Comprehensive New Orleans Essay, Research Paper
Comprehensive New Orleans
In a country containing so much diversity and history, it is practically impossible to
locate one city which embodies American diversity. a colony started by the French was
the first area to fully integrate culture and religion. The city of New Orleans, now
prosperous form its diversity, epitomizes the American Melting Pot. It is complicated to
relate such different backgrounds, but with an overview of history, culture, religion, and
integration on a small scale, a reader is capable of applying the values to the American
culture as a whole.
In 1699 the first plans for New Orleans were born. French-Canadian, Pierre le
Moyen, Sieur d Iberville left France to found a colony on the Gulf of Mexico. Sieur
d Iberville set up a fur trading for originally on the north gulf coast, then moved the
establishment to Dauphin Island. Once again, he moved the fort and created an inland
colony near Louisiana. Sieur d Iberville was in charge of all of France s responsibilities in
the southern portion of the territory. Wen Iberville died in 1706 the land under his
jurisdiction was given to ho brother, Jean Baptiste de Moyen Sieur de Beinville.
Beinville had great plans for the development of the French colonies and in 1717
he submitted plans for a new settlement to the Company of the West. In 1718 France
agreed with Beinville s plans and authorized him to establish the settlement, according to
his plans, one hundred miles up the Mississippi. Four years later the capitol of the
Louisiana territory was transferred to the new settlement now know as New Orleans.
The new colony was called New Orleans in honor of the Duke d Orlean. Duke
d Orlean supposedly had something to do with the funding for the new colony. The Duke
favored John Law, the founder of the Company of the West, and supported many of the
company s ventures, the construction of New Orleans inclusive.
The new, growing colony needed a government, so a democratic council was
formed. New Orleans was under the rule of a law making body called the Superior
council which was first formed in 1712. The Superior Council was well liked by the
people because it was a small representative democracy. During the 1720 s and 30 s
Beinville was replaced as mayor by Sieur de Pierre. The colony did not experience much
growth between these years so Beinville was reappointed governor in 1733 and left the
colony permanently in 1742.
Spain took over the government of New Orleans in 1766. The Spanish sent the
new governor, Antonio de Ulloa, to reign over their newest asset. Although the colony
was completely populated by French, there was not an immediate opposition to the
Spanish government. The French had treated the colonists very poorly. The little
property that the colony maintained was dependent on France and French markets. The
only thing Governor Ulloa desired to do was replace France with Spain and the French
markets with Spanish markets. The colonists were originally indifferent to a distant
change such as this.
Finally, in 1768 there was a rebellion against Spanish rule. The leaders of the
rebellion all lived in or around the new Orleans settlement. The rebel leaders had power
and were prosperous because of their involvement with the Superior Council. The
Spanish disbanded the Superior council and replaced it with a town council, named for its
meeting place, the Cabillo. The Cabillo had ten members, four seats were elected and six
were purchased. The rebels, not agreeing with the new form of government, chased
governor Ulloa out of town. The leaders of the rebellion were a arrested, five were shot,
one died in jail and the remaining six were incarcerated.
New Orleans was granted trading rights by Spain in 1795. In 1800 the Treaty of
San Ildefenso gave Louisiana back to France. This treaty was a secret, unknown to the
colonists. Napoleon Bonaparte induced the Spanish King to return the land to France for
extremely appealing considerations. Only rumors had been heard in the colony as to the
reality of such a transaction, no new government or laws were added. Rumors were
partially confirmed in 1802 when the Spanish in new Orleans withdrew the trading rights
they had previously granted. In 1803 French ownership became common knowledge.
French proprietorship became known to the colonists because Napoleon, in
betrayal of a promise he made to Spain, sold the entire province to the United States for
fifteen million dollars. After the Louisiana Purchase, the first American became governor
of New Orleans. A lawyer named William CC Claibourne was appointed governor by the
new president. In 1812 Claibourne, despite a general dislike by the constituency, was
elected governor and then in 1816 was elected senator for the state. As an American
state, new Orleans and the surrounding area were divided up into three municipalities for
the elections of government, because of the clashing beliefs of its inhabitants. In 1852 the
city government was reunified causing the same American-Creole conflicts causing to
separate the groups originally.
Aside for the rapidly changing leaders and government of new Orleans, the
heritage of the population was constantly changing. In fact, the Spanish, African, French,
Irish, German, and Latin all played a part in creating today s exciting metroplex atop all
that swampy muck.
