Residence and Medical Practice of Dr. Louis Charles Roudanez and Family

Stop 4 of 9 on The New Orleans Tribune: America’s First Black Daily Newspaper tour

Dr. Louis Charles Roudanez was a visionary free man of color, doctor, and journalist. Angered by slavery and racial injustice, he took up the cause of equality during the Civil War and Reconstruction eras, and founded two of New Orleans’ premier black newspapers, L’Union and the New Orleans Tribune.

Like many free people of color in New Orleans, Dr. Louis Charles Roudanez was wealthy, grew up with the French language, attended Catholic Church, and received much of his education in Paris. Roudanez’s parents were racially mixed refugees from the French colony of Saint-Domingue (Haiti), leaving after the island’s successful slave rebellion began in 1791. [1] 

Roudanez was inspired by the 1848 French Revolution, after which the Second Republic abolished slavery and extended the vote to men of color. While in France studying at the faculté de médecine de la Sorbonne, Roudanez was a student of prominent republican activists and reportedly took to the barricaded streets of revolutionary Paris. [2] Dr. Roudanez graduated with honors from the faculté de médecine, widely believed to be the best medical school in the world. He returned to the United States and received a second medical degree from Dartmouth College in 1856. 

Returning to New Orleans after his many years of study, Dr. Roudanez found the city had changed significantly. The South’s largest metropolis had an expanding white majority and was becoming more Americanized. Free people of color, while enjoying some measure of liberty, were increasingly denied “privileges” of citizenship, inter-racial marriage, public accommodation and education. Upon his homecoming, the doctor encountered a much more severely restricted and antagonistic racial environment, one which undoubtedly angered a spirit steeped in the values of liberté, egalité et fraternité. [3] 

In 1857, Roudanez married Célie Saulay, a free woman of color, at a ceremony held in St. Louis Cathedral. The couple raised eight children together, all likely born at the Roudanez residence. The doctor established a successful medical practice, serving clients without regard to race or ability to pay. 

In 1862, Dr. Roudanez, along with Paul Trévigne and Jean Baptiste Roudanez, founded L’Union, the South’s first black newspaper. In 1864, Roudanez launched La Tribune de la Nouvelle Orléans (the New Orleans Tribune), the first black daily newspaper in the United States. With his Tribune colleagues and a dynamic community of free and freed persons of African descent, Dr. Roudanez courageously attacked racism in the face of some of the nation’s worst violence. He was the group’s guiding force and undoubtedly wrote for the paper as well. Tribune editor Houzeau wrote that “Dr. Roudanez…steadfastly demanded and claimed his rights to their fullest extent with a strength of soul that I always admired.” [4] Roudanez was a brilliant rhetorician who crafted stirring essays. “The time has come for all true radicals to make equality a practical thing in Louisiana,” he wrote. “Let them have the will; let them be well awaked to the importance and the character of that reform; let them above all, insist upon it, on every occasion and at any time.” [5] 

In 1879, soon after the fall of Reconstruction and mounting racial discrimination in New Orleans, Dr. Roudanez’s wife, daughters, and youngest son permanently relocated to Paris, France. Dr. Roudanez remained in New Orleans for the rest of his life alongside his eldest sons. 

Dr. Louis Charles Roudanez is entombed in St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. 

The Roudanez family home was torn down sometime around in the 1920s. Today a parking lot stands in its place.

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1015 Iberville Street, New Orleans, LA. ~ Historically 179 Custom House Street. Site now occupied by a parking lot.