Spiritualism in Nineteenth-Century New Orleans: The Life and Times of Henry Louis Rey

The advent of Modern American Spiritualism blossomed in the 1850s and continued as a viable faith into the 1870s. Because of its diversity and openness to new cultures and religions, New Orleans provided fertile ground to nurture Spiritualism. Many séance circles flourished in the Creole suburbs of Tremé and Marigny as well as the American sector of the city.

In Spiritualism in Nineteenth-Century New Orleans (University Press of Mississippi) San Jacinto College history professor Melissa Daggett focuses on Le Cercle Harmonique, the francophone séance circle of Henry Louis Rey (1831–1894). Rey was a Creole of color who was a key civil rights activist, author, and Civil War and Reconstruction leader. His life has remained largely in the shadows of New Orleans historiography owing, in part, to a language barrier.

Spiritualism in Nineteenth-Century New Orleans focuses on the turbulent years between the late antebellum period and the end of Reconstruction through the eyes of the séance registers. Translating and interpreting numerous primary sources and the René Grandjean Registers of Rey’s séance proceedings, Daggett has opened a window into the fascinating life and times of Henry Rey. This new book provides unparalleled insights into the history of the Creoles of color and renders a better understanding of New Orleans’s rich and complex history.

Daggett weaves an intriguing historical tale of the supernatural, chaotic postbellum politics, transatlantic linkages, and the personal triumphs and tragedies of Henry Louis Rey. Spiritualism in Nineteenth-Century New Orleans also features 25 black and white illustrations, including wonderful reproductions of the original spiritual communications, and photographs, many of which have never before appeared in published form.

MELISSA DAGGETT is an instructor of United States history at San Jacinto College in Pasadena, Texas. Her work has appeared in Louisiana History.

For more information contact Clint Kimberling, Publicist, ckimberling@mississippi.edu
Read more about Spiritualism in Nineteenth-Century New Orleans: The Life and Times of Henry Louis Rey at http://www.upress.state.ms.us/books/2000
Listen to the WWNO (NPR New Orleans) podcast in which Susan Larson, a well-known book critic in New Orleans, mentions Daggett and San Jacinto College.