Art & Identity in New Orleans

HNRS 109 Spring '18

March 12, 2018
by macurak21
Comments Off on Ruby Bridges and School Desegregation in New Orleans

Ruby Bridges and School Desegregation in New Orleans

There are many aspects that factor into the desegregation of schools in New Orleans and I would like to look more into each of those factors and learn more about Ruby Bridges.

The New Orleans school crisis began in 1960 when four African-American school girls-Ruby Bridges, Leona Tate, Tessie Prevost, and Gail Etienne- attended formerly all-white schools. This was just one step to the desegregation. Many other events factor into this even bigger one. Although the attempts of desegregation started in 1954 after the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka happened, people still did not what their children to go to the same school as African-Americans.

I believe that this was a big issue but has shaped New Orleans into what it is today. I want to delve deeper into the history of schools in New Orleans and the impact of Ruby Bridges on the desegregation of schools in New Orleans.

The questions I hope to explore for my final project are: what is the history of school desegregation in New Orleans and what was the impact of Ruby Bridges on these efforts of school desegregation.

March 7, 2018
by kbekisz20
Comments Off on The Painting of Edgar Degas

The Painting of Edgar Degas

For my final presentation, I will be learning about the work of Edgar Degas in general, but especially how it related to New Orleans. When he was painting there, he found something that inspired him, and I plan to explore that in more detail. I will compare his work that he did in New Orleans with his future work and try to discover why he was so inspired by the city. I will also discuss the cultural implications of his trip to America and what was happening in history at the time, both in American and in his native France. Finally, I will discuss what Degas left behind when he took his visions with him, as he is still an important figure to the city of New Orleans.

Edgar Degas is a fascinating painter, because his impressionist style is both beautiful and haunting. Evidence would suggest that he got that from New Orleans, because he made several paintings of city scenes that are echoed by his images of dancers. But the muted colors and the loosely sketched out imagery suggest a different place than the vibrant, colorful place that it is today. Was there a time when it was not so colorful, not so full of life? It will be important to see Degas’ stay in New Orleans in the context of the history of the city, because that will provide clarification of the world that he was living in. This will include the work of some other artists living in the city during that time; maybe he was inspired by some of them as well.

The main questions I will attempt to answer are: Why did Degas come to New Orleans and what was happening in history at the time? What did he paint while he was there? How does his art compare to other New Orleanian artists at the time? How did this influence his later art? I plan to find out the answers to these questions with a detailed study of Degas and his work that still remains an inspiration and a gift to the world.

March 1, 2018
by bekisz20
Comments Off on How Jazz Culture Came to Be in New Orleans vs NYC

How Jazz Culture Came to Be in New Orleans vs NYC

The cultures of New Orleans and New York are rich with old and new traditions that have endured from their conception to the present. Each city has been a pioneer in American culture, particularly in the realm of jazz.  Many of the traditions and cultural hallmarks of New Orleans have never left the city and remain virtually unknown to the world outside, while the influence of Harlem has reached a broader audience. How do the two cities differ in their range of influence, the identity that they defined, and how it has influenced culture in modern day America?

New Orleans is a city that has been rich in culture and traditions since it was founded. These traditions have been used as cultural expression for years. Some of what the city is known for includes second lining, bounce, and brass bands, which go hand in hand with the jazz culture. These traditions have grown to represent the Creole culture, and to identify the unique mix of backgrounds of the people in the city of New Orleans. “According to the official New Orleans Guide, New Orleans is a place where Africans, both slave and free, and American Indians shared their cultures and intermingled with European settlers.” New Orleans was ahead of its time during segregation. While oppression still existed, there was a coexistence among the races that was rare elsewhere.

The rapid cultural change in Harlem, known as the Harlem Renaissance, can be credited to what is called the Great Migration, which occurred in the early 1900s. Starting out with just a few African American families moving into a white neighborhood, which is what Harlem began as, that part of town soon became a hub of cultural explosion that was both influenced by and facilitated African American artists, scholars, and musicians to find success in a time of segregation and limited opportunity.

