Louisiana
  • St. Domingue Refugees and Creoles of Color
  • Twenty-First Century Remnants of a White Creole Past
  • Into the Twenty-First Century: Creoles of Color Finding Their Way
  • Racial Palimpsests and the Transformation of US American Regions



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