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Though he was light skinned enough to pass as white, Lanusse embraced his black ancestry, and devoted his life to the republican ideals of liberty and equality for African-Americans living in the United States.
In 1845 he edited and contributed to Les Cenelles, a collection of 85 poems written in French by 18 Afro-Creole poets of Louisiana. Though 1830 state laws existed that prohibited speech or writing that would incite slave revolts, these poems represented the first literary effort to establish the principals of freedom for all blacks, equality, and liberty..
In 1848, Lanusse organized a group of 10 other prominent members of the Afro-Creole community which was called "The Catholic Institute for the Instruction of Indigent Orphans", or "L'Institute Catholique." This group successfully sued to obtain control of the estate of Madame Couvent, a wealthy free woman of color who died in 1837 leaving her estate of properties to establish a school for orphans in Louisiana.
When a permanent building was constructed for this school in 1852, Lanusse became its principal, and served in that capacity until his death in 1867.
While principal, he established a curriculum that included grammar, logic, rhetoric, mathematics, French, English, science, and personal hygiene. At its peak, the school had 200 students, primarily Afro-Creole orphans and the children of less affluent Afro-Creole parents.
In 1861, Lanusse became an officer in the 1st Louisiana Native Guard (CSA), a position which he held until that unit disbanded in April 1862.
Shortly after the fall of New Orleans in May, 1862, Lanusse refused to follow Union General Benjamin Butler's order to fly the American flag over the Institute Catholique. He later regretted this refusal, and became an ardent supporter of the abolitionist cause.
- New Orleans Republican, March 17, 1868 (p.3)
- Desdunes, Rodolph Lucien, Our People, Our History: Fifty Creole Portraits, originally published in French in 1911, republished in English by the LSU Press in 1973