The two unique cultures of both New York and New Orleans allowed for pockets of tradition and practice to occur alongside otherwise “normal” practices accepted for the time, such as segregation. Today, the two cities are a gold mine of culture, waiting to be discovered.

For more information: Go here, here, and here.

February 27, 2018
by dietz21
1 Comment

St. Louis Cathedral

New Orleans is a place that is rich in religion and culture. Various religions from different places around the world have helped shape this unique city. Due to the influx of of people from various cultures, many religions began to quickly intermingle. One of the more prominent religions is Catholicism.

New Orleans happens to be home to the oldest Cathedral in the United States. is located in Jackson Square, creating a very recognizable feature in New Orleans. Built in apx. 1726 by a French engineer Adrien De Pauger, the church was dedicated to Louis IX, the king of France. Unfortunately, De Pauger did not live to see the church finished. De Pauger started the structure with a unique 200px-Louis-ixbuilding method, by putting brick in between posts. This method of building continued to be used after the construction of the church. Sadly, in 1788 all the hard work went to waste when the church caught fire and was destroyed. It took five yeas for a new church to be rebuilt and finished in 1794. While people of all races and classes were allowed in the church, it did see a few prominent visitors. Andrew Jackson had an honor ceremony held in the church to commemorate his win against the British. Today, the Cathedral serves as a historic reminder of  the 300 years of influence the Catholic churAndrew_Jackson-ABch has had on New Orleans. The Cathedral is still functioning today and holds a plethora of events, in addition to having a museum. I find this topic interesting for my final project because of how New Orleans is so deeply rooted with connection to different religions and how they are intertwined with the history of the city.

February 27, 2018
by macurak21
1 Comment

Ruby Bridges and School Segregation

When people were told that Ruby Bridges was going to be attending an all-white school in New Orleans during the 1960s, there was an uproar.Ruby Bridges Hundreds of people stood outside of the school the first morning that she was coming and chanted, “Close that school!” It is to no surprise that the white students stopped attending William Frantz Elementary School, but they started to not attend other public schools in the city as well. On November 16, 1960, U.S. Sen. Russell Long pressured the state to try “abandoning the ruslongpublic school system and turning to private schools to maintain segregation.”

Desegregation started taking place in the 1870s, so why did it take so long to finally allow a black student into the schools with white children? In 1962, Louis Harlan had an article published by The American Historical Review stating that racially segregated schools and discrimination in admitting students had been banned under the 1867 state Constitution. Due to this, thelouis whites had an uproar. They did not want black children in their schools. They wanted to prevent the implementation of desegregation for as long as they could, so the white press created an atmosphere of resistance and fear. However, by 1870 schools across much of the city had been on their way to being desegregated.

Due to this, many white families moved their children to parochial schools. Robert Lusher, superintendent of schools,  wanted to create a private school system for white students, but that plan soon collapsed and public school enrollment started going back up.

For more information, you can look here and here.

February 27, 2018
by gaile17
1 Comment

Oh the Food

New Orleans is home to a variety of cultures and with those cultures comes a variety of food. The food brings together people and I want to examine how the cultures intermingled to create some of the most famous dishes from the city.


Claimed to have roots back to France and West Africa it is one dish that brings people together. It might even fix problems. Gumbo is a stew that is served over rice.

shrimp gumbo


Pronounced eh-too-fey, this dish is very similar to Gumbo. It is a thick stew that is served over rice. The difference in the two is that the roux is lighter which not only makes the dish sweeter, but it gives it a lighter color as well. This dish has French roots.

Crawfish etouffee


This dish is a staple in New Orleans. When Spanish settlers came to New Orleans they tried to recreate paella with local resources, what they got was Jambalaya. The dish is made up of meat, rice, vegetables, and spices. It varies from family to family and where a person lives.



Yet another piece of New Orleans cuisine that is passed down through families is the Po-Boy. This sandwich is believed to have been created in 1929 when the streetcar drivers went on strike. Because it could be made inexpensively the drivers and motormen were able to get the sandwiches for free. When their order was taken someone in the kitchen would yell “Here comes another poor boy!”.


