New Orleans HISTORY
French Rule 
New Orleans spent nearly a century under European rule before the United States purchased it. Jean Baptiste Le Moyne, sieur de Bienville, the governor of the French colony of Louisiana, founded the city in 1718. In 1767 it was ceded to Spain. France reclaimed sovereignty in 1800, and three years later Napoleon I sold all of the Louisiana Territory, including New Orleans, to the United States.

From the first years of French rule, slaves labored in New Orleans and its surrounding plantations. In 1721 more black male slaves than free white men lived in the city, and, until the massive European immigration of the 1830s and 1840s, nonwhite residents formed the majority. A large number of slaves arrived in New Orleans between 1719 and 1731, most of them abducted directly from Senegal. The influence of African culture, therefore, was stronger in Louisiana than in the British colonies, whose slave populations often labored in the British West Indies for a generation or two.

Slavery in New Orleans also differed from the English model in other ways. Owners admitted to sexual liaisons with slaves, often taking financial responsibility for their mistresses and offspring. Unlike the English model, in which whites drew a firm line between the two races and considered all people of mixed race to be black, the New Orleans system produced a third caste, that of mixed-race Creoles. (The term Creole has been used to describe a variety of types of people, and in Louisiana it has referred to whites and blacks with French or Spanish ancestry or culture as well as people of mixed race.) French and Spanish fathers treated their black Creole children equitably, often sending them to Europe for education and making them legal heirs. Although the French and Spanish governments attempted to limit this propagation of a privileged black Creole class with a series of code noir (black code) laws, citizens frequently ignored the legislation. By the time of the Civil War (1861-1865), New Orleans hosted a considerable black Creole population, some of whose members owned slaves themselves.

Antebellum Period  
When the United States purchased New Orleans in 1803, it obtained a thriving and culturally distinct crossroads. Spanish and French sensibilities intermingled with African and Caribbean ones, producing a fusion of religions and a distinctive, innovative cuisine. Black Creoles and slaves, many of whom had immigrated to New Orleans from Haiti in response to the Haitian Revolution (1791-1804), combined African beliefs, Haitian rituals, and Catholic pageantry into the religion of Vodou. New Orleans Catholics celebrated Mardi Gras by donning lavish costumes and feasting on spicy Creole food.

The upper-class black Creoles also flourished: Norbert Rillieux invented a vacuum pump for refining sugar; Victor Séjour wrote plays; Alexandre Chaumette, James Derham, and Charles Roundanez practiced medicine; Edmond Dédé composed and directed music; Eugene Warbourg sculpted. In 1850 nearly 85 percent of black Creoles possessed the skills to be classified as doctors, clerks, teachers, and skilled workers. Educated black Creoles proliferated as merchants and dominated the trades of cabinetmaking, carpentry, cigar manufacturing, masonry, and plastering. These middle-class blacks distanced themselves from the black African slave culture and founded Roman Catholic churches based on European models.

Despite the assimilation of the black Creole community, however, discrimination intensified toward the mid-19th century. The decision of the Supreme Court of the United States in Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857) impinged on black freedom everywhere by ruling that neither free nor enslaved blacks had constitutional rights. By the start of the Civil War, new laws restricted the mobility of free blacks and limited the release of slaves from bondage. Hundreds of free blacks did, for a variety of reasons, volunteer for unarmed positions in the Confederate Army, but after the Union takeover of the city in 1862, the majority of black soldiers fought on the side of the North.

Reconstruction and Segregation  
Although Republican lawmakers enfranchised African Americans in New Orleans during Reconstruction (1865-1877), conservative whites soon voted these politicians out of office. Democrats won power in 1867, intent on "redeeming" the state by returning it to the social and political conditions of the pre-war period. New white leaders segregated accommodations and schools, and, after the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) allowed these "separate but equal" public facilities, whites pushed for the segregation of public transit. The historian Caryn Cossé Bell writes, "Radical Reconstruction's promise of freedom, opportunity, and equal citizenship had ended in a nightmare of semiservitude, Jim Crow laws, and disfranchisement." The growing tension led to the New Orleans riot of 1900, which was sparked by an instance of police harassment and marked by rampant violence of whites against blacks.

While Reconstruction-era politics strained relations between blacks and whites, it also upset relationships within the African American community. The educated black Creoles, whose racism often rivaled that of whites, suddenly found themselves grouped with black freedpeople. African American leaders had to contend with internal prejudice and resentment in governing this larger community.

Despite the growing discrimination, however, African American culture thrived. In the last quarter of the century, blacks created secret societies and social lodges, opened theaters, played baseball, and founded three colleges. Ensembles of children roamed the streets, improvising music in so-called spasm bands, and blues, ragtime, and jazz music developed.

After the riot in 1900, which marked the height of the city's racial discord, blacks fought a slow battle for civil rights. A branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People  (NAACP) formed in the 1920s, under the leadership of A. P. Tureaud, a Creole activist. Over the following three decades, the chapter won gains in housing desegregation, salary equalization for teachers, expanded voting rights, and access to Louisiana State University.

