Do Franco-Americans exist outside the history books? Lacroix says, oui!
Historian Patrick Lacroix has a truly phenomenal blog - Query the Past. A good portion of his blog focuses on Franco-Americans.
Franco-Americans are loosely defined as the descendants of French-Canadians in the United States. In the eyes of many, they have been relegated to the history books. They gave up on their language and culture and have been fully assimilated into the Borg-like collective of modern-day American culture. Yuck.
That take on the Franco-Americans irks us, mostly because it's patently false. Lacroix cross-checks that narrative over the boards in his blog post - Franco-Americans Since 1945: An Overview.
Lacroix points to World War II and its impacts on American society overall as a clear defining line between the world of Little Canadas and modern-day Franco-American culture.
Pointing to an actual reason for the disappearance of these communities answers the questions of many in the modern Franco-American community. We like the lack of blame and shame in this view.
Pictured above: US troops raise the American flag over Iwo Jima, including what was once thought to be Franco-American René Gagnon of Manchester, NH. Gagnon actually risked his life to get the photo correct.
Lacroix then begins to step through the 1950s to the present day. There is a lot to unpack when it comes to this community. It's very unique and somewhat hidden in terms of US history. We find it refreshing that Lacroix avoids the doom and gloom take that many have. He does not view the post-WWII timeframe as the march to extinction.
The culture has merely changed its no better or worse, just different. There are many groups around the US addressing the needs of this new Franco-American community. Some groups are strong in the French language and some are not, and that's ok. Preserving what they can while creating something new is a completely logical step.
As Lacroix points that out here:
"In fact, it is unfair to view the last fifty or seventy-five years of Franco-American history as a gradual slide to extinction. There has been a turn-over in organizations—with new groups forming to meet the demands of a new era. They are now less likely to be denominational or to operate in French; these organizations take a broader view of cultural heritage that has enabled them to connect meaningfully with the non-Franco community."
Getting out of their insular communities allows them to tap more directly into US culture as a whole and carve out their own niche. We feel embracing this change is the key to the long term success of the culture.
The only way for a culture to continue is to grow it. Complaining about what the Yankees did to Franco-Americans and not doing anything in the present won't exactly attract young people. Of course, totally rip on the "historic" Yankees from time to time, but also celebrate some of the really amazing things in the Franco-American community. In short, stop and smell the poutine from time to time :).
Pictured: Patrick Lacroix dunking on a tired narrative. (just kidding)