Skip to Main Content

In the face of an oppressive white society, members of the Société d’Economie et d’Assistance Mutuelle built a community and held it together through the era of slavery, the Civil War, Reconstruction, and Jim Crow terrorism. Economy Hall: The Hidden History of a Free Black Brotherhood follows Ludger Boguille, his family, and his friends through landmark events— from the Haitian Revolution to the birth of jazz—that shaped New Orleans and the United States. 

The story begins when the author’s father rescues a century’s worth of journals, handwritten in French, from a trash hauler’s pickup truck. From the journals’ pages emerges one of the most important multi-ethnic, intellectual communities in the US South: educators, world-traveling merchants, soldiers, tradesmen, and poets. Though Louisiana law classified them as men of color, Negroes, and Blacks, the Economie brothers rejected racism and colorism to fight for suffrage and education rights for all. A descendant of the Economie’s community, author Fatima Shaik has spent decades reading and translating the journals, which begin with the society’s founding in 1836. She combed through 19th-century newspapers, legal cases, congressional testimony, real estate records, and Creole family histories. In Economy Hall, she has constructed a meticulously detailed nonfiction narrative that reads like an epic novel. 

Fatima Shaik was born in the historic Seventh Ward of New Orleans and bred on the oral histories told by her Creole family and neighbors. A former assistant professor at Saint Peter’s University (NJ), she worked for more than a decade as a reporter and editor for daily news outlets. Her articles have appeared in The New York TimesThe Root, and In These Times. Shaik is a trustee of PEN America and former board member of The Writers Room in New York City. She is the author of six books of fiction. Economy Hall is her first nonfiction work. 

Jennifer Egan is the author of several novels and a short story collection.  Her most recent novel, Manhattan Beach, a New York Times bestseller, was awarded the 2018 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction, and was chosen as New York City’s One Book One New York read.  Her previous novel, A Visit From the Goon Squad, won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the Los Angeles Times book prize, and was recently named one of the best books of the decade by Time magazine, Entertainment Weekly, and several others.  Also a journalist, she has written frequently in The New York Times Magazine.  She recently completed a term as President of PEN America.

Please register for this free Zoom event. Registered audience members will receive a Zoom link prior to the event. Purchase a copy of Economy Hall from our bookselling partners at Greenlight Bookstore.

close navigation
All gifts made between now and June 30th will be MATCHED—dollar for dollar, up to $50,000—by a generous group of BPL Trustees. Your gift will go TWICE as far to celebrate the library you love and our milestone 125th anniversary!
Match my gift