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The House That Sugarcane Built tells the saga of Jules M. Burguières Sr. and five generations of Louisianans who, after the Civil War, established a sugar empire that has survived into the present. When twenty-seven-year-old Parisian immigrant Eugène D. Burguières landed at the Port of New Orleans in 1831, one of the oldest Louisiana dynasties began. Seen through the lens of one family, this book traces the Burguières from seventeenth-century France, to nineteenth- century New Orleans and rural south Louisiana and into the twenty-first century. It is also a rich portrait of an American region that has retained its vibrant French culture. As the sweeping narrative of the clan unfolds, so does the story of their family-owned sugar business, the J. M. Burguières Company, as it plays a pivotal role in the expansion of the sugar industry in Louisiana, Florida, and Cuba. The French Burguières were visionaries who knew the value of land and its bountiful resources. The fertile soil along the bayous and wetlands of south Louisiana bestowed on them an abundance of sugarcane above its surface, and salt, oil, and gas beneath. Ever in pursuit of land, the Burguières expanded their holdings to include the vast swamps of the Florida Everglades; then, in 2004, they turned their sights to cattle ranches on the great frontier of west Texas. Finally, integral to the story are the complex dynamics and tensions inherent in this family-owned company, revealing both failures and victories in its history of more than 135 years. The J. M. Burguières Company’s survival has depended upon each generation safeguarding and nourishing a legacy for the next.
On November 23, 1887, white vigilantes gunned down unarmed black laborers and their families during a spree lasting more than two hours. The violence erupted due to strikes on Louisiana sugar cane plantations. Fear, rumor and white supremacist ideals clashed with an unprecedented labor action to create an epic tragedy. A future member of the U.S. House of Representatives was among the leaders of a mob that routed black men from houses and forced them to a stretch of railroad track, ordering them to run for their lives before gunning them down. According to a witness, the guns firing in the black neighborhoods sounded like a battle. Author and award-winning reporter John DeSantis uses correspondence, interviews and federal records to detail this harrowing true story.
A study of Louisiana French Creole sugar planters’ role in higher education and a detailed history of the only college ever constructed to serve the sugar elite. The education of individual planter classes—cotton, tobacco, sugar—is rarely treated in works of southern history. Of the existing literature, higher education is typically relegated to a footnote, providing only brief glimpses into a complex instructional regime responsive to wealthy planters. R. Eric Platt’s Educating the Sons of Sugar allows for a greater focus on the mindset of French Creole sugar planters and provides a comprehensive record and analysis of a private college supported by planter wealth. Jefferson College was founded in St. James Parish in 1831, surrounded by slave-holding plantations and their cash crop, sugar cane. Creole planters (regionally known as the “ancienne population”) designed the college to impart a “genteel” liberal arts education through instruction, architecture, and geographic location. Jefferson College played host to social class rivalries (Creole, Anglo-American, and French immigrant), mirrored the revival of Catholicism in a region typified by secular mores, was subject to the “Americanization” of south Louisiana higher education, and reflected the ancienne population’s decline as Louisiana’s ruling population. Resulting from loss of funds, the college closed in 1848. It opened and closed three more times under varying administrations (French immigrant, private sugar planter, and Catholic/Marist) before its final closure in 1927 due to educational competition, curricular intransigence, and the 1927 Mississippi River flood. In 1931, the campus was purchased by the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) and reopened as a silent religious retreat. It continues to function to this day as the Manresa House of Retreats. While in existence, Jefferson College was a social thermometer for the white French Creole sugar planter ethos that instilled the “sons of sugar” with a cultural heritage resonant of a region typified by the management of plantations, slavery, and the production of sugar.

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