The Creoles of color are a historic ethnic group of Creole people in Louisiana (especially in the city of New Orleans), Southern Mississippi, Alabama, and Northwestern Florida.
Mixed-race Creoles of color became identified as a distinct ethnic group, Gens de couleur libres (free persons of color), prior to the 19th century. During Louisiana’s colonial period, Créole referred to people born in Louisiana who had ancestors from elsewhere; i.e., all natives other than Native Americans. The term Créole was first used by French colonists to distinguish themselves from foreign-born settlers, and later as distinct from Anglo-American settlers. Colonial documents show that the term Créole was used variously at different times to refer to white people, mixed-race people, and black people, including slaves.
Many Creoles of color were free, and their descendants often enjoyed many of the same privileges that whites did, including (but not limited to) property ownership and formal education. During the antebellum period, their society was structured along class lines. While it was not illegal, it was a social taboo for Creoles of color to marry slaves and it was a rare occurrence. Some of the wealthier and prosperous Creoles of color owned slaves. Other Creoles of color such as Thomy Lafon used their social position to support the abolitionist cause. Another Creole of color, Francis E. Dumas, emancipated all of his slaves and organized them into a company in the Second Regiment of the Louisiana Native Guards.
Some historians suggest that New Orleans was the cradle of the civil rights movement in the United States, due to the earliest efforts of Creoles to integrate the military en masse. Creoles of Color had been members of the militia for decades under both Spanish and French control of the colony of Louisiana. For example, around 80 free Creoles of Color were recruited into the militia that participated in the Battle of Baton Rouge in 1779. They volunteered their services and pledged their loyalty to their