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During the period of French and Spanish rule, the gens de couleur came to constitute a third class in New Orleans and other former French cities - between the white Creoles and the mass of black slaves.
They had certain status and rights, and often acquired education and property.
The system flourished throughout the French and Spanish colonial periods, reaching its zenith during the latter, between 17.
It was widely practiced in New Orleans, where planter society had created enough wealth to support the system.
The upper class European men during this period often did not marry until their late twenties or early thirties.
Premarital sex with an intended white bride, especially if she was of high rank, was not permitted socially.
Given the harsh conditions in Louisiana, persuading women to follow the men was not easy.
After the Haitian Revolution in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, many refugees came to New Orleans, adding a new wave of French-speaking free people of color.
When the women bore children, they were sometimes emancipated along with their children.
Both the woman and her children might take the surnames of the man.
Adding to what was known as free people of color in Louisiana, and especially New Orleans, during the colonial years, from whom wealthy men would choose.
In this period there was a shortage of European women, as the colonies were dominated in the early day by male explorers and colonists.