Residence of Jean Baptiste Roudanez

Jean Baptiste Roudanez (1815-1895), a free man of color, served as publisher of L’Union, the South’s first black newspaper, and the New Orleans Tribune, America’s first black daily newspaper. Dr. Louis Charles Roudanez, the Tribune’s founder, was Jean Baptiste’s younger brother. Jean Baptiste Roudanez’s home still stands on Dumaine Street in the Faubourg Tremé. 

In 1864, he traveled from this residence, alongside Arnold Bertonneau, a fellow free man of color and veteran of the First Louisiana Native Guard, to present President Lincoln with a petition signed by almost 1,000 free men of color, demanding black men’s right to vote. The Petition righteously proclaimed “WE ARE MEN, TREAT US AS SUCH!” Roudanez and Bertonneau impressed Lincoln, and the President quickly penned a request to Louisiana’s governor to consider limited black enfranchisement. The Petition’s demand for voting rights for all men of African descent, “WHETHER BORN SLAVE OR FREE,” [1] was realized in September 1867, nearly 3 years before the Fifteenth Amendment was ratified. Black Louisianans turned out in large numbers, electing many delegates of African descent to the upcoming state constitutional convention.

Following his meeting with Lincoln, Jean Baptiste Roudanez and Arnold Bertonneau toured New England to speak at abolitionist meetings. Roudanez met Frederick Douglass in Boston and made a lasting impression upon him. Douglass later wrote to Jean Baptiste, stating he read the Tribune “with very great pleasure. I am proud that a press so true and wise is devoted to the interests of liberty and equality in your Southern latitude.” [2] Douglass felt the paper was an essential tool for the success of the abolitionist movement. 

Jean Baptiste Roudanez testified before the 1864 Freedmen’s Inquiry Commission investigation of the condition of enslaved Louisianans. The Commission's report described him as "a free mulatto creole of New Orleans, a man of great intelligence and probity, who had been employed as an engineer and mechanic upon many of the sugar plantations in the region of the country under consideration. No man could have had a more thorough acquaintance with plantation life than he, and no man in the city of his residence bears a higher reputation for truth and sobriety.” Roudanez told the Commission "Upon some plantations the women were worked as hard as the men, and were kept at labor in every stage of pregnancy, even up to the moment of delivery. The overseers had the run of all the field women, and if one of them refused, an occasion was soon found for subjecting her to a severe punishment. The practice of indiscriminate intercourse...was a source of great suffering to these women. Frequently the jealous wife would procure them to be whipped...The tortures inflicted upon these helpless favorites of the husband by the infuriated wife, in order to render them less attractive to the husband, are not to be described." [3]

Jean Baptiste Roudanez is entombed in St. Louis Cemetery No. 2., Square 3.



1514 Dumaine Street, New Orleans, LA