The first group to reach new Orleans were the French. The French in America
were called Creole, it comes from a Spanish word criollo meaning whites of French
decent. As far as most of new Orleans was concerned, Creole meant white, American
born people. The Creole were generally high in public status. The Creole were accredited
with keeping the France in New Orleans. They kept their traditions and beliefs in the
new world. Bastille Day was celebrated widely by the Creole, they rose the tricolor
French flag and celebrated as they would have in France. The Americans disliked the
Creole, they looked down upon them for several reasons, one of these being their devout
A group often confused with the Creole were the Cajun. In reality, the difference
between Creole and Cajun is not quite so simple. In the strict definition, a Creole would
have been white or black either a full blooded descendant of an early Spanish or French
settler or of an African slave (and the aforementioned). The word Creole means literally,
in Spanish, child born in the colonies as opposed to a baby born in Europe or Africa.
Cajuns on the other hand were descendants of French Canadians who had lived in Novia
Scotia since 1604… The Acadians were given the name Cajun by the New Orleanians.
These new settlers arrived, against their will, in 1760. the Acadians lived in Canada in a
place called l Acadia meaning literally the heaven on earth. because the land was so
extremely fertile and they were so extremely happy there. The Cajuns, when kicked off
their land, were put on boats and sent down the Mississippi to Louisiana. They settled on
farms outside of New Orleans. They slowly established themselves as excellent farmers
and were able to catch fine prices for their crops.
The Germans also immigrated to New Orleans. There were three major German
immigrations to Louisiana, the first of which was in the 1850 s as a result of many
European Revolutions. The Germans like the French area because there was supposed to
be farmland of the same quality they were accustomed and the same religion was practiced
among their people.
The German colonists settled of farm land extremely far north of New Orleans.
They found the land highly unpleasant and the farming almost impossible and they became
discouraged. Many Germans returned to new Orleans intending to board the next ship
returning to Europe and live as they had before. The New Orleanians convinced the
Germans to settle in the area again, this time just north of the city on the banks of the
Mississippi. Their new home was soon known as le Cote Allemand, or the German Coast.
The next European group to move to New Orleans were the Irish. Ireland at the
time, the 1790 s was under British control. The Irish were being oppressed because of
their religion in their home country and they needed a sage place to go to. New Orleans
was extremely popular amongst Irish colonials because it was a Catholic settlement and it
had absolutely no British ties.
The Irish in New Orleans were very poor, it was hard for them to find jobs and
they were struck hard by an outbreak of yellow fever. People in New Orleans were quick
to criticize that the Irish brought the disease with them. Although many Irish became sick
and died from the epidemic they became relied upon immensely in the work force, a big
change from their earlier poverty stricken lives. In 1808 it became illegal to import slaves,
so the value of a purchased worker sky rocketed. Farmers did not want their expensive
property to perform the extenuating jobs, so the Irish filled the recently vacant, taxing
Another group of Europeans that immigrated to America were the Italians. The
Italians fit extremely well into the economic system of New Orleans and were essentially
just another group of people joining the work force. The Italians arrived in the mid 1800 s
and caused no major problems in the community, until they attempted to maintain their
heritage just as the other ethnic groups were attempting. The Italians were Catholic, as
were the rest of the city, but their celebration of a different patron saint caused a few
problems. When the Italians first began the commemoration of their faith the festival
conflicted with other religious plans and a group of Italians were lynched for this reason in
1891. Italy was outraged so the United States, in attempt to avoid was paid a monetary
compensation to the country solving any international problems that may have resulted.
A group of non-Europeans in New Orleans were the Africans. Many were brought
against their will as slaves, but a few actually immigrated on their own, those who wanted
a life in New Orleans. In the beginning years of the city, the first hundred or so, New
Orleans was the safest, fairest place for Negroes to live with even the laxest of laws
imposed on slaves. Slavery was not revered by the entire population as quoted by du Lac
Perrin (Slavery) the greatest of all necessary evils, as well as to those who endure it, as
those that are obliged to employ its victims.
The slaves in New Orleans were given many freedoms. Most slaves were able to
eventually purchase their own freedom, some slaves were even bought and used under an
idea much like the concept of indentured servants. Slaves were given Sundays, holidays,
and other religious feasts off. On their commitment free days, slaves could work for
themselves, those that saved wisely could buy their freedom, not an uncommon
occurrence. Also, to assure the well being of slaves, only people who could afford to
properly feed, cloth, and house them were allowed to by them, those that were unable to
cover the costs of these duties could not legally secure a slave.
Africans became very populous in the New Orleans area. Many free blacks owned
property and prospered, especially in New Orleans. Out of fear in 1788 when slaves and
freed coloreds outnumbered the white population, Spain instituted the Code Noir. The
code was drafted and written by Beinville in 1724 because as slave was considered
dangerous because he was deprived of the privileges and ambitions that could be relied on
to restrain free men. The Code Noir stated that slaves were to be taught the Catholic
religion, they were to have Sundays and church feasts off, interracial marriages were
forbidden among slaves, no slave was to carry a weapon, and slaves of different masters
were not to socially congregate.