Last but definitely not least I wanted to end with something sweet.

Snowballs (Sno-Ball)

This is a shaved ice treat that’s from the 1930’s. George Ortolano and Ernest Hansen created this while using the first ever shaved ice machines. This isn’t like the snowballs that you get from an ice cream truck. They are not frozen solid and chunks of ice, they’re more like actual snow. The best part? They’re topped with varying syrups to give them a delicious flavor. Some New Orleans favorites are Bananas Foster and praline pecan. What flavor would you want on top?



If you would like to find out more about some of the traditional food in New Orleans click here.


I do plan to further my research to connect the cuisine and the cultures that it came from. I also want to see if I am able to find concrete data on the effects of Hurricane Katrina on food sources for the city.

February 27, 2018
by byrd19
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Free Women of Color: To Exist Between Worlds


creole woman

(A young Creole woman from New Orleans.

Much has been written about the seemingly murky position free people of color occupied in the social structure of Antebellum New Orleans. These people, most often descendants of enslaved Africans and Europeans, neither experienced the privilege of whiteness nor the complete oppression of slavery.  Free women of color, in particular, had a very strange assortment of laws and social norms that seemed to only apply to them. While the white women of New Orleans still operated under the patriarchal rule of the time, free women of color also had to combat racism, colorism, and the intricate trappings of being between social classes. I previously wrote about the Tignon Laws that banned Black Creole women from wearing their natural hair unwrapped in public and the ways in which these women rebelled against this law in order to maintain their chosen aesthetic and culture. I would like to research laws and social norms that follow this same vein and answer the question of, “How did free women of color operate and survive within the social structure of New Orleans in the 1700s and 1800s?”



February 27, 2018
by vanderzon21
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Jean Lafitte (Laffite)

There are many stories contributing to the mystique of Pirate’s Alley, an infamous side street in New Orleans. One of the many infamous rumors is that Pirate’s Alley was the route through which many smugglers and pirates brought their stolen goods to be sold. Eventually, the former street that was named in relation to the church that rested on one side of it was changed to Pirates Alley.

One of these smugglers was Jean Lafitte. Born presumably in France, or in a french colony, Jean and his brother Pierre took to New Orleans and opened a steady and successful smuggling business. Jean Lafitte and his Barataria pirates were an eclectic bunch that were also known as the “wild men of the Spanish Main.” The term Barataria arose from the Creole word “Barateur” or “Barato” which means “cheap,” further denoting the stolen goods they sold.

There were many pirates who were based in New Orleans, so much so that women were paid to settle in New Orleans in order to “civilize” and bolster the population as the years progressed and the city became filled with ex-cons, thieves, and smugglers. What makes Jean Lafitte unique are the particular endeavors he, his brother, and their crews pursued.

One such escapade was their capture at the hands of the United States naval force. However – due to their prowess at sea and their smuggling and espionage skills – the two brothers and their men were enlisted by General Andrew Jackson to defend New Orleans from invasion from the British. It was only this capture that seemingly gave the United States the upper hand, as the British had previously been attempting to buy the Lafitte’s off. The Lafitte’s may have then provided the British with a sturdy post from which they could import men and surround Americans.

February 25, 2018
by kbekisz20
1 Comment

What Are They Looking For?

The artists who paint New Orleans in oils and in film are capturing its spirit in one way or another. They are all doing this in different ways. Edgar Degas paints his little scenes, snapshots of life in the ever-changing but always drowning city. He took a piece of the same city home with him to France. But what was he looking for? E.J. Bellocq photographed the vulnerability of prostitution in Storyville, creating black and white portraits of scandal and sex. Was he looking for the intrigue or was he trying to fight the social standards of the day? These artists, and others, are responsible for projecting an image of New Orleans to the world. What was it about the city that captivated their attention? What were they looking for? I want to explore these questions and find the soul of New Orleans in the artists who are responsible for creating its image that is seen by the world.

