Le Louisianais was published from 1865 to 1883 in Convent, a small community in St. James Parish, Louisiana, located about halfway between New Orleans and Baton Rouge. In the 19th century, this area was known for its large, affluent sugar plantations.
Jean Sylvain Gentil (1829-1911) founded Le Louisianais. Born near Blois, France, Gentil was imprisoned and exiled in 1850 by Emperor Napoleon III for writing incendiary articles in the republican journal Le Courrier de Loir-et-Cher. He lived briefly in London before immigrating to the United States in 1852, eventually settling in Convent, where he taught French, Spanish, Latin, and Greek at Jefferson College, a small Catholic school. At the end of the Civil War, Gentil began publishing Le Louisianais in partnership with Armand Victor Romain (1835-1872), a math professor at Jefferson College. The first issue appeared on August 12, 1865. By November of that year, it was the official journal of St. James Parish.
Le Louisianais was initially published weekly on a single double-sided sheet; in 1877 it expanded to four pages. Primarily in French, it had varying amounts of English-language content. Each issue typically carried miscellaneous news from around the world; political commentary, with an emphasis on race relations, suffrage, and the post-Civil War recovery of the South; advertisements and announcements; essays on science, history, art, and literature; and an assortment of poetry and fiction. A unique aspect of the paper were its regular “feuilletons,” serialized stories by Gentil that were often autobiographical in nature and covered topics ranging from “Les Gaulois en Amérique” (French Americans) and thoughts on freemasonry (controversial in Catholic Louisiana), to personal stories about Gentil’s imprisonment, a youthful love affair, and his favorite hobby, gardening.
A critic of the Catholic Church, Gentil used Le Louisianais to antagonize the local clergy. In 1880, Father Onézime Renaudier organized another newspaper, Le Foyer creole [LCCN: sn88064694], partly to counteract Gentil’s influence. Gentil also caused controversy in race relations. Though he supported black education and acknowledged the need for racial cooperation, in November 1869, he criticized the election of an African American, Oscar Dunn, to the post of Lieutenant Governor of Louisiana. Le Louisianais consequently lost its official printing contract.
In 1881, Gentil sold Le Louisianais to André Roman and Paul Grima. It was published until 1883. After leaving the paper, Gentil owned La Démocratie française [LCCN: sn88064080] of New Orleans and wrote articles for various other publications in his spare time, including his old enemy, Le Foyer creole, as a charity to its publisher, Estelle Jourdan Dicharry, widow of former publisher Florian B. Dicharry.