Thursday, January 1, 2009
The City of Hammond, LA was chartered in 1889 and has enjoyed steady growth since that time. Many of the city's oldest buildings are located in the downtown area. Preservation of these historic areas is very important to the overall quality of life in Hammond, as the downtown provides a center to continually expanding boundaries while providing a visual link with the past, and a unique character that cannot be duplicated by new construction.
Hammond is the largest city in Tangipahoa Parish, Louisiana, United States. The population was 17,639 at the 2000 census. It is home to Southeastern Louisiana University. The city was the home base for production of the first season of the NBC television series In the Heat of the Night.
The Hammond Oak, located in the 500 block of East Charles Street
Hammond is the principal city of the Hammond Micropolitan Statistical Area, which includes all of Tangipahoa Parish.
The city is named for Peter Hammond, a Swedish immigrant, who first settled the area around 1818. Hammond is buried on the east side of town under the Hammond Oak along with his wife, three daughters and a "favorite slave boy".
In 1854, the New Orleans, Jackson & Great Northern Railroad (later the Illinois Central Railroad, now Canadian National Railway) came to Hammond, launching the city's continuing role as a commercial and transport center. During the American Civil War, the city was a shoemaking center for the Confederacy. It later became a major shipping point for strawberries, earning it the title of "the Strawberry Capital of America". Today, it is intersected by Interstates 12 and 55.
Its 19th century shoemaking industry was the work of Charles Emery Cate, who bought land in the city in 1860 for a home, a shoe factory, tannery and sawmill. Toward the end of the war, Cate laid out the city grid, using the rail line as a guide and naming several of the streets after his sons.
After the American Civil War, light industry and commercial activities were attracted to the town. By the end of the century, the town had become a stopping point for northerners traveling south and for New Orleanians heading north to escape summer yellow fever outbreaks.
Downtown Hammond railroad crossing
A pioneering railroad town, Hammond, Louisiana, has been a staple of Northshore life since 1830 when Peter Hammond decided to call a tract of land 55 miles outside of New Orleans home. Hammond was originally from Sweden, and moved to the area to manufacture products from the resin in pine trees, and ship them to New Orleans.
Railroad is the reason behind the city’s success, and in 1854, the New Orleans, Jackson and Great Northern Railroad pumped people and money into this small, pioneer town. A flag station just a block away from the current train depot was called “Hammond’s Crossing” and brought handfuls of new people to town. Peter Hammond was so convinced that the railroad would bring people to the city that he signed a contract with the rail company that forced the trains to stop every time they passed through Hammond.
Five years after the railroad came to town, another staple in Hammond’s past arrived. Charles Emery Cate moved his family into the area in 1859 from New Orleans because of the natural springs, lush pine forests, and desirable climate.
Cate immediately began to help the city grow. Cate built a factory, sold crossties, tar, and turpentine as well as laying out city streets and planting oak trees along the curbs.
During the Civil War, Cate owned a shoe factory that made and shipped shoes to the Confederate Army.
His factory sent nearly 45,000 shoes to the soldiers before being found by Union Soldiers who destroyed the factory.
At the turn of the 20th century, Hammond struck gold—in the form of red. With the development of the strawberry industry, Hammond saw another explosion in growth. The city became a center for growing, processing, and shipping strawberries. Boxcar loads of strawberries became a staple of the area and as trains left the city headed north, the money flowed south.
Hammond prospered throughout the rest of the 20th century. Planes began flying into the area and a university came to town. Industry moved in, and with it, more people. As the interstate corridors of I-55 and I-12 developed, Hammond’s footprint did too.
People are choosing Hammond because of its close proximity between New Orleans and Baton Rouge.
Hammond is thirty miles from Baton Rouge, and fifty- five miles from New Orleans.
More shops, restaurants, and culture are less than an hour drive. Small town living with big city flare gives Hammond a lifestyle edge.
In the 1920s, David William Thomas edited a weekly newspaper in Hammond prior to moving to Minden, the seat of Webster Parish. There he was elected mayor in 1936.
In 1953, John Desmond opened the first architectural firm in Hammond. He was chief architect of the Tangipahoa Parish School Board for some two decades before he relocated to Baton Rouge.
Hammond's proximity to New Orleans and Baton Rouge - less than an hour from each - has begun to stimulate growth. Tangipahoa Parish is becoming one of the newest suburbs to both cities. The city of Hammond and Tangipahoa Parish are now among the fastest growing cities and parishes in Louisiana. There is an abundance of new development, both commercial and residential.
Among the city's cultural attractions is the Tangipahoa African American Heritage Museum & Black Veteran Archives. This is one of the destinations on the Louisiana African American Heritage Trail.
