Casino Deutschland

Lost & Found

At first glance, the 1854 house flying the French flag at 2306 Esplanade Avenue is unremarkable in a town teeming with antebellum homes trimmed with cast-iron galleries, but its story is far richer than most. Events within these walls rocked the international art world after a visit from Edgar Degas, the only nineteenth-century French Impressionist to ever work in America. “He drowsed in the vibrant sunlight until the carriage halted before the Musson home. Through bleary eyes, he admired a handsome, three-storied house with generous galleries and dependencies and, here and there, cousin Désirée’s promised sweet olive trees.” –Creole Son Degas (1834-1917) was born in Paris to a French father, Auguste Degas, and a New Orleans-born mother, Célestine Musson. In...

Read More

The Black Pharaoh

Henri Christophe was a man in a hurry. Born a slave in 1767, he grew up in the French colony of Sainte-Domingue (Haiti) where he worked hard to secure his freedom in a world where man’s inhumanity to man was the rule. The French were among history’s harshest taskmasters, importing African slaves to be worked to death, usually within three years, in the sugar cane fields.  By 1789, Sainte-Domingue was the most lucrative colony in the world. With half a million black slaves, 32,000 whites and 25,000 people of mixed blood, it was also a time bomb of racial outrage. The inevitable slave uprising came in 1791, and Henri, at age 24, quickly joined the rebellion led by Toussaint L’Ouverture. A courageous soldier with superb leadership skills, Henri’s rise through the...

Read More

The Black Swan

In celebration of Black History Month, I salute Elizabeth Greenfield (1819-1876), a Mississippi slave whose golden voice was her ticket to freedom. Born on a Natchez, Mississippi, plantation, Elizabeth was taken as an infant to Philadelphia by her owner, Holliday Greenfield. After joining the Society of Friends (Quakers), Mrs. Greenfield freed and adopted her charge. As Elizabeth grew up and showed a natural flair for singing, she astonished Mrs. Greenfield with the power and range of her voice and her self-taught skills on the guitar. Recognizing a remarkable talent, Mrs. Greenfield sought formal training, but could find no Philadelphia voice coach willing to jeopardize his professional reputation with a student of color, even at three times the going rate of...

Read More