America’s French roots: from 1500 to 1773

Gerard Charpentier, sociologist and historian of French culture in America , will hold an event at the French Alliance of Jacksonville, FL, for the 450th anniversary of French presence in Florida. The event, “ America ’s French roots from 1500 to 1773: Culture and Identity,” provides us with the facts and dates one must retain regarding this “broad” topic. Interview.

e-toile : Mr. Carpenter, you’re a French sociologist specializing in the French language (historian of the French-speaking) in North America, South America, and the West Indies. Could you tell us more about your theme of preference?

JPEGGC- Of French origin, I’ve resided in North America (Canada /U.S.) for several decades and have often worked in cultural organizations, such as the French Alliance of Fort Lauderdale (in which I served as President for several years). Such activities have indirectly led to my interest in both the French culture and language in this continent, and how to live with our French-American identity.

e-toile : You will be conducting a conference for the 450th anniversary of French presence in Florida on April 30, 2012, at the French Alliance of Jacksonville, FL. Tell us the details of this French settlement in Florida .

What are the archaeological remains of this French presence?

GC- As a matter of fact, the exact title of the conference is: ‘’America’s French Roots from 1500 to 1773: Culture and Identity,” a broad topic that, in particular, shows that the first European colonies that qualified as “permanent” in the North American continent are found on US ground! 1562- 1565 in South Florida/Carolina and Maine in 1602 with Samuel de Champlain (Sainte-Croix).

The first corresponds to shipments of Protestant settlers led by Captain Jean Ribault and René Goulaine de Laudonniere from 1562 to 1565. This attempt at colonization under Charles IX was to experience unexpected challenges due to the religious wars in France. For this reason we must consider two stages.

- * A first fortification Charles Fort was installed by Jean Ribault in 1562 on Parris Island in South Carolina since 1563 and then abandoned.
- * A second fortification Fort La Caroline was installed by Rene Goulaine de Laudonniere in 1564 in the present site of Jacksonville, Florida, but was very quickly destroyed in 1565 by the very Catholic Spaniards who executed all those heretics with no hesitation, including Jean Ribault.

- * Today the site of Fort Charles South Carolina has been updated with the excavations made in 1920 but is not currently open to the public as it is on a military base. With respect to the site of Fort La Caroline, you can visit a reconstruction (not identical) situated on the banks of the St. John River (named River of May by the French in 1562) showing what the fort may have looked like.

- * On May 1st, many activities are planned including the arrival of two schooners French Navy, a beautiful symbol of the French arrival in the area.

E-Toile: The francophone presence and history in Florida is relatively unknown. What remains of this cultural heritage in Florida today?

GC-In reality, we must distinguish two things.

- On the one hand, the French presence left in America that is the result of New France which for over two and a half centuries (1500-1763) marked the North American continent and whose descendants today prove decades they are present and desirous to be recognized and to take their place culturally.

- On the other hand, there is the francophone presence which is the result of a dynamic modern internationalization with more than 800 million people spread over all the continents and of which, corresponds to Florida, a living example.

Florida and especially the Greater Miami area has a permanent francophone community with over 200,000 people consisting mainly of Francophone Quebecois and other Canadians, but also of many other Haitians and French from France (25 to 30,000), Europe, Africa and Asia.

It is the state in the United States, where the francophone presence is most felt with more than a million French speaking persons during the peak of the tourist season.

Last modified on 11/05/2012

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