Louisiana African-American Heritage Trail (French: Sentier de l'Héritage Afro-Americaine de la Louisiane) is a cultural heritage trail with 26 sites designated in 2008 by the state of Louisiana, from New Orleans along the Mississippi River to Baton Rouge and Shreveport, with sites in small towns and plantations also included. In New Orleans several sites are within a walking area. Auto travel is required to reach sites outside the city.
A variety of African American museums devoted to art, history and culture are on the "trail", as is the Cane River Creole National Park, and the first two churches founded by and for free people of color. The trail includes two extensive plantation complexes with surviving quarters used by people who lived and worked at the plantations until 1930 in one case, and into the 1960s at the other. Two historically black universities are also on the trail.
The trail's chief state promoter has been Lieutenant Governor Mitch Landrieu, who saw its designation as a way to highlight the many contributions of African Americans to the culture of Louisiana and the United States.
New Orleans -
Dance in Congo Sqare in the late 1700s, artist's conception by E. W. Kemble from a century later.
Congo Square is an open space within Louis Armstrong Park, which is located in the Treme neighborhood of New Orleans, Louisiana, just across Rampart Street from the French Quarter. The Treme neighborhood is famous for its history of African American music.
In Louisiana's French and Spanish colonial era of the 18th century, slaves were commonly allowed Sundays off from their work. They were allowed to gather in the "Place de Negres", "Place Publique", later "Circus Square" or informally "Place Congo" at the "back of town" (across Rampart Street from the French Quarter), where the slaves would set up a market, sing, dance, and play music.
The tradition continued after the city became part of the United States with the Louisiana Purchase. As African music had been suppressed in the Protestant colonies and states, the weekly gatherings at Congo Square became a famous site for visitors from elsewhere in the U.S. Many visitors were amazed at the African-style dancing and music. Observers heard the beat of the bamboulas, the wail of the banzas and saw the multitude of African dances that had survived through the years.
Townsfolk would gather around the square on Sunday afternoons to watch the dancing. In 1819, the architect Benjamin Latrobe, a visitor to the city, wrote about the celebrations in his journal. Although he found them "savage", he was amazed at the sight of five or six hundred unsupervised slaves who assembled for dancing. He described them as ornamented with a number of tails of the smaller wild beasts, with fringes, ribbons, little bells, and shells and balls, jingling and flirting about the performers' legs and arms. The women, one onlooker reported, wore, each according to her means, the newest fashions in silk, gauze, muslin, and percale dresses. The males covered themselves in oriental and Indian dress and covered themselves only with a sash of the same sort wrapped around the body. Except for that, they went naked.
Congo Square today
One witness noted that clusters of onlookers, musicians, and dancers represented tribal groupings, with each nation taking their place in different parts of the square. The musicians used a range of instruments from available cultures: drums, gourds, banjo-like instruments, and quillpipes made from reeds strung together like pan flutes, as well as marimbas and European instruments such as the violin, tambourines, and triangles.
White Creole composer Louis Moreau Gottschalk incorporated rhythms and tunes he heard in Congo Square into some of his compositions, like his famous "Bamboula".
As harsher United States practices of slavery replaced the more lenient French colonial style, the slave gatherings declined. Although no recorded date of the last slave dances in the square exists, the practice seems to have stopped more than a decade before the end of slavery with the American Civil War.
In the late 19th century, the square again became a famous musical venue, this time for a series of brass band concerts by orchestras of the area's "Creole of color" community. Toward the end of the century, the city of New Orleans officially renamed the square as "Beauregard Square" in honor of Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard. While this name appeared on maps, most locals (especially in the African American community) continued to call it "Congo Square".
In the 1920s New Orleans Municipal Auditorium was built in an area just in back of the Square, displacing and disrupting some of the Tremé community.
In the 1960s a controversial urban renewal project leveled a substantial portion of the Tremé neighborhood around the Square. After a decade of debate over the land, the City turned it into Louis Armstrong Park, which incorporates old Congo Square. The city renamed the square as the traditional "Congo Square".
Starting in 1970, the City organized the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and held events annually at Congo Square. As attendance grew, the city moved the festival to the much larger New Orleans Fairgrounds. In the late 20th century and early 21st century, Congo Square has continued to be an important venue for music festivals and a community gathering place for brass band parades, protest marches, and drum circles.
The history of Congo Square inspired later generations of New Orleanians. Johnny Wiggs wrote and recorded a piece called "Congo Square" early in the New Orleans jazz revival, which became the theme song for the New Orleans Jazz Club radio show.
Congo Square is also the title of an African-themed jazz score by Wynton Marsalis and Yacub Addy. It consists of swing arrangements for big band as well as traditional African drum groups. Another famous version is that of Louisiana slide guitarist Sonny Landreth on the 1985 album Down in Louisiana. The American hard rock act Great White released a song called "Congo Square" on their 1991 release Hooked.
