Archived entries for new orleans

Black in Back: Mardi Gras and the Racial Geography of New Orleans (II): a far more complex set of social relationships than those that prevailed on the plantation…

New Orleans in 1798 and 1880. [Courtesy of the University of Texas Libraries, UT-Austin]

New Orleans in 1798 and 1880. [Courtesy of the University of Texas Libraries, UT-Austin]

In French and Spanish New Orleans, slaves had more freedom of movement than they did upcountry. This relative freedom was partly a function of the tasks that city slaves performed — running errands, for example, rather than hoeing cotton fields. And it was partly due to the fact that New Orleans was surrounded by water — river, lake or swamp — and running away was difficult. But it was also the product of a far more complex set of social relationships than those that prevailed on the plantation.

For example, in a well-established practice known as plaçage, aristocratic men regularly maintained mixed-race mistresses. The accepted arrangement required, among other things, that a man give his mistress the deed to a house he bought for her. The neighborhood that grew up around Congo Square thus became the first in North America composed of free African-American homeowners. It is now the Treme of HBO fame, the city’s Creole African-American heart, home to brass bands and, before the storm, the city’s greatest concentration of skilled building tradespeople.

In another sign of the relative freedom of New Orleans’s African population, Congo Square itself was given over to slaves and free people of color on Sundays for dances — most famously the Bamboula, Calinda and Congo (whence the square’s name) — and other revelry.

via Black in Back: Mardi Gras and the Racial Geography of New Orleans: Places: Design Observer.

Congo Square

Congo Square is an open space within Louis Armstrong Park, which is located in the Tremé neighborhood of New Orleans, Louisiana, just across Rampart Street north of the French Quarter. The Tremé neighborhood is famous for its history of African American music.

In Louisiana’s French and Spanish colonial era of the 18th century, slaves were commonly allowed Sundays off from their work. They were allowed to gather in the "Place de Negres", "Place Publique", later "Circus Square" or informally "Place Congo" [2] at the "back of town" (across Rampart Street from the French Quarter), where the slaves would set up a market, sing, dance, and play music.

via Congo Square – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Black in Back: Mardi Gras and the Racial Geography of New Orleans (I)

Among the people who came to New Orleans by the Bayou St. John route were slaves who, before the canal was built, were a convenient sort of cargo because they could walk the last two miles. The portage wound through undeveloped swamp to the rear edge of the city at what is now the corner of Rampart and Governor Nicholls Streets. Later, when Carondelet Canal was completed, the slaves’ first footfall in North America was a field adjacent to the turning basin — a field that has been variously called Circus Public Square, Place des Negres, and (immediately after the Civil War) Beauregard Square. It is now known as Congo Square. This was the threshold between the wilderness and the European town, and it was New Orleans’s back door sill. It would not be the last time that these individuals would be admitted “‘round back.”

The two squares — Jackson and Congo — marked the formal front entrance and the utilitarian back entrance to the old city. Orleans Street, perpendicular to the river, connects the two, or almost: it runs four blocks from Congo Square up to the rear garden of St Louis Cathedral. To continue on to Jackson Square, you must slip around the Cathedral on either Pirate Alley or Pere Antoine Alley, now charming passages that nonetheless underscore that you’re making your way around front.

The two squares also marked the centers of gravity — geographic and symbolic — of the city’s white and black populations. These centers then extended into gravitational lines parallel to the river, as the city, constrained by the swamps, grew like a snake upriver and downriver from the Quarter. These lines, even today, retain qualities of front and back.

via Black in Back: Mardi Gras and the Racial Geography of New Orleans: Places: Design Observer.



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