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African-American Heritage in New Orleans

Steeped in history, New Orleans is a true melting pot. The mixture of races and cultures that built the city gives it a soul unlike any other. The African American community has played an integral part in creating this effervescent city with contributions to the city’s architecture, food, music, language and culture. From the earliest days of the 18th century, the lives and sacrifices of African-Americans have left an incredible impression on the city with remnants of its rich past still ever-present today.

When roaming the streets of New Orleans you’ll notice those charming shotgun houses adding to the city’s classic streetscape. This architectural style is an African American contribution to New Orleans, brought to the city from West Africa. Then there’s Treme. Aside from it being a popular HBO series, this neighborhood is one of the United States’ oldest African-American and free people of color neighborhoods. Located within this historic community is Congo Square! Today it is home to concerts and festivals, but in the 18th and 19th centuries the grounds were used for slaves to gather and socialize. Here, they would drum, dance and trade each and every Sunday.   From homes to public spaces, food, music and culture, the African American community has added to the rich historical significance of New Orleans.


Explore this history and the region’s African American Heritage by visiting these suggested sites below:


The French Market
(504) 522-2621
1008 N. Peters Street

This landmark tourist attraction, still a shoppers’ favorite, was the site of a Native American trading post and later designed by a free man of color, Joseph Abeilard. In the 1700s, free persons of color, enslaved people, whites and American Indians all traded goods here.


Whitney Plantation
(225) 265-3300
5099 LA-18  Wallace, LA 70049 

Less than an hour from New Orleans. The only plantation museum in Louisiana with a focus on slavery. Historic buildings, museum exhibits, modern memorials and first person slave narratives give a voice to slaves who worked and lived in Louisiana.


Backstreet Cultural Museum
(504) 522-4806
1116 St. Claude Avenue

At The Backstreet Cultural Museum, visitors can find an amazing assortment of memorabilia indigenous to Mardi Gras, jazz funerals and other traditions found only in New Orleans. The museum houses the city’s largest collection of brilliantly colored and elaborately designed Mardi Gras Indian costumes hand made by local artisans costing upwards of $10,000 a piece. In this simple setting, the museum also houses an enormous collection of still photos and video footage of Mardi Gras Indians, jazz funerals and second lines.


Amistad Research Center
(504) 862-3222 
6823 St. Charles Avenue  

The Amistad Research Center is the nation’s oldest, largest, and most comprehensive independent archive specializing in the history of African Americans and other Ethnic Minorities.


New Orleans African American Museum
1418 Governer Nicholls St.  

The New Orleans African American Museum is dedicated to protecting, preserving, and promoting through education the history, art, and communities of African Americans in New Orleans and the African diaspora.


Treme and Mardi Gras Indian Cultural Tours
(504) 975-2434 

Treme & Mardi Gras Indian Cultural Tours are live interactions with true New Orleanians and their rich culture! This tour gives you the past and present view of the oldest African American neighborhood in the United States, Treme. You will experience historic sites and architecture as you encounter the tradition of the Mardi Gras Indians.


George and Leah McKenna Museum of African American Art
(504) 586-7432
2003 Carondelet Street 

Featuring the private collection of Dr. Dwight McKenna, the George and Leah McKenna Museum of African American Art is an institution that collects, exhibits, and preserves the visual aesthetic of people of the African Diaspora.


Louis Armstrong Park/Congo Square
835 N. Rampart Street 

Just steps from the French Quarter sits this public park that honors the jazz great Louis Armstrong. Look for the iconic, arched entrance—inside you’ll find sites like Congo Square (a historic meeting place for slaves in the 1800s), sculptures, duck ponds and lots of open spaces for relaxing.

© New Orleans Family Reunions 2017

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