A tignon (also spelled and pronounced tiyon) is a type of headcovering—a large piece of material tied or wrapped around the head to form a kind of turban that somewhat resembles the West African gele. It was worn by Creole women of African descent in Louisiana beginning in the Spanish colonial period, and continuing to a lesser extent to the present day.
This headdress was the result of sumptuary laws passed in 1786 under the administration of Governor Esteban Rodriguez Miró. Called the tignon laws, they prescribed and enforced oppressive public dress for female gens de couleur in colonial society.
Historian Virginia M. Gould notes that Miró hoped the law would control women "who had become too light skinned or who dressed too elegantly, or who, in reality, competed too freely with white women for status and thus threatened the social order."
Miró's intent of having the tignon mark inferiority had a somewhat different effect, according to historian Carolyn Long who noted: "Instead of being considered a badge of dishonor, the tignon ... became a fashion statement. The bright reds, blues, and yellows of the scarves, and the imaginative wrapping techniques employed by their wearers, are said to have enhanced the beauty of the women of color."
The women who were targets of this decree were inventive and imaginative. They decorated tignons with their jewels and ribbons, and used the finest available materials to wrap their hair. In other words, "[t]hey effectively re-interpreted the law without technically breaking the law"—and they continued to be pursued by men.
The tignon law remained in place into the Antebellum era and while the original desire of the law was to create racial differences, the adoption of the tignon by Empress Josephine made it stylish for white women, as well as women of color, to wear their hair "in the Creole style" with a tignon wrap. In the early 19th century, the tignon was associated with French fashion, which appropriated styles from a variety of cultures, and with a sense of "Frenchness."
The tignon can be wrapped in many ways, and it was and is worn in a different way by every woman. Madras was a popular fabric for tignons among both free and enslaved populations, and has become iconic. Tignons were often created out of mis-matched scraps of undyed fabric given to slaves by their masters. The patchwork of material was made to appear festive. Tignons worn by free women of color or enslaved women in Haiti, Martinique, Guadeloupe, St. Lucia and Dominica, was made from Madras fabric, even had hidden messages.
The tignon is experiencing a revival in Louisiana. It is found particularly in Creole-themed weddings. Celebrities such as Erykah Badu and Jill Scott continue to wear headdresses, as a celebration of Afro-American culture.
Esteban Rodríguez Miró y Sabater, KOS, also known as Esteban Miro and Estevan Miro, was a Spanish army officer and governor of the Spanish American provinces of Louisiana and Florida.
In the context of the history of slavery in the Americas, free people of color were primarily people of mixed African, European, and Native American descent who were not enslaved. However, the term also applied to people born free who were primarily of black African descent with little mixture. They were a distinct group of free people of color in the French colonies, including Louisiana and in settlements on Caribbean islands, such as Saint-Domingue (Haiti), St. Lucia, Dominica, Guadeloupe, and Martinique. In these territories and major cities, particularly New Orleans, and those cities held by the Spanish, a substantial third class of primarily mixed-race, free people developed. These colonial societies classified mixed-race people in a variety of ways, generally related to visible features and to the proportion of African ancestry. Racial classifications were numerous in Latin America.
Affranchi is a former French legal term denoting a freedman or emancipated slave, but was a term used to refer pejoratively to mulattoes. It is used in the English language to describe the social class of freedmen in Saint-Domingue, and other slave-holding French territories, who held legal rights intermediate between those of free whites and enslaved Africans. In Saint-Domingue, roughly half of the affranchis were gens de couleur libres and the other half African slaves.
The Creole case was a slave revolt aboard the American slave ship Creole in November 1841, when the brig was seized by the 128 slaves who were aboard the ship when it reached Nassau in the British colony of the Bahamas where slavery was abolished. The brig was transporting enslaved people as part of the coastwise slave trade in the American South. It has been described as the "most successful slave revolt in US history". Two died in the revolt, an enslaved person and a member of the crew.
Plaçage was a recognized extralegal system in French and Spanish slave colonies of North America by which ethnic European men entered into civil unions with non-Europeans of African, Native American and mixed-race descent. The term comes from the French placer meaning "to place with". The women were not legally recognized as wives but were known as placées; their relationships were recognized among the free people of color as mariages de la main gauche or left-handed marriages. They became institutionalized with contracts or negotiations that settled property on the woman and her children and, in some cases, gave them freedom if they were enslaved. The system flourished throughout the French and Spanish colonial periods, reaching its zenith during the latter, between 1769 and 1803.
Louisiana Creoles are people descended from the inhabitants of colonial Louisiana before it became a part of the United States during the period of both French and Spanish rule. As an ethnic group, their ancestry is mainly of Louisiana French, Central African, West African, Spanish and Native American origin. Louisiana Creoles share cultural ties such as the traditional use of the French, Spanish, and Creole languages and predominant practice of Catholicism.