Although slavery was better in New Orleans than in other areas of the south,
slavery was not a humane option. In 1792 a slave by the name of Toussain L Overter lead
a revolt with his master s and a few other masters slaves. The revolt was profoundly
unsuccessful, but left a lasting impression on the citizens. Local beliefs on slaves changed
in many people s eyes, fear and suspicion grew and they wanted to decrease freedom for
the slaves so another revolt would not occur.
The local government increased restrictive slave laws. The slave trade in New
Orleans became increasingly vicious until, ultimately, in the early 1830 s and 40 s new
Orleans was the slave emporium of the country. Slave auctions and sales became daily
occurrences. Slave retail became an industry, windows show cased auctions and slaves
themselves lined the streets. Even the rights of immigrant Negroes and freed Negroes
regressed in the 1840 s and 50 s. Finally, in the 1900 s the implication of the Jim Crow
laws took away Negro rights to vote, have acceptable housing, beneficial education, and
In a city with so many ethnic groups and varying cultures, each to which religion is
extremely important he differences need to be addressed. The religion of the colonists
greatly effects the aura of New Orleans today, each one dutifully followed traditions and
celebrations that became part of the New Orleans culture. The religions, integrate,
conflict, yet still manage to compliment each other in unique and interesting ways.
The originally and most widely followed religion in New Orleans was Catholic.
When the fur traders arrived in America, they were not considered very religious, almost
regarded as faithless, but they had been raised in the Catholic faith. Once families began
to form in the colony, Catholicism prevailed.
The Germans quickly founded a church, upon their arrival, called Saint Mary s
Assumption. The language used for services for services caused problems for the French
and American members. Sermons were given in all three languages until 1871 when the
Germans built a church of their own entitled the Mater Solorose. Other language barriers
formed in he churches for the Irish and Italian settlers. In 1883 two more Catholic
churches were constructed. Both churches were run by the Redemptionist Brothers,
which was not a religious society, but members of the congregation were involved with its
Settlers from Ireland and Italy had grand celebrations for the patron saints they
worshipped, Saint Patrick and Saint Joseph respectively. Saint Patrick s Day is celebrated
on March 17. The holiday was first celebrated in 1809 with parades, festivals and picnics.
The Irish were proud of their holiday and boasted it throughout the community.
In the 1840 s, Italian settlers began to celebrate Saint Joseph s Day. The Italians
had magnificent vigils and built extravagant alters to Saint Joseph. They promised if they
reached their destination safely they would annually build an alter in praise to him. The
celebration of Saint Joseph occurs two days after the celebration of Saint Patrick. The
celebrations became a competition and the festivals became larger, until, finally, they
became a reason to lengthen the carnival, the celebratory period before lent.
The Catholic religion has many ceremonies and traditions that are practiced within
the churches. An extremely important religious festival in new Orleans was the Carnival.
The Carnival has been celebrated since the foundation of the city. Originally called by the
French, Carnelevament, literally putting up the meat the festival was shortened to
Carnival by the American settlers. Integrated into the theme of Carnival is the
celebration of Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) which marks the end of Carnival season.
Carnival lasts from the Twelfth Night until Mardi Gras.
Carnival was celebrated loudly by the entire population of New Orleans. During
the 18the century, Mardi Gras in New Orleans was the occasion for masked balls and
parades. In the beginning the balls and parades were confined to Shrove Tuesday, as the
festival grew, parades, balls, and general parties lengthened to fill the weeks. Tarades
generally begin the week before lent. There are several parades around town throughout
the week, but there are more and more on the Saturday and Sunday before Lent. Today,
Carnival is celebrated by people all over the country who travel to New Orleans for the
Another religious group to be discussed in New Orleans are the pagan beliefs
followed by the Negroes. Throughout American history Europeans gave repetitive
attempts on the Africans to convert them to Christian religions, but a few maintained the
pagan beliefs from their homelands. The Africans also experienced many short lived
religions that were avidly followed, but fizzled after a few short months.
The Africans began attending Catholic churches in New Orleans. At the height of
their passion a group called the Free Negro Elite emerged in the Catholic setting. This
group believed themselves to be above many people because they worked for their
freedom and because they were religious people. The group was bolstered from Catholic
churches. In 1848 ten elitists founded the African Methodist Episcopal Church. The
church became extremely popular and well attended.
Aside from Christian religions a few Negroes followed the religion of Voodoo.
