Interesting post on this at Sociological Images (a favorite site of mine):
In his book, Authentic New Orleans: Tourism, Culture, and Race in the Big Easy, Kevin Fox Gotham explains that originally, and as late as the late 1800s, the term meant “indigenous to Louisiana.” It was a geographic label and no more.
But, during the early 1900s, the city of New Orleans racialized the term. In order to bring in more tourists, they needed to whiten the city. White city elites, in search of white travel dollars, needed to convince tourists that New Orleans was a safe and proper destination. Creole, then, was re-cast as a white identity and mixed-race and black people were excluded from inclusion in the category.
The current definition of creole as mixed race, that you may be familiar with today, is actually a rather recent development….
Read the rest here.