Spiritualism in Nineteenth-Century New OrleansThe Life and Times of Henry Louis Rey

Spiritualism in Nineteenth-Century New OrleansThe Life and Times of Henry Louis Rey

Melissa Daggett

Print publication date: 2019

ISBN: 9781496810083

Publisher: University Press of Mississippi


The advent of Modern American Spiritualism took place 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, and many séance circles flourished in the Faubourgs Tremé and Marigny as well as the American sector of the city. This book focuses on Le Cercle Harmonique, the francophone séance circle of Henry Louis Rey, 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 owning, in part, to a language barrier. The book weaves an intriguing historical tale of the supernatural, chaotic postbellum politics, and the personal triumphs and tragedies of Henry Louis Rey. Besides Rey’s séance circle, there is also a discussion about the Anglo-American séance circles in New Orleans. The book places these séance circles within the context of the national scene, and the genesis of nineteenth-century Spiritualism is examined with a special emphasis placed on events in New York and Boston. The lifetime of Henry Rey and that of his father, Barthélemy Rey, spanned the nineteenth century, and mirror the social and political dilemmas of the black Creoles. The book concludes with a comparison of Spiritualism with the Spiritualist and Spiritual churches, as well as voodoo. The book’s narrative is accompanied by wonderful illustrations, reproductions of the original spiritual communications, and photographs.