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Mon, 01.24.1825

Paul Trévigne Jr., Newspaper Editor born

*Paul Trévigne Jr. was born on this date in 1825. He was a Black Creole newspaperman and civil rights activist.

From New Orleans, Louisiana, he was the biracial son of Paul Trevigne, a veteran of the 1815 Battle of New Orleans, and Josephine Marguerite Decoudreaux. Free men of color had served in the militia under French rule and fought with the Americans during the United States War of 1812 against the British. Trévigne's aunt was Mother Henriette DeLille, the pioneering Black Catholic in New Orleans who founded the Sisters of the Holy Family.

Tensions had arisen relatively soon after the US made the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. Trévigne grew up in the community of free people of color, who had had a range of liberties under French colonial rule. After acquiring this territory, white-Americans had begun to impose segregation common to their slave societies. There were no public schools in the city when he was young. Some free children of color were educated or tutored privately if their families could afford it.

Trévigne became educated. Early in his career, he taught at the Catholic Indigent Orphan School, established by the Archdiocese of New Orleans, which provided education to Black orphans. He was editor of two black-owned newspapers, L'Union from 1862 until it closed in 1864, and then the New Orleans Tribune (1864-1870), the first black daily newspaper in the country. As editor of L'Union, which vigorously promoted the Unionist Republican cause in Louisiana. It also enabled the cause of emancipation and the franchise for all enslaved Africans in the state, where blacks made up half the population and across the South. Trévigne emphasized the potential political power of blacks in the state and region.  

Editors at the Tribune stressed civil rights for all Blacks, not the relatively few who had been free people of color before the war. The paper closed in 1869 after losing national Republican Party funding because of criticism by some northern white opponents. The two newspapers had wide circulation among black readers in the city and across the South. Readers were primarily free people of color, as enslaved Africans were prohibited from being educated.

Trévigne continued to work on civil rights issues, seeking equal rights for those who had been free people of color before the war, as well as the many freedmen emancipated by the war. He opposed efforts by white Democrats to impose segregation. During the latter part of Reconstruction, Trévigne wrote Centennial History of the Louisiana Negro, published in the Louisianian in 1875-1876 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the American Revolution. One of the first state histories about blacks to be published in the United States "highlighted their scientific, literary, and artistic contributions in Louisiana." He continued to oppose segregation, working for civil rights after the US Supreme Court decision in Plessy v. Ferguson, which ruled that separate but equal accommodations were constitutional.

Paul Trévigne died on September 1, 1908. On October 19–21, 2018, Trévigne and Louis Charles Roundanez were portrayed in the opera Les Lions de la Reconstruction (Lions of Reconstruction), which Opera Créole premiered at the Marigny Opera House.

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