One hundred years ago little had been written about the Acadian deportation from the Maritimes Provinces of Canada, resulting in Acadians — or Cajuns as they’re better known in Louisiana — being exiled throughout the 13 colonies, the Caribbean and Europe.
Louisiana state Sen. Dudley J. LeBlanc changed all that.
Growing up LeBlanc kept hearing the history of the Acadian people as having attacked the British in their Canadian homes, resulting in a justified deportation by the English beginning in 1755. He knew that the British, writers of Canadian history, were not telling the truth, so he traveled to Canada and Europe to research Acadian history, much of which he translated from the French.
In 1926, LeBlanc wrote “The True Story of the Acadians,” followed by a revised version years later, then “The Acadian Miracle” in 1966.
The Acadian Museum in Erath, where LeBlanc and his family had moved when he was a toddler, celebrates its 25th anniversary with a fundraiser on Aug. 20 honoring LeBlanc and his lifetime of achievements with an exhibit titled “The Life of Sen. Dudley J. LeBlanc, Sr.: Acadian to Cajun.”
The display will feature more than 100 photographs, articles and objects. Many of the items, collected from donations worldwide, will be displayed publicly for the first time, including the diary and scrapbook of Corinne Broussard, who in the 1930s traveled by train with LeBlanc to Grand Pré in Nova Scotia along with 22 other “Evangeline Girls” to commemorate the anniversary of the Acadian deportation.
Opening the Aug. 20 event will be Michele Le Blanc, an award-winning author and film producer who created the documentary “Cajun Renaissance Man” about her famous grandfather. Le Blanc has revised and enhanced Dudley LeBlanc’s books to be re-released for their own anniversaries — “The Acadian Miracle” for its 50th anniversary and “The True Story of the Acadians” for its 90th.
The re-release of both books will provide readers with enhanced versions that include a completed annotation and updated biography, Le Blanc said. It will also bring both titles back into print.
“The old books went out of print years ago,” Le Blanc explained.
The reissue of “The True Story of the Acadians” by BizEntine Press, Le Blanc’s publishing company, contains the original sketch of the Evangeline statue at Grand Pré National Historic Site in Nova Scotia.
“When Dudley visited Grand Pré (Acadia), Nova Scotia in the early 1920s the historic site had been preserved in a park and a statue of Evangeline had been erected in 1920,” Le Blanc explained about the statue dedicated to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s Acadian heroine of the poem, “Evangeline.” “Dudley hired an artist to draw the statue, which is the cover art on the book.”
Dudley “Coozan Dud” LeBlanc served in the Louisiana House and Senate, ran for governor in 1932 after Huey Long and pushed for the creation of Evangeline State Park in St. Martinville. In the 1940s, he conceived the idea for and began selling Hadacol, the best-selling patent medicine in the United States at that time, according to Trent Angers, author of “Dudley LeBlanc: A Biography.” LeBlanc traveled the country with stars such as Lucille Ball, Bob Hope and Mickey Rooney in the Hadacol Caravan. He also led groups of Louisiana Cajuns to visit their ancestral homeland in Canada and to meet three presidents — Herbert Hoover, Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy — dressed in Evangeline attire at the White House.
“He engineered and organized these bus tours,” Angers said. “He’d take high school students up there (Canadian Maritime and New England) to show them their roots and to tell them about the Acadian exile. His motivation was in large part to set the record straight but to also speak with great pride about the Acadian culture.”
Angers and Le Blanc will be on hand to sign copies of their books Aug. 20 at the Acadian Museum, along with authors Josh Caffery, Mary and Warren Perrin, Sheila Hebert Collins and Nelwyn Hebert.
“Dudley said we must always remember,” Le Blanc concluded. “That was a quote that always stuck with me. It’s exciting to see the work live on. It’s important for us to know our history, to see where we came from and know who we are.”
The Acadian Museum will also induct Louisiana Commissioner of Conservation and former Louisiana Attorney Gen. Richard Ieyoub into the Order of Living Legends at the fundraiser and French immersion teacher Marilyn Melancon Trahan, of Erath, will have her student chorus sing French songs.
The event is open to the public and tickets are available for $35 per person, dinner and drinks included. For more information, call (337) 233-5832 or visit acadianmuseum.com.
For information about the reissued books of Dudley LeBlanc, or to pre-order copies with free shipping, visit bizentinepress.com.