African American Mardi Gras Masquerading Traditions
- Kim Vaz-Deville
African American participation in Mardi Gras has been persistent since its introduction into the Louisiana colony. Their aims ranged from enjoying the merriment of the celebration to enjoying the pleasure of subversion of the social order through masquerade activities.
Using the cloak of satire enabled them to ridicule the prevailing status quo and display identities that were more consistent with who they felt they were as a self-valuing people living in a hostile environment. James Creecy, a cotton farmer, slave holder, and writer, who attended the 1835 New Orleans Mardi Gras noted that
Men and boys women and girls bond and free white and black yellow and brown exert themselves to invent and appear in grotesque quizzical diabolical horrible humorous strange masks and disguises Human bodies are seen with heads of beasts and birds snakes heads and bodies with arms of apes man bats from the moon mermaid satyrs beggars ...