CHOCOLATE CITY HISTORY: New Orleans

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jazzfuneral-fullforwebNew Orleans has played a major role in Black history and Black people have played a major role in the history of New Orleans. New Orleans was sold to the U.S. after the Haitian revolution against the French Colonial powers had dissuaded Napolean from being involved in the West, and he sold New Orleans, along with other land to the U.S.A. in the Louisiana Purchase.

Subsequently many Haitians, white, mixed, as well as free Blacks and slaves relocated to New Orleans after the Haitian revolution. Many of these people became what we now know as the “creole” population.

Free Black people helped the USA defeat the British in the war of 1812. Despite the fact that New Orleans was a center of the slave trade, New Orleans was home to a large population of free, educated, land owning people of color.

New Orleans was an important part of the Civil War. New Orleans was an important center and was taken and occupied by the union early in the Civil War. During reconstruction, many people of African descent held office, including P.B.S. Pinchback, who was the first non-white governor in the U.S. and the only one for more that 117 years.

After reconstruction failed, New Orleans returned to segregation. The landmark case of Plessy Vs. Fergurson happened after a creole was arrested in New Olreans for sitting in a segregated area of a train. This case would be tried by the Supreme Court and would provide legal justification for segregation.

New Orleans was also at the center of the civil rights struggle. The influential South Christian Leadership Committee (SCLC) was founded in New Orleans. New Orleans was also the site of many lunch counter sit-ins and protests over desegregation of school. The famous Norman Rockwell picture of Ruby Ridges, was of a six year old Black girl who integrated the William Franz School in the lower 9th Ward.

New Orleans is also credited as being the birthplace of Jazz music. Jazz started in New Orleans as a mixture between ragtime, blues and traditional French brass band marching music. Louis Armstrong, a trumpet player born in New Orleans went on to become on of Jazz’s most successful musicians.

In 2005, New Orleans was devastated by Hurricane Katrina. The world finally go to see the poor people of the 9th ward, who had their poverty compounded by natural disaster. The Hurricane highlighted the large difference between rich white people and poor Black people in New Orleans.

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