Voodoo is still extremely popular in some Southern areas of the country. The belief was
that possession by spirits is possible and if the spirit possesses you, you have reached the
height of religion. Followers of Voodoo do not believe in reincarnation, but they do
follow the belief of worship of ones ancestors. The experiences predecessors had and the
information they received could be possessed by anyone who worshipped them. The
religion was probably introduced by the immigrants from San Domingo.
There are many types of people in New Orleans, and many types of people
throughout America. It is complicated to see how the different groups interact with each
other. By analyzing a small area of the country which is extremely diverse, yet unified the
people of the United States can see how well we all can work and live together.
Comprehensive New Orleans Essay, Research Paper In a country containing so much diversity and history, it is practically impossible tolocate one city which embodies American diversity. a colony started by the French wasthe first area to fully integrate culture and religion. The city of New Orleans, nowprosperous form its diversity, epitomizes the American Melting Pot. It is complicated torelate such different backgrounds, but with an overview of history, culture, religion, andintegration on a small scale, a reader is capable of applying the values to the Americanculture as a whole. In 1699 the first plans for New Orleans were born. French-Canadian, Pierre leMoyen, Sieur d Iberville left France to found a colony on the Gulf of Mexico. Sieurd Iberville set up a fur trading for
originally on the north gulf coast, then moved theestablishment to Dauphin Island. Once again, he moved the fort and created an inlandcolony near Louisiana. Sieur d Iberville was in charge of all of France s responsibilities inthe southern portion of the territory. Wen Iberville died in 1706 the land under hisjurisdiction was given to ho brother, Jean Baptiste de Moyen Sieur de Beinville. Beinville had great plans for the development of the French colonies and in 1717he submitted plans for a new settlement to the Company of the West. In 1718 Franceagreed with Beinville s plans and authorized him to establish the settlement, according tohis plans, one hundred miles up the Mississippi. Four years later the capitol of theLouisiana territory was transferred to the new settlement now
know as New Orleans. The new colony was called New Orleans in honor of the Duke d Orlean. Duked Orlean supposedly had something to do with the funding for the new colony. The Dukefavored John Law, the founder of the Company of the West, and supported many of thecompany s ventures, the construction of New Orleans inclusive. The new, growing colony needed a government, so a democratic council wasformed. New Orleans was under the rule of a law making body called the Superiorcouncil which was first formed in 1712. The Superior Council was well liked by thepeople because it was a small representative democracy. During the 1720 s and 30 sBeinville was replaced as mayor by Sieur de Pierre. The colony did not experience muchgrowth between these years so Beinville was reappointed governor
in 1733 and left thecolony permanently in 1742. Spain took over the government of New Orleans in 1766. The Spanish sent thenew governor, Antonio de Ulloa, to reign over their newest asset. Although the colonywas completely populated by French, there was not an immediate opposition to theSpanish government. The French had treated the colonists very poorly. The littleproperty that the colony maintained was dependent on France and French markets. Theonly thing Governor Ulloa desired to do was replace France with Spain and the Frenchmarkets with Spanish markets. The colonists were originally indifferent to a distantchange such as this. Finally, in 1768 there was a rebellion against Spanish rule. The leaders of therebellion all lived in or around the new Orleans settlement. The rebel
leaders had powerand were prosperous because of their involvement with the Superior Council. TheSpanish disbanded the Superior council and replaced it with a town council, named for itsmeeting place, the Cabillo. The Cabillo had ten members, four seats were elected and sixwere purchased. The rebels, not agreeing with the new form of government, chasedgovernor Ulloa out of town. The leaders of the rebellion were a arrested, five were shot,one died in jail and the remaining six were incarcerated. New Orleans was granted trading rights by Spain in 1795. In 1800 the Treaty ofSan Ildefenso gave Louisiana back to France. This treaty was a secret, unknown to thecolonists. Napoleon Bonaparte induced the Spanish King to return the land to France forextremely appealing considerations. Only
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New Orleans Jazz Band: Dag
"They have a word down South to describe the way you feel when your packed into
a crowded dive at 1:00 AM, where the cigarette smoke is so thick it makes its
own weather; and the waitress is slinging bourbon and Fritos while some bad-ass
Jazz Funk band rocks the house as hard as Blue Ridge granite, and the sweat
flows down from the stage like the cloudy waters of Pamlico Sound. There's a
word for how you feel when you hear live Jazzy-funk music so sweet and hot, you
just gotta shout something. The word is: DAG!" - Columbia Records
There is only one place on earth where I though I could go to experience
the true meaning of Jazz and to try to place myself in the shoes of all of the
artists I have studied over the past semester. New Orleans, Louisiana is just
that place. On April 10, 1996, I boarded a United Airlines plane bound, non-
stop, for the "Home of Jazz."