February 22, 2018
by JGB
Comments Off on Baquet Links

Baquet Links

Dean Baquet interviews Jay-Z

Dean Baquet at The New York Times:

Dean Baquet is executive editor of The New York Times, a position he assumed in May 2014. Mr. Baquet serves in the highest ranked position in The Times’s newsroom and oversees The New York Times news report in all its various forms.

300,000 images later, Loyola University photographer is retiring

A history of the Baquets, New Orleans restaurant family:

“Our first restaurant was in the ’40s. It was called Paul Gross Chicken Coop, on the corner of Bienville and Roman in the 6th Ward, right around here, not that far. Twenty-four-hour restaurant. My dad Eddie was a mail carrier who always wanted to operate his own restaurant, so he went to work with his aunt, who ran the place. Her name was Ada Baquet Gross.”

Baquet brought his son, Wayne Jr., to the breakfast interview to help him sort through his memories. There are a lot of them.

Ada was the first Baquet to go into the restaurant business. Along with her husband, Paul, she opened the Chicken Coop in the mid-’40s, just a few years after Dooky Chase, and both Wayne, 57, and his son, 36, figure it was among the first African-American-owned restaurants in the city. It planted the seed for a string of others, all of them owned and operated by the Baquets, most of them by Wayne and his wife, Janet.

Obituary of Harold Baquet: Continue Reading →

February 21, 2018
by ahson21
Comments Off on The Vampires of New Orleans

The Vampires of New Orleans

The idea of vampires has been around for centuries. The topic has been explored on numerous occasions in books such as Dracula and The Twilight Saga and in the teen sitcom Vampire Diaries. However, these mythical creatures aren’t just limited to the confines of Forks, Washington, or Transylvania, Romania, as there has been talk of a vampire by the name of the Jacques Saint Germain throughout New Orleans.

The myth of Germain dates back to France in the early 1700’s. However in this account, Germain goes under the alias Conte. Many of his attributes were related to his exceptional skills in various practices, as well as his extreme wealth. Many found his qualities questionable as no one was aware of how Germain acquired such wealth. The most astonishing characteristic of Germain was the fact that he did not appear to age.

This French myth continues, discussing Germain’s interactions with the wealthy, always hosting elaborate parties with large bounties of food which he was never seen to touch. The only thing Germain was seen consuming was wine.

The myth continues, the setting shifting to many years later in New Orleans. A man by the name of Jacques Saint Germain was identified to fit a very similar description. One of the most important similarities being that Jacques was never seen eating, only sipping on wine. As the legend continued, Germain was said to have tried to bite a women on the neck; she escaped and relayed the incident to the police. This led to an investigation where bottles of wine were discovered to be filled with blood.

The validity of these legends and the possibility of vampires’ presence in New Orleans is left up to the eye of the beholder. However, there are numerous other accounts similar to that of the legend of Germain.

This is a topic I wish to potentially pursue for my project. I believe this is an intriguing topic as there are numerous vampire legends that take place in New Orleans. The presence of countless graves, witch craft and voodoo, can play a role in validating some of these stories as well. Culturally, these legends exemplify some of the traditions in New Orleans as well as touching on the geography of the city.

The ultimate question I would answer in regards to this question is what is the cultural significance behind these legends, and how does the culture of New Orleans as a setting aid in the belief of these legends?

February 20, 2018
by JGB
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Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah

At 15:40 into this video, Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah explains, before playing the tune with his group, the genesis of “Ku Klux Police Department.”

February 20, 2018
by JGB
Comments Off on Beyoncé, “Formation”

Beyoncé, “Formation”

…the images are very much an homage to the black South, which is often forgotten, you know, in movements. And I don’t know why, because we keep having to return to the black South, you know, as we should.

