World War II changed that. Thousands of Cajuns served in the armed forces, and for the first time many were exposed to outside influences. Those influences were, of course, accelerated by such postwar developments as the introduction of television into typical homes and the creation of the interstate highway system. In addition, young Cajuns found themselves strongly influenced by the advent of rock and roll music and other national cultural trends that led to a sharp reduction in traditional Cajun habits.
Most people think of the Cajuns as Caucasian, but in 1960, 28 percent of Acadiana's population was black. Although several violent incidents did mar the region's integration, in general it progressed quite peacefully. One reason lay in the large degree of racial intermingling that the region had historically experienced. Another lay in the strong support for desegregation by the Roman Catholic Church. Today, many African American Cajun families have surnames such as Doucette and Thierry. Many are as proud to proclaim themselves "coonasses" (p. 109) as their white counterparts.
By the early 1970s the Americanization of the Cajuns had proceeded so rapidly that some of the region's leaders organized efforts to preserve its rich heritage. The Council for the Development of French in Louisiana (CODOFIL), for example, forcefully espoused the teaching of French in the schools and helped to restore some of the traditions and values of the Cajun language. CODOFIL also became known for its promotion of Cajun pride and empowerment. Cajun music and cuisine also became highly publicized features of this movement.
Bernard concludes that during the last sixty years of the twentieth century the meaning of the word Cajun was redefined from the popular perception of a lazy, shiftless, ignorant people; Cajuns came to be recognized as a unique and valued ethnic group. The core identity of the Cajuns has transformed itself into one of pride.
Bernard has done an excellent job in treating this neglected aspect of Cajun history. His sources include a wide variety of both primary and secondary works. His chapters on the influences of World War II and of the atomic age on the Cajuns are fine interpretations. He also gives full credit to the important roles played by women and blacks in the region. This reviewer highly recommends this immensely readable and informative volume to anyone interested in learning more about one of America's most fascinating peoples. -- The Journal of American History (June 2004)
Shane K. Bernard, a descendant of Acadian exiles who settled in Louisiana, wondered why in his lifetime, "after more than three hundred years in the New World, [his] family had suddenly lost the ability to speak French" (p. xii). He, and Cajuns in general, Bernard concludes, had been "Americanized." That transformation, which he thoroughly explores and examines, was "rapid, widespread . . . sparked by the onset of World War II and fueled by the convergence of several ensuing trends and events during the postwar period: the advent of mass communications, rampant consumerism, interstate highways, the jet age, educational improvements, even the rise of rock 'n' roll". . . . The strength of this study rests in the way Bernard follows the effects of postwar changes as they ripple through Cajun culture. . . . Bernard, as both scholar and participant, has written a thorough and interesting study of that transformation. -- Journal of Southern History (August 2004)
This is great, l grew up in the period....this is the way it was.Published 2 days ago by Philip C. Crawford
This will be an asset to my genealogy research esp. when I start the biographies of my ancestors. This book in combination of A Great and Noble Scheme: the tragic story of the... Read morePublished 17 months ago by moonlightflower
It's a very nice and complete description of the Cajun's assimilation of what it means to be American. Read morePublished 17 months ago by Jose Ramos-Bouille
If you're looking to learn more about the Cajun people in the modern era, this book is for you.
Well written, informative, and it's a page turner.
Was not what I was looking for. The time frame was wrong. I was looking for something more in the 19th century. Good book if this is the story you want.Published 21 months ago by William C. Roberts