Younger generation African-American artist Amel Larrieux also wrote a song based on the Congo Square called "Congo" on her Bravebird album.
New Orleans African American Museum;
St. Augustine Church (New Orleans), Tremé;
St. Augustine Church is a Catholic church in the Archdiocese of New Orleans. The parish was founded in 1841 under the episcopacy of Bishop Antoine Blanc, and it is the oldest African-American parish in the nation. It was one of the first 26 sites designated on the state's Louisiana African American Heritage Trail.
St. Augustine Church seen from St. Claude Street
The property on which St. Augustine stands was once part of the Claude Tremé plantation and is now one of two Catholic parishes in the Faubourg Tremé. The church is located on Saint Claude Avenue at Governor Nicholls Street, a block from North Rampart Street and the French Quarter. It was designed by the French architect J. N. B. de Pouilly, who earlier designed the more famous St. Louis Cathedral on Jackson Square.
When free people of color received permission from Bishop Antoine Blanc to build a church, the Ursuline Sisters donated the property, on the condition that the church be named St. Augustine, after one of their patron saints, Augustine of Hippo. The church was dedicated on October 9, 1842. Free people of color paid for extra pews so that enslaved blacks could also attend.
A few months before the October 9, 1842 dedication of St. Augustine Church, the people of color began to purchase pews for their families to sit. Upon hearing of this, white people in the area started a campaign to buy more pews than the colored folks. Thus, The War of the Pews began and was ultimately won by the free people of color who bought three pews to every one purchased by the whites. In an unprecedented social, political and religious move, the colored members also bought all the pews of both side aisles. They gave those pews to the slaves as their exclusive place of worship, a first in the history of slavery in the United States. This mix of the pews resulted in the most integrated congregation in the entire country: one large row of free people of color, one large row of whites with a smattering of ethnics, and two outer aisles of slaves.
The Tremé has traditionally been an African-American neighborhood, although it has included a mulitcultural community. Along with the neighboring parish of St. Peter Claver, the parish is known in New Orleans for its association with the black Catholic community. The church hosts the annual Jazz Mass, held in conjunction with the Satchmo Festival, which honors Louis Armstrong's birthday.
Famous parishioners have included civil rights activists, musicians and other leaders:
Homer Plessy, civil rights activist, 19th c. (Plessy v. Ferguson Supreme Court case)
Sidney Bechet, jazz clarinetist, soprano saxophonist and composer
A.P. Tureaud, civil rights attorney in New Orleans
Allison 'Tootie' Montana, Mardi Gras Indian "Chief of Chiefs"
Because of substantial property losses in the city and decline in population, the diocese decided to close St. Augustine Church after Hurricane Katrina. Parishioners asked hurricane relief volunteers for help, who barricaded themselves in the church's rectory. After two weeks, parishioners and church officials agreed on a compromise, and the church was allowed to remain open. The archdiocese will review its status after 18 months. A documentary film about the protest was made entitled Shake the Devil Off.
In May 2008 St. Augustine Church received a $75,000 grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation and American Express to aid in its needed renovations.
St. Louis Cemeteries No. 1 and No. 2;
All Saints Day in New Orleans -- Decorating the Tombs in One of the City Cemeteries, an 1885 engraving
Saint Louis Cemetery is the name of three Roman Catholic cemeteries in New Orleans, Louisiana.
The burials are in above ground vaults; most were constructed in the 18th century and 19th century. The above-ground tombs, which some say are required here because the ground water levels make burial impractical in New Orleans, are strongly reminiscent of the tombs of Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris. Although the three cemeteries were flooded following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, they did not suffer much damage.
Doug Keister, author/photographer of "Going Out in Style: The Architecture of Eternity" states that
The custom of above-ground burial in New Orleans is a mixture of folklore and fact.
The vaults are in fact more due to French and Spanish tradition than they are to water table problems.
Cemeteries #1 and #2 are included on the Louisiana African American Heritage Trail.
Saint Louis #1
Saint Louis Cemetery #1 with newly renovated vaults
St. Louis Cemetery #1 is the oldest and most famous. It was opened in 1789, replacing the city's older St. Peter Cemetery (no longer in existence) as the main burial ground when the city was redesigned after a fire in 1788.
It is 8 blocks from the Mississippi River, on the north side of Basin Street, one block beyond the inland border of the French Quarter. It borders the Iberville housing project that was built over what was formerly Storyville. It has been in continuous use since its foundation. Due to crime risks, it is inadvisable for individual tourists to visit the cemetery on their own, but it can be safely visited with tour groups. The nonprofit group Save Our Cemeteries and various commercial businesses offer tours for a fee.
Famous New Orleanians buried in St. Louis #1 include Etienne de Boré - wealthy pioneer of the sugar industry and