PARADISE?

Paradise? In all colonial theatres, an upper section, Paradis pour les gens de couleur (“Paradise for Colored People”), was reserved for a select Portion of the free nonwhite population who seemed to have been absorbed into French culture.(1) To receive permission to attend the theatre was regarded as a very high privilege for any nonwhite. However, in order to avoid any mixing of the races, it was required that these “select” persons had to enter and leave the theatre by a special door. Nevertheless, attendance at the theatre was seen by some of them, such as the rich planter elite, as a sign of acceptance by white society. Regardless of the view taken, authorities used this cruelly provocative institution as one of the most effective means of control over this sector of the population, mentally as well as physically. This so-called Paradise promoted and encouraged division among nonwhites; and whites encouraged such stratification, for they regarded such free peoples, many of whom were their own sons and daughters, as allies against threats of slave revolt.” (From Plantation to Paradise? Cultural Politics and Musical Theatre in French Slave Colonies, 1764-1789, xi. Michigan State University Press, May 2014.)

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(1) In the present study, the terms “Africans” and “nonwhites” apply only to sub-Saharan Africans and their descendants, unless specifically indicated otherwise…..

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