Evangeline: From Tragic Heroine to Cultural Icon

Although it was written more than 160 years ago, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s epic poem “Evangeline: A Tale of Acadie” still resonates with Acadians throughout North America.

The poem tells the story of the virtuous heroine Evangeline, who is separated from her new husband Gabriel during the Acadian excile from Nova Scotia. Evangeline spends the rest of her life travelling all over the United States searching for her lost love. Although a fictional tale, the poem is based on the true story of le grand dérangement. Over 3,000 of the Acadians exiled in 1755 eventually settled in Louisiana and became known as Cajuns.
The exhibition Evangeline: From Tragic Heroine to Cultural Icon explores the relationship between Longfellow’s poem and the Cajuns living in south Louisiana. Since the poem’s publication, Cajuns have embraced it as part of their cultur. Showcasing maps, books, prints, and ephemera, the exhibition brought this story to life. Among the highlights were still images from the 1929 silent film Evangeline, shot in St. Martinville, Louisiana, as well as a 1905 copy of the poem illustrated by renowned artist Howard Chandler Christy.

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