Creole New Orleans newspaper editor Paul Trévigne, the biracial son of a Battle of New Orleans veteran, was born in New Orleans in 1825. Trévigne was part of the free people of color community in Louisiana that protested racial injustice before the Civil War and helped establish Republican politics in the state after 1865.
Trévigne taught at the Catholic Indigent Orphan School in New Orleans, a school dedicated to providing free education to African American orphans. From 1862 to 1864 he served as the editor of the militant Republican journal L’Union. Trévigne used the paper to argue for the freeing of all slaves in Louisiana and across the south, and issued some of the earliest calls for full political equality for African Americans in the region.
After L’Union folded in 1864, Dr. Louis Charles Roudanez started the bilingual (English and French) newspaper, La Tribune de la Nouvelle-Orléans (The New Orleans Tribune), the first African American paper published in two languages in the United States. Trévigne edited La Tribune from 1864 to 1869. Near the end of the Civil War La Tribune was outspoken in its support for the Union army. It motivated black Louisiana men to join the Union Army and later to become political activists. Both L’Unionand La Tribune threatened New Orleans’s white southern community. Trévigne’s life was threatened on numerous occasions and there were attempts to burn La Tribune. In response to these attacks, Trévigne changed the style of the newspaper. He made indirect critiques through satire and humor, a tactic which for a time spared him more animosity from the white community in an era when whites were unaccustomed to accepting the opinions of people of color.
La Tribune de la Nouvelle-Orléans under Trévigne’s editorship drew upon the literary styles of Voltaire, Rousseau, Montesquieu, Plato, and Pascal. The paper reminded its readers of the potential political power of black Louisianians who comprised half the population of the state. The paper also worked hard to remind whites in the state that African Americans were cultured, refined, and human beings who deserved full civil and economic rights.
In 1875 and 1876 Trévigne published the “Centennial History of the Louisiana Negro” in the Louisianian, which commemorated the 100th anniversary of American Independence. This work, one of the first black state histories published in the U.S., highlighted the scientific, literary, and artistic contributions of African Americans in Louisiana. Towards the end of his career, Trévigne worked against segregation especially after the U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1896 in Plessy v. Ferguson.
Paul Trévigne died in his hometown of New Orleans in 1908. He was 83 years old.