Jean Lafitte, pirate, Sephardic Jew, AGAIN!!
I've written about Laffite (Laffitte, etc) several times before. People just keep arguing about this and leaving comments! A reader recently pointed me to the following article.
The Jewish Pirate
by Edward Bernard Blick for the Jerusalem Post, Jul. 13, 2006
One of the things I do since I retired from Philadelphia's Temple University in 1991 is lecture on cruise ships. My signature talk is the 50-century-old history of piracy, whose practitioners I call the Seafaring Gangsters of the World.
I sent a draft of the talk to my history-buff sister, Phyllis. She liked it, but she was very unhappy that I had not mentioned Jean Lafitte. She said I simply had to talk about Lafitte because he was unique. He was a Sephardi Jew, as was his first wife, who was born in the Danish Virgin Islands.
Though I didn't lecture about Lafitte at first, a circumstance of serendipity has made me do so ever since.
I was flying to Norfolk, Virginia. The man in the seat next to me, born in France, ... now lives in Switzerland. We ... had the following conversation [small talk followed by]:
"... I'll be giving lectures on a ship..."
"What do you lecture about?"
"... I always begin a cruise with a lecture on pirates. The kids love it, and the old folks like it, too."
"Are you are going talk about Jean Lafitte?"
"No," and I repeated what my sister had told me.
He pulled out his wallet and handed me a business card. It had "Melvyn J. Lafitte" written on it. Then he said, "I could tell you that as we were chatting I printed this card on a nano-sized printing press hidden in my pocket. And of course, you wouldn't believe me. But the truth is that I am a direct descendant of Jean Lafitte. Your sister, Phyllis, is absolutely right.
"Our family, originally named Lefitto, lived in the Iberian Peninsula for centuries. When Ferdinand and Isabella reconquered Spain and expelled the Muslims and the Jews in 1492, most of the Jews fled to North Africa. Others went to the Balkans or to Greece and Turkey. But some Sephardi Jews, my ancestors among them, crossed the Pyrenees and settled in France, where Jean was born in about 1780. He moved to French Santo Domingo during the Napoleonic period. However, a slave rebellion forced him to flee to New Orleans. Eventually, he became a pirate, but he always called himself a privateer because that label has a more legal ring to it.
"In 1814, the British sought his aid in their pending attack on New Orleans," he continued. "However, he passed their plans to the Americans and helped General Andrew Jackson beat them in 1815. A grateful Jackson, not yet president, saw to it that Lafitte and his family became American citizens. And by the way, did you know that there is a town of Jean Lafitte, as well as a Jean Lafitte National Historical Park in Southwestern Louisiana?"
I was flabbergasted ... by the fact that the two of us had met so coincidentally in the skies over Georgia....
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