It’s very important that this film is not only located –- well, I say “film,” it feels like … an Oscar-worthy feature — but it’s very important that it’s located visually and actually in Louisiana, which, of course … is the site of this other trauma, and a kind of freedom and resistance also. It’s longstanding trauma. Louisiana is this famous slave port, where so many cultures came together and mixed, but also she references the site of Katrina, where this horrible crime was committed against black people; where its nation didn’t show up for us and where this generation is having to learn that its nation continues to not show up for us. And in that, she’s both centering black women — her formation is one of black women, who are proudly wearing their natural hair, and she makes a circle amongst her daughter and three girls, which is a little bit of magic and conjuring. But there’s also, you know, the centering of queer folks and trans folk, and both by the vocals that we hear and of what we visually see. And that has very much been an intentional thing that’s been happening in this new Black Lives Matter movement. From the very outset, there was real messaging that talked about centering queer folks and black women in leadership. So it’s really amazing to see all of that reflected back to us in a Beyonce video.

— dream hampton on NPR

It’s a song ostensibly about Beyoncé’s identity that forces the listener to acknowledge their own identity – a bold move from the world’s biggest pop star, who over her career has been no stranger to the kind of song written so vaguely as to apply to anyone and anything. The presence of New Orleans bounce rapper Big Freedia works in a similar fashion; Formation may be Beyoncé’s blackest song yet, but thanks to Freedia and a healthy dose of exhortations to slay, it’s also her most gay…

The central tension in Formation is between its playfulness and the anger underpinning it; often, there’s a disconnect between Beyoncé’s carefree voice and the powerful images on screen. As it goes on, though, the significance of the dance becomes clearer. If Beyoncé’s self-titled album was a fundamentally personal statement, the painstaking work of a woman engaged in deep analysis of herself, her desires and her place in the world, Formation finds her turning her attention outwards. Ultimately, it is a rallying cry, and it couldn’t be more timely; when Beyoncé begins to exhort her ladies to get in formation, it’s the sound of a militia being prepared for battles ahead.

— Alex Macpherson in The Guardian

Here are the song’s lyrics, with analysis of their structure.

February 13, 2018
by gaile17

“You Next”

Skull and Bones Gang

At 5:30 in the morning, while most of us are still sound asleep, the Northside Skull and Bones Gang members are emerging from cemeteries and waking up Tremé for Mardi Gras.

Their message?

“You Next”

This is their way of scaring the community straight. They focus on the younger men and warn against domestic and gun violence. They also want to keep the youth away from the dangers of the streets.

S&B greeting

As the group walks through the streets, banging on doors and chanting “You better get your…life together, next time you see us…it’s too late to try!” they greet people and talk to the children that they come across.

This tradition began in 1819 and is now continued under the leadership of Bruce “Sunpie” Barnes. The tradition was dying out before Barnes became their chief. He now plans to continue the tradition by bringing in the “next generation of young African-American men to dress out with him.”


Another aspect of this gang that differs from the typical image of Mardi Gras is their outfits. Most outfits that people think of are made of silks and satin. The Northside Skull and Bones Gang uses simple fabrics for their outfits because the origins are from working class people.

This group not only gives the people of Tremé a literal view of the “shedding of flesh,” they also give a chilling warning to them about the dangers of the streets.



For images of the Northside Skull and Bones Gang visit here

Short video interview with Bruce “Sunpie” Barnes here

February 13, 2018
by byrd19

Lulu White

The salacious history of Storyville is a prime example of unusual components combining in a way they only could in an area as varied and incomprehensible as New Orleans. Storyville was the center of legalized prostitution in New Orleans from 1897 to 1917, sanctioned by New Orleans City Council to regulate both the rampant drug and sex trade throughout the city.  This red-light district, which encompassed sixteen square blocks, existed in a sort of grey area of laws, morals and social customs. This allowed it to serve as a place of prosperity for women willing to work in such a seedy industry. One of the most renowned of these women was Lulu White.


(Lulu White’s mug shot, 1918)

Learn More

Lulu White, born Lulu Hendley in Selma, Alabama, was an infamous brothel madam and businesswomen. She settled in Storyville in 1880 and quickly gained a reputation for her extravagant costuming, charm and eccentric personality.  She referred to herself as the “Diamond Queen,” and regularly told varied tales of her origins. She often claimed to have been born in the West Indies and to have “no drop of American Negro blood,” though it has been noted by historians that she was most likely 1/4th black or biracial and the daughter of enslaved Africans. With aid from her many wealthy and well-connected clients, she established one of the most luxurious brothels in operation, Mahogany Hall, that was set apart in its lavish decoration and modern amenities such as steam heating and hot running water. The construction of the building cost around 40,000 dollars at the time which would be equal to almost 1,000,000 dollars today. The extravagance of Mahogany Hall inspired countless songs such as Louis Armstrong’s Mahogany Hall Stomp. The 1934 Paramount film Belle of the Nineties starring Mae West is also said to be based on Lulu White during her time as Madam at Mahogany Hall.