Henriette Díaz DeLille, SSF was a Louisiana Creole of color and Catholic religious sister from New Orleans. Her father was a white man from France, her mother was a "quadroon", and her grandfather came from Spain. She founded the Sisters of the Holy Family in 1836 and served as their first Mother Superior. The sisters are the second-oldest surviving congregation of African-American religious.
Armand Lanusse was a Creole of color, educator, poet, and writer from New Orleans, Louisiana. He is the editor of Les Cenelles (1845), a collection of poems by fellow Creoles of color in New Orleans widely considered to be the first African-American poetry anthology published in the United States. He also served as the founder and director of the Catholic Institute for Indigent Orphans from 1852 to 1867.
Isle of Canes (ISBN 1-59331-306-3), a novel by Elizabeth Shown Mills, follows an African family from its importation and enslavement in 1735 through four generations of freedom in Creole Louisiana to its re-subjugation by Jim Crow at the close of the nineteenth century. Mills explores the family's "struggle to find a place in [a] tightly defined world of black and white" — a world made more complex by the larger struggle of Louisiana's native ancien regime to preserve its culture amid the Anglo-Protestant "invasion" that followed the Louisiana Purchase of 1803 and the resulting battle for political and social hegemony. Isle's central theme is the ambiguous lives of those who escaped colonial slavery only to find they could not survive as free without complicity in the slave regime.
The Creoles of color are a historic ethnic group of Creole people that developed in the former French and Spanish colonies of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Northwestern Florida, in what is now the United States. French colonists in Louisiana first used the term "Creole" to refer to people born in the colony, rather than in France.
The Wob Dwiyet, also called the Wob or Gwan Wob, is the national dress of the countries of Dominica, Saint Lucia, and French West Indies. A traditional four-piece costume. The Wob Dwyiet, a grand robe worn by the earlier French settlers. The madras is the traditional pattern of the women and girls of Dominica and St. Lucia, and its name is derived from the madras cloth, a fabric used in the costume.
Headgear, headwear, or headdress is any element of clothing which is worn on one's head, including hats, helmets, turbans and many other types. Headgear is worn for many purposes, including protection against the elements, decoration, or for religious or cultural reasons, including social conventions.
Cyrille Bissette (1795–1858) was a French abolitionist, politician and publisher. A free person of color from Martinique, his radical activities and publications galvanized the abolition movement in France and its colonies. He represented Martinique in the French National Assembly from 1848 to 1851.
Discrimination based on hair texture, also known as texturism, is a form of social injustice, where afro-textured hair or coarse hair types are viewed negatively, often perceived as "unprofessional", "unattractive", or "unclean".
Following Robert Cavelier de La Salle establishing the French claim to the territory and the introduction of the name Louisiana, the first settlements in the southernmost portion of Louisiana were developed at present-day Biloxi (1699), Mobile (1702), Natchitoches (1714), and New Orleans (1718). Slavery was then established by European colonists.
Louis Antoine Collas was a portrait and miniature painter from France. Collas's work primarily consisted of oil paintings and miniature water colors.
Rosette Rochon (1767–1863) was an American placée and businesswoman, who was an important figure in the Gens de couleur libres society of New Orleans. She belonged to the most famous of the placées of New Orleans alongside Eulalie de Mandéville and Marie Thérèse Metoyer, and made a fortune on investments in dry goods, cattle, banking, slave trade and real estate business.
The tignon law was a 1786 law enacted by the Spanish Governor of Louisiana Esteban Rodríguez Miró that forced black women to wear a tignon headscarf. The law was intended to halt plaçage unions and tie freed black women to those who were enslaved, but the women who followed the law have been described as turning the headdress into a "mark of distinction".
Jean-Louis Dolliole was an African-American architect in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA, during the 19th century. He was a free man of color who also worked as a cabinetmaker, home builder, contractor, planter and leader of the African-American community of New Orleans in the time of the Antebellum South. Dolloile is noted for the architectural design of several residential projects which continue in use as homes into the 21st century. The designs were early versions of the creole cottage that became a common style of homes in New Orleans and elsewhere in the southern United States. Dolliole was a leader in the early development of the Faubourg Tremé neighborhood of New Orleans.
Portrait of a Creole Woman with Madras Tignon is an oil painting traditionally attributed to George Catlin. It is best known from a c. 1915 copy made by Frank Schneider, an art restorer working for the Louisiana State Museum. The portrait was historically known as Portrait of Marie Laveau as it was presumed to depict Louisiana Voodoo priestess Marie Laveau. Long thought to be lost, the painting resurfaced in 2022 when it was sold at auction for US$984,000.