Building Antebellum New Orleans: Free People of Color and Their Influence with Tara Dudley
The Cabildo
New Orleans
Event Date: Thursday, May 11, 2023

Join us for an evening with Tara Dudley as she discusses her book, Building Antebellum New Orleans: Free People of Color and Their Influence (University of Texas Press, 2021). This program is sponsored by the Friends of the Cabildo as part of the Second Thursday Lecture Series. It is free and open to the public, but registration is required. The program will take place on Zoom on Thursday, May 11, 2023, 6:00–7:30 p.m. CDT. Please register here!

The book can be purchased from University of Texas Press here:

About the Book

The Creole architecture of New Orleans is one of the city's most-recognized features, but studies of it largely have focused on architectural typology. In Building Antebellum New Orleans, Tara A. Dudley examines the architectural activities and influence of gens de couleur libres—free people of color—in a city where the mixed-race descendants of whites and other free Blacks could own property.

Between 1820 and 1850 New Orleans became an urban metropolis and industrialized shipping center with a growing population. Amid dramatic economic and cultural change in the mid-antebellum period, the gens de couleur libres thrived as property owners, developers, building artisans, and patrons. Dudley writes an intimate microhistory of two prominent families of Black developers, the Dollioles and Souliés, to explore how gens de couleur libres used ownership, engagement, and entrepreneurship to construct individual and group identity and stability. With deep archival research, Dudley re-creates in fine detail the material culture, business and social history, and politics of the built environment for free people of color and adds new, revelatory information to the canon on New Orleans architecture.

About the Author

Dr. Tara A. Dudley is a lecturer in the University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture, where she teaches architectural design history and interior design history courses. She has served as a senior architectural historian for the Austin-based preservation consulting firm HHM & Associates. Her work explores preservation issues on local, regional, and national levels. She has been involved in various aspects of historic preservation, historical research, and writing and consults on projects across the nation. Her research focuses on nineteenth- and early twentieth-century American architecture and design, specifically the under-told and untold contributions of African Americans. Her methodology includes creative utilization of archival resources and conducting oral histories. Dr. Dudley’s first book-length publication, Building Antebellum New Orleans: Free People of Color  and their Influence is the winner of the Association of American Publishers 2022 Prose Award in Architecture and Urban Planning, the 2022 Summerlee Book Prize in nonfiction from the Center for History and Culture of Southeast Texas and the Upper Gulf Coast, the 2022 Best Book Prize from the Southeast Chapter of the Society of Architectural Historians (SESAH), and the University of New Mexico School of Architecture and Planning 2022 On the Brinck Award. Dr. Dudley obtained her master’s in historic preservation and doctorate in architectural history from the University of Texas at Austin.