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Author Fatima Shaik. Photo courtesy of SPU.

Many say students are lacking in learning the importance of history in school. Author Fatima Shaik brought this to attention while discussing her new book about the New Orleans’ free people of color community, a story she says that has been long overlooked in history.

Shaik was born in the Seventh Ward of New Orleans and grew up on the history of Black Creoles which she was made aware of throughout her family and friends.

She taught at Saint Peter’s for 25 years and founded the Communications Department. She is a full time writer and is currently on a book tour for “Economy Hall.”

Before writing her first nonfiction book, she was also a writer for children’s literature.

On Thursday, March 4, Shaik spoke to a group of communication students about her new book “Economy Hall: The Hidden History of a Free, Black Brotherhood.”

She discussed how the book goes into depth about a community in New Orleans that existed from 1836 to 1935 and follows one of the members who became an activist after the Civil War.

“It is about change in the culture and based on this small group of people that started in New Orleans who were free, they had low agency, low history and they knew what was going on and Economy Hall is where this took place,” Shaik said.

Prof. Shaik shared statistics about the Black community that aren’t commonly talked about.

“In the 19th century, 45% of Blacks were free in New Orleans and they were like that from the time the United States purchased Louisiana until the Civil War,” she said

Shaik’s book came about after reading records of the Economy that included 3,000 pages of handwritten French that was stored in her family’s home. She immediately began to research, spending two decades reading the journals and documenting events through real estate records, legal cases, old monographs and articles.

These never before seen journals describe the evolution of New Orleans. Prof.Shaik tells of the undercovered and overlooked chapter of history with the help from these now recovered documents.

“The reason I wrote this book is so that when people talk about it, they can’t always say this group of people I talk about is false and made up, when these are just the facts I have and we can’t argue the facts.’

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