My goal in New Orleans was to try and have a comparable experience to
that of one of the popular Jazz artists would have had upon his/her first visit
to New Orleans in the early 1900s. Bourbon Street, the French Quarter, Jimmy
Buffet's Maragaritaville, The Flamingo, the Garden District, and Moolate's all
helped me to get into the proper frame of mind of experiencing true Jazz. The
focus of this report will be on my life changing experience at a little place
known as The House of Blues. This amazing combination of bar and stage created
one of the most conducive atmospheres to music listening that I have ever been
involved with. The stage, similar to the Fox, in Boulder and the bar/restaurant,
similar to nothing both had a character and charm unique to itself. The
ceilings in the bar area were covered by sculpted silhouettes of every major
Jazz/Blues artist that ever played there. Images such as Louis Armstrong,
Lester Young, Dizzie Gillespie, Buddy Bolden, Horace Silvers, and Jelly Roll
Morton adorned the walls and ceilings of the HOB (House of Blues). Every beer
on tap was a Louisiana original and the only kind of cooking done there was
On Thursday, April 11, 1996, I and 5 friends ventured into the legendary
house of Blues. Headlining was a band entitled "Dag." This up and coming
Blues/Jazz/Rock band has been touted as New Orleans newest small success story.
With a label on Columbia Records and an album entitled Righteous, Dag is
certainly a force in the Jazz industry. The tickets cost only 8 bucks and you
could have come in mid-way through the show for free. A far cry from Boulder
expense. The band was comprised of four members: vocal bassist Bobby Patterson,
guitarist Brian Dennis, keyboardist Doug Jervey and drummer Kenny Soule. The
band, originally from Raleigh North Carolina plays a particularly "groovy kind
Jazz" using primarily the Bass for a majority of rifts. The band played to a
packed house, consisting primarily of middle 20s ages people, with an
occasionally more "wise" audience member. The theater, again, much like that of
the Fox in Boulder had a dancing "pit" right below it, which was full of college
aged students who were dancing with a movement comparable to mixing a 90s dance
action with a 70s groovy rhythm.
The music was fast paced and full of energy. Many 32 measure sets were
played and I could definitely hear the influence of Bob, Cool Jazz and Hard Bob.
A lower tempo was definitely recognized, as well as a mix of jazz and classical
elements. The lack of a piano was obvious and seemed to follow the trend of 90s
Jazz-Blues rhythms. Additionally, the first set had a heavy emphasis on
percussion while the second set focused primarily on the drums. It seems that a
lot of their songs are written around a drum rhythm.
Dag played a set that included the songs: Sweet Little Lass, Lovely
Jane, Plow, Do Me Good, and Even So. They then took a 15 minute break and came
back playing: Righteous, Your Mama's Eyes, You Can Lick It, Candy, and Saturday
Morning. After their second set, they played an encore of a song entitled: Home.
One thing worth mentioning about the song titles is their recognizable
simplicity. It is my belief that this was done intentionally to further
illustrate the complex messages being delivered through a very simplistic
Reactions to the band were tremendous. I personally, could not contain
myself and was leading the second encore after Home. Upon the completion of the
show, I immediately bolted to the bar and got the name and number of the booking
agent for the House of Blues so that I could contact her later regarding a
possible show at the Fox. ( I am an intern for the Fox theater.) My friends
were instrumental in my accurate recollection of the events that night as I was
way too excited after the show the think logically. Reviewers agree that Dag is
an incredible band:
Raygun Magazine says, "DAG could stand for 'Dem Are Grooves'. they manage to
take it to the bridge and beyond."
Interview Magazine: "the stunningly spongy debut by four of the funkiest
unknown kids ever to come out of North Carolina. Righteous Grooves."
Pearl Jam's Dave Abbruzzese: "Laying it down funky. It's about time someone
Dag recorded their first album, "Righteous" in 1994 at the famous Muscle
Shoals studios in Alabama. Artists such as Wilson Pickett, Arethra Franklin,
and Rolling Stones made the mark there. "We were making an R&B record, so going
down there to record it was like getting the Pope's blessing." The band claims
inspiration from both Jazz and R&B artists. Patterson unveils most of his
inspiration to the song, "What's Goin' On," by Marvin of course, while guitarist
Dennis claims allegiance to John Coltrane's Ballads, and Jimi Hendrix and Aretha
Franklin. James Brown and Frank Zappa also had influences on the band.