                         (One of Mahogany Hall’s lavish parlors)


Mahogany Hall was known as the premiere “colored” brothel due to Lulu’s reputation of housing beautiful “mulatto” and “octoroon” women and was highly prosperous before the devastation of sexually transmitted diseases such as Syphilis slowed business and quickened the eventual closing of Storyville. Lulu White herself lost the vast amount of her fortune in bad business ventures and eventually left New Orleans with little more than what she came with.

February 13, 2018
by vanderzon21

St. Joseph’s Day

March 19th, two days after St. Patrick’s Day, and one day after my brother’s birthday, is the celebration of St. Joseph’s Day. This day celebrates the Sicilian traditions that arose in New Orleans to celebrate the relief the saint – St. Joseph – brought to villages in Sicily during famine. As the Sicilians crossed the Atlantic from the 1800’s to the 1900’s to cut sugar cane along the Mississippi, they slowly brought their traditions to New Orleans. New Orlean’s once again embraced, and melded the new culture with the already eclectic atmosphere.


A large portion of St. Joseph’s day are the alters that are created, decorated, and embellished to provide a rich atmosphere and reminder of the wealth of life. Joseph’s altars have brought communities together, as people partake in the creative endeavors to create the lavish altars. The altars a symbol and promise of prosperity to feed everyone in the town so they will never go hungry again. The altars hold true to this vow, as food is served at the feasts on St. Joseph’s Day, and food and funds are distributed to those in need.

Traditional food laid out on the altars includes a wide variety of cakes, cookies, breads, as well as fava beans. Fig cookies and Zeppole (or Sfinge) are common desserts found on the altars. The Zeppole/Sfinge are the equivalent to doughnuts/doughnut holes that are filled with custards and jellies. Depending on where they are being made, they may have a more French influence as they are made from choux pastries, and resemble a cream puff.


The fava beans that can be found strewn about the altars, and in the streets during the parades, correlate with the famine of Sicily. Fava beans were a form of cow feed, but with the drought, the people of Sicily learned to cook the fava bean. It was a gift from St. Joseph that saved Sicily, and is seen as a symbol for good luck and prosperity today.


February 13, 2018
by dietz21


Almost every big city has or has had a red light district at one point or another. New Orleans is no exception, Basin Street, which would later become Storyville was New Orleans’s own place for alcohol sale, gambling, prostitution, and other illegal storyville-27ef648c6ee77028activities. Storyville was a place for entertainment of all kinds for those looking for a good time. Located next to the French Quarter, Storyville was formed to prevent the legalization of prostitution so it could be contained by city councilman Sidney Story. Prostitution was so popular here they even made guide books called Blue Books, almost like a yellow pages for the prostitutes. The Blue Books allowed the interested parties to browse things such as the race of the prostitute thebluebook_list_ABlettery may have wanted, STD cures, and other nightspots. It is said that Storyville had about 2,000 prostitutes at one timeprostitue. Aside from prostitution, there were other forms of entertainment. Storyville is said to be the birthplace of Jazz. Many places of entertainment provided jobs to a number of Jazz musicians. Some of the musicians who played in Storyville included Louis Armstrong,  King Oliver, and Jelly Roll Morton. Despite Storyville’s immense popularity, it did eventually come to a close. When WWI began New Orleans began to be used as a port for sailors; Storyville was forced to be closed due to its proximity to the armed- service personnel. While people did fight to keep Storyville around, it ultimately could not stay open. Today, all that remains in the area that used to be the red light district are night clubs that romanticize Storyville’s hey day.king_oliver_creole_jazz_band_sanfran_1921