Post-World War II  
Police harassment of the kind that precipitated the riot of 1900 persisted through the 1950s, and city landlords continued to discriminate by color. Although a moderate mayor, deLesseps "Chep" Morrison, helped to curtail police racism, he opposed the desegregation of schools, transportation, and lunch counters. The NAACP, however, won these gains in the late 1950s and early 1960s. After the passage of the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965, political victories for African Americans became far more common, and New Orleans elected its first black mayor, Ernest "Dutch" Morial, in 1978.

These changes in the political sphere reflected the major demographic shift that came with the advent of the suburbs. New Orleans's location on the Mississippi River delta had restricted the city's growth for 200 years, because most of the surrounding land was useless swamp. Using modern technology, developers drained marshlands and built new neighborhoods, and white residents moved in as soon as they could. Between 1950 and 1975, the greater metropolitan area doubled in geographic size, and the white population within the city itself declined drastically.

New Orleans lost a good deal of its tax base as whites fled to the suburbs, yet the city did not die the death of many Northern industrial cities. Through the end of the 20th century, the distinctive food, music, and annual Mardi Gras celebration attracted thousands of tourists. The historians Arnold R. Hirsh and Joseph Logsdon contend, "the delicate cultural amalgam that gave us jazz, a unique cuisine, and a love for public festivals is beleaguered but not yet obliterated."

In the early 1800s, blacks were allowed to sing, dance, and play drums in accordance with their African traditions in Congo Square, in what is known today as the French Quarter. At these Sunday gatherings traditional African music could cross-pollinate with European musical traditions. African-styled instruments, made by slaves after they arrived in America, were commonly used in the festivities. European music and dances were also performed, and participating musicians added trumpets, clarinets, and even violins to their collections of African-styled instruments. Congo Square became a melting pot of music. By the late 1800s, New Orleans at large was filled with the shouts of black street vendors, the hallelujahs of Baptist church choirs, the strains of traditional Spanish dance music, the lilt of British folk songs, and the marching figures of brass bands modeled on French and Prussian ensembles.

New Orleans may not have been the sole birthplace of jazz, as is often claimed, but the city was a principal hub for the singular fusion of African and European musical elements into what became known as jazz music. The first documented jazz band, formed in 1895, was led by New Orleans cornet player Buddy Bolden. Bolden's group played ragtime melodies, marches, quadrilles (a song form based on a European square dance), and the blues. A typical early New Orleans jazz ensemble consisted of three melody instruments (cornet, trombone, clarinet) and a rhythm section of banjo or guitar, string bass or tuba, and drums.

A white New Orleans group, the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, is credited with making the first jazz recording. The term "Dixieland" came to refer both to jazz music played by white musicians of the early New Orleans school and to traditional New Orleans jazz in general.

Early New Orleans jazz developed at the same time as ragtime, principally a piano-based musical style, and ultimately the two styles merged. In the early decades of the 20th century the new music flourished in Storyville, the city's red-light district. The most prominent jazz musicians of the era were trumpeters: Bolden, Freddie Keppard, King Oliver, and Louis Armstrong. Armstrong is generally regarded to be the first great improviser in jazz. Other significant musicians from the time included pianist Jelly Roll Morton; clarinetists Sidney Bechet, Barney Bigard, Johnny Dodds, Jimmie Noone, and George Lewis; drummer Baby Dodds; and trombonist and bandleader Kid Ory.

In the decade after World War I (1914-1918), nearly all of these musicians, with the exceptions of Bolden and Lewis, followed the Great Migration of blacks to Northern cities such as Chicago, Illinois, and New York. Their performances and recordings in these cities helped to popularize New Orleans jazz far beyond the New Orleans city limits. In later decades, early New Orleans jazz came to be known as traditional jazz and enjoyed a revival in the 1940s. Beginning in the 1950s, many older Dixieland musicians were recorded under the auspices of the New Orleans Jazz Club.

Since the 1980s, New Orleans has been a spawning ground for a new school of jazz players, among them trumpeter Wynton Marsalis and his brothers, saxophonist Branford Marsalis and trombonist Delfeayo Marsalis. Together with their father, pianist Ellis Marsalis, the Marsalis family has brought widespread attention to jazz and a new appreciation of the city and its jazz tradition. The city is also the site of the annual New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, one of the largest jazz and blues festivals in the country.

Jazz was not the only music to flourish in New Orleans in the 20th century. Mahalia Jackson, generally recognized as the greatest of gospel singers, was influenced both by the hymns of her local Baptist churches and by the blues and jazz she heard while growing up in the city. In the late 1940s and 1950s, Professor Longhair and Fats Domino became heirs to Morton's legacy of New Orleans rhythm and blues piano playing. The four Neville brothers—Aaron, Art, Charles, and Cyril—introduced a decidedly New Orleans brand of pulsing funk music as leaders of bands such as the Meters and the Wild Tchoupitoulas in the 1970s. As the Neville Brothers they continued the family tradition of genre-crossing New Orleans music into the 1980s and 1990s.

The Jazz Funeral

A West African tradition, the precursor of the jazz funeral was used by the Dahomeans and Yoruba people to give fellow tribesmen proper burial at the time of their deaths. Enslaved Africans in America continued the tradition. In the 18th century, a brass band was added to the procession. On the way to the cemetery traditional, slow, mournful music is played; upon leaving the cemetery, the band strikes up lively tunes.