One of the most amazing things that I noticed about the band was the
tremendous depth and quality of the vocals. Patterson's energy on stage was
unsurpassed and definitely came through in the overall performance. Jervey says
of Patterson's intensity, "he's got a lot of raw energy, but he really is a
sweet guy. When he opens his mouth, a lion comes out." Overall, my experience
at the House of Blues was amazing and it is an experience that I will never
forget. I am currently in the process of trying to book Dag to play at the Fox
or Boulder Theater. It is music like theirs that keeps Jazz alive and current
to the trends and markets in our modern society. It is my personal belief, that,
because of bands such as Dag, Jazz will never die, only change form to adapt to
its environment. The mold of Jazz, however, will never change.
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Pre-Civil War New Orleans
Essay submitted by Unknown
New Orleans is a city in southern Louisiana, located on the Mississippi River. Most of
the city is situated on the east bank, between the river and Lake Pontchartrain to the
north. Because it was built on a great turn of the river, it is known as the Crescent
City. New Orleans, with a population of 496,938 (1990 census), is the largest city in
Louisiana and one of the principal cities of the South. It was established on the high
ground nearest the mouth of the Mississippi, which is 177 km (110 mi) downstream.
Elevations range from 3.65 m (12 ft) above sea level to 2 m (6.5 ft) below; as a result,
an ingenious system of water pumps, drainage canals, and levees has been built to
protect the city from flooding.
New Orleans was founded in 1718 by Jean Baptiste Le Moyne, sieur de Bienville, and
named for the regent of France, Philippe II, duc d'Orleans. It remained a French colony
until 1763, when it was transferred to the Spanish. In 1800, Spain ceded it back to
France; in 1803, New Orleans, along with the entire Louisiana Purchase, was sold by
Napoleon I to the United States. It was the site of the Battle of New Orleans (1815) in
the War of 1812. During the Civil War the city was besieged by Union ships under Adm.
David Farragut; it fell on Apr. 25, 1862.
And that's what it say's in the books, a bit more, but nothing else of interest. This is
too bad, New Orleans. as a city, has a wide and diverse history that reads as if it were
a utopian society built to survive the troubles of the future. New Orleans is a place
where Africans, Indians and European settlers shared their cultures and intermingled.
Encouraged by the French government, this strategy for producing a durable culture in
a difficult place marked New Orleans as different and special from its inception and
continues to distinguish the city today.
Like the early American settlements along Massachusetts Bay and Chesapeake Bay,
New Orleans served as a distinctive cultural gateway to North America, where peoples
from Europe and Africa initially intertwined their lives and customs with those of the
native inhabitants of the New World. The resulting way of life differed dramatically from
the culture than was spawned in the English colonies of North America. New Orleans
Creole population (those with ancestry rooted in the city's colonial era) ensured not
only that English was not the prevailing language but also that Protestantism was
scorned, public education unheralded, and democratic government untried. Isolation
helped to nourish the differences.
From its founding in 1718 until the early nineteenth century, New Orleans remained far
removed from the patterns of living in early Massachusetts or Virginia. Established a
century after those seminal Anglo-Saxon places, it remained for the next hundred years
an outpost for the French and Spanish until Napoleon sold it to the United States with
the rest of the Louisiana purchase in 1803.
Even though steamboats and sailing ships connected French Louisiana to the rest of
the country, New Orleans guarded its own way of life. True, it became Dixie's chief
cotton and slave market, but it always remained a strange place in the American
South. American newcomers from the South as well as the North recoiled when they
encountered the prevailing French language of the city, its dominant Catholicism, its
bawdy sensual delights, or its proud free black and slave inhabitants; In short, its
deeply rooted Creole population and their peculiar traditions. Rapid influxes of
non-southern population compounded the peculiarity of its Creole past. Until the
mid-nineteenth century, a greater number of migrants arrived in the boomtown from
northern states such as New York and Pennsylvania than from the Old South. And to
complicate its social makeup further, more foreign immigrants than Americans came to
take up residence in the city almost to the beginning of the twentieth century.
The largest waves of immigrants came from Ireland and Germany. In certain
neighborhoods, their descendants' dialects would make visitors feel like they were back
in Brooklyn or Chicago. From 1820 to 1870, the Irish and Germans made New Orleans
one of the main immigration ports in the nation, second only to New York, but ahead of
Boston, Philadelphia, and Baltimore. New Orleans also was the first city in America to
host a significant settlement of Italians, Greeks, Croatians, and Filipinos.
African Americans compile about half of the city of New Orleans population to date.
