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During the Louisiana Constitutional Convention of 1867-1868, the young Edouard Tinchant proposed measures to protect the civil rights of women. He suggested that the State adopt legal measures to allow all women, regardless of race or color, to more easily bring complaints in the event of a breach of a marriage promise. He also proposed additional measures to prevent women from being forced into “concubinage” against their will. While that constitutional Convention was open to men of color and guaranteed a number of the rights for which Tinchant and his friends were fighting, the assembly did not adopt his propositions on the rights of women.

This article further explores the life of Tinchant, who was born in France in 1841 and whose parents left New Orleans the year prior under the status of “free people of color.” The authors found that Tinchant moved from the Béarn region of France to Belgium after the Second French Republic was dissolved, and then to New Orleans in 1862.

In his own autobiographical descriptions, Tinchant emphasized the importance of his European education and his time in the Union Army, but he also described himself as a “son of Africa” and of Haitian ancestry. While researching his history in the Archives Nationales d’Outre-Mer in Aix-en-Provence, the authors found documents that allowed them to recreate the story of Tinchant’s grandmother, Rosalie Vincent, who lived part of her life in slavery.

Through this recreation, the family’s story becomes part of a wider history encompassing concepts of rights and dignity, a history which is rooted in personal experiences of vulnerability, confronting bureaucracy, and legal battles fought but not always won.