History Pre-Civil War New Orleans 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.
THE AFRICANS: 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 America.
Black 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 religion, Islamic. 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 being freed. 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 …