How did this come about? Well, during the eighteenth century, Africans came to the
city directly from West Africa. The majority passed neither through the West Indies nor
South America, so they developed complicated relations with both the Indian and
Europeans. Their descendants born in the colony were also called Creoles. The Spanish
rulers (1765-1802) reached out to the black population for support against the French
settlers; in doing so, they allowed many to buy their own freedom. These free black
settlers along with Creole slaves formed the earliest black urban settlement in North
American immigrants found them to be quite exotic, for the black Creoles were Catholic,
French or Creole speakers, and accustomed to an entirely different lifestyle. The native
Creole population and the American newcomers resolved some of their conflicts by living
in different areas of the city. Eventually, the Americans concentrated their numbers in
new uptown neighborhoods. For a certain period (1836-1852), they even ran separate
municipal governments to avoid severe political, economic, and cultural clashes.
Evidence of this early cleavage still survives in the city's oldest quarters.
During the infamous Atlantic slave trade, thousands of Muslims from the Senegambia
and Sudan were kidnapped or captured in local wars and sold into slavery. In America,
these same Muslims converted other Africans and Amerindians to Islam. As the great
Port of New Orleans was a major point of entry for merchant ships, holds bursting with
human, African cargo, the Port was also, unbeknownst to many, a major point of entry
for captured Muslims (most often prisoners of local wars) who certainly brought with
them their only possession unable to be stripped from them by their captors, their
The historical record of shipping manifests attests to the fact that the majority of
slaving merchant vessels that deposited their goods at the mouth of the Mississippi
took on their cargoes from those areas of West Africa with significant Muslim
population. As the Islamic belief system forbids suicide and encourages patient
perseverance, the middle-passage survival rate of captured African
Muslims was quite high. For example, one such courageous survivor was Ibrahima Abdur
Rahman, son of the king of the Fulani people of the Senegambia region, named "The
Prince" by his master Thomas Foster of Natchez, Mississippi. Abdur Rahman came
through the Port of New Orleans, was sold at auction and became a man of renown on
the Foster Plantation. He eventually petitioned his freedom via President John Quincy
Adams and returned to Africa after 46 years of enslavement.
Free People of Color (f.p.c.) were Africans, Creoles of Color (New World-Born People of
African descent), and persons of mixed African, European, and or Native American
descent. In Louisiana, the first f.p.c. came from France or its Colonies in the Caribbean
and in West Africa. During the French Colonial period in Louisiana, f.p.c. were a rather
small and insignificant group. During French rule from 1702-1769, there are records for
only 150 emancipations of slaves. The majority of slaves freed in Louisiana's Colonial
period was during the Spanish reign from 1769-1803, with approximately 2,500 slaves
The majority of these slaves were Africans and unmixed Blacks who bought their
freedom. Later on this initial group would be augmented by Haitian refugees and other
f.p.c. from the Caribbean, Mexico, Central and South America, other parts of the United
States, and from around the world.
Besides self-purchase and donation of freedom, slaves sometimes earned freedom for
meritorious service in battle or saving the life of their masters. A significant amount of
slaves became free because they were the children of white native born and European
fathers who sometimes openly acknowledged their mixed offspring and who also usually
freed the mother of their children. It would be several generations before mulatto,
quadroon, and octoroon women would become the common-law wives and mistresses
The reason for the high number of f.p.c. in New Orleans was largely due to the influx of
Haitian Refugees into the city in 1809. Approximately 10,000 people arrived in New
Orleans with roughly a third being f.p.c. another third slaves, and the remaining were
white. By the eve of the Civil War in 1860, the reported total population for f.p.c. in
Louisiana was 18,647 people with the majority being in New Orleans with a census tally
of 10,689 people.
Free People of Color were highly skilled craftsmen, business people, educators, writers,
planters, and musicians. Many free women of color were highly skilled seamstresses,
hairdressers, and cooks while some owned property and kept boarding houses. Some
f.p.c. were planters before and after the Civil War and owned slaves. Although shocking
and incomprehensible to many people today, the fact that some f.p.c. owned slaves
must come to light.
In eighteenth century Louisiana, the term Creole referred to locally born persons,
regardless of status or race, and was used to distinguish American-born slaves from
African-born slaves when they testified in court and on inventory lists of slaves. They
were identified simply as Creoles if they were locally born, or Creoles of another region
or colony if they had been born elsewhere in the Americas of non-American ancestry,
whether African or European. However, due to the racial and cultural complexity of
colonial Louisiana, native Americans who were born into slavery were sometimes
described as "Creoles" or "born in country."
After the United States took over Louisiana, the Creole cultural identity became a
means of distinguishing who was truly native to Louisiana from those that were Anglo.
Creole has to come mean the language and folk culture which native to the southern
part of Louisiana where African, French, and Spanish influence were most deeply rooted
historically and culturally.
The language too, represents these traits, whereas the vocabulary of Louisiana Creole
is overwhelmingly French in origin, its grammatical structure is largely African. The early
creation of the Louisiana Creole language and its widespread use among whites as well
as blacks up until World War II is strong evidence for the strength of the African
ingredient in Louisiana Creole culture. The widespread survival of Louisiana Creole until
very recent times and its use by whites of various social positions as well as by blacks
and mixed-bloods had, no doubt, a great impact upon Africanizing Louisiana culture.
The Louisiana Creole language became an important part of the identity, not only of
African-Creoles, but of many whites of all classes who, seduced by its rhythm,
intoxicating accent, humor and imagination, adopted it as their preferred means of
communication. There is still a significant number of whites who only speak Louisiana
Many locals begin with a party on January 6 that includes a King Cake, a cake baked in
the shape of a large doughnut, covered with icing and colored sugar of green, gold, and
purple, the traditional Mardi Gras colors. Purple represents justice, green representing
faith, and gold representing power. Inside the cake is a tiny plastic baby, meant to
represent the Baby Jesus. Whoever gets the piece with the baby is crowned King or
Queen. and is expected to throw a party on the following weekend. Parties with King
Cake continue each weekend until Mardi Gras itself finally arrives.
The name Mardi Gras means Fat Tuesday in French. The day is known as Fat Tuesday,
since it is the last day before Lent. Lent is the season of prayer and fasting observed
by the Roman Catholic Church and other Christian denominations during the forty days
and seven Sundays before Easter Sunday. Easter can be on any Sunday from March 23
to April 25, since the exact day is set to coincide with the first Sunday after the full
moon following the Spring Equinox. Mardi Gras occurs on any Tuesday from February 3
through March 9. The Gregorian calendar, setup by the Catholic Church, determines the
exact day for Mardi Gras.
The celebration started in New Orleans around the seventeenth century, when Jean
Baptiste LeMoyne, Sieur de Bienville, and Pierre LeMoyne, Sieur de Iberville founded the
city. In 1699, the group set up camp 60 miles south of the present location of New
Orleans on the river's West Bank. They named the site Point du Mardi Gras in
recognition of the major French holiday happening on that day, March 3.
The late 1700's, saw pre-Lenten balls and fetes in the infant New Orleans. The masked
balls continued until the Spanish government took over and banned the events. The
ban even continued after New Orleans became an American city in 1803. Eventually,
the predominant Creole population revitalized the balls by 1823. Within the next four
years, street masking was legalized.
But it must be remembered that although costumes are worn for both, Mardi Gras is not
Halloween. Gore and mayhem may work for All Hallow's Eve, but for Mardi Gras, glamour
is de rigour. Feathers, beads, glitter, spangles-all work well on Mardi Gras. Tuxedoes,
ball gowns, and boas work. Fake blood and Freddie Krueger gloves do not.
The early Mardi Gras consisted of citizens wearing masks on foot, in carriages, and on
horseback. The first documented parade in 1837 was made of a costumed revelers. The
Carnival season eventually became so wild that the authorities banned street masking
by the late 1830's. This was an attempt to control the civil disorder arising from this
This ban didn't stop the hard core celebrators. By the 1840's, a strong desire to ban all
public celebrations was growing. Luckly, six young men from Mobile saved Mardi Gras.
These men had been members of the Cowbellians, a group that performed New Years
Eve parades in Mobile since 1831. The six men established the Mystick Krewe of Comus,
which put together the first New Orleans Carnival parade on the evening of Mardi Gras
in 1857. The parade consisted of two mule-driven floats. This promoted others to join
in on this new addition to Mardi Gras. Unfortunately, the Civil War caused the
celebration to loose some of its magic and public observance. The magic returned along
with several other new krewes after the war.
Rituals and traditions have also evolved with non-krewe members as well. Those in the
heart of Carnival often begin their celebrating on January 6, and don't let up until Ash
Wednesday. remember, Mardi Gras is the peak of the Carnival Season, but it 's only
one day. Therefore, New Orleans has officially established Lundi Gras on the Monday
before Fat Tuesday because no one can get any work done as of the Friday before
Senegambia, where I noted earlier that a lot of the original blacks had come from, had
long been a crossroads of the world where peoples and cultures were assimilated in
warfare and the rise and fall of great empires. An essential feature of the cultural
materials brought from Senegambia as well as from other parts of Africa was a
willingness to add and incorporate useful aspects of new cultures encountered. This
attitude was highly functional in a dangerous and chaotic world. New Orleans became
another crossroads where the river, the bayous and the sea were open roads; where
various nations ruled but the folk continued to reign. They turned inhospitable
swamplands into a refuge for the independent, the defiant, and the creative
"unimportant" people who tore down all the barriers of language and culture among
peoples throughout the world and continue to sing to them of joy and the triumph of
the human spirit.
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