It would be hard to name a more accomplished individual than Dr. Louis Charles Roudanez, a Louisiana Creole whose courage and achievements have secured him a permanent berth in both civil-rights and publishing history.
He was born June 12, 1823 in St James Parish, just up the river from New Orleans, and baptized at St. Michael’s Parish Church in Convent, La. His mother was a free woman of color, a midwife and nurse, and his father was a white merchant from France.
In New Orleans, young Louis attended school, worked in a shop, and saved money before going to Paris, where he earned his first medical degree at the Académie Royale de Médecine, graduating with honors in 1853. On his return to the states, he attended medical school a second time at Dartmouth, where he graduated in in 1857 with an American Medical Doctorate. In 1858 he married Celie Saulay, a free woman of color, in St. Louis Cathedral, and set up a successful New Orleans medical practice. The couple had nine children, and were great supporters of charity, giving their money and time to orphans of color as well as the formerly enslaved.
After Union forces seized New Orleans in 1862, Roudanez and a group of other Creoles launched L’Union, the South’s first newspaper owned by people of color. It was published three days a week and strongly advocated the end of slavery and racial oppression. In 1864, after increasingly serious threats forced L’Union to cease publication, Dr. Roudanez founded La Tribune de la Nouvelle-Orléans, which became the nation’s first black-owned daily paper.
The Tribune masthead was a who’s who of Creole thinkers, including poet Joanni Questy and educator and poet Armand Lanusse. The Belgian-born civil-rights activist Jean Charles Houzeau came aboard as an editor, and used his position to argue eloquently for cross-class unity among peoples of color. The Tribune’s political commitments included universal (male) voting suffrage, desegregation of schools and streetcars, and free public education. Notable French writers including Alexander Dumas and Victor Hugo sent the Tribune letters for publication. The Tribune published in both French and English, and was an organ of culture as well as information, bringing its readers literature and poetry along with news and analysis. Roudanez sent complimentary copies to the offices of other large national papers as well as to every member of the U.S. Congress, earning his paper’s oft-quoted editorial voice considerable heft.
In 1870, political divisions within the paper’s leadership and Lanusse’s death led Roudanez to suspend the Tribune’s publication; he returned to medicine, treating patients from his French Quarter home on what is now Iberville St. until his death in 1890.
MEMORIAL DEDICATION HONORING LOUIS CHARLES ROUDANEZ ON THE 125TH ANNIVERSARY OF HIS DEATH
NEW ORLEANS. MARCH 11, 2015
Local historical and cultural groups, scholars, students, and direct-descendants will host a ceremony honoring Dr. Louis Charles Roudanez, the publisher of America’s first Black daily newspaper, the New Orleans Tribune. The public is invited to participate in this celebration of one of America’s first and most important civil rights fighters.
Please support this event financially at crowdrise.com/roudanez.
The event will start at 1:00 P.M. near the entrance to St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 on Basin Street. A graveside musical tribute and a blessing will precede the unveiling of a historical marker honoring Dr.Roudanez and the dynamic community of African descent that shared his vision.
After the Memorial, a public forum entitled “History and Memory: Reclaiming the Legacy of Louis Charles Roudanez and America’s First Civil Rights Movement” will be held at the nearby St. Jude Community Center, 400 Rampart Street. The Forum will begin at 2:30 PM and will feature tributes to Dr. Roudanez and his legacy. A Memorial reception will be held at Le Musée de f.p.c., 2317 Esplanade Avenue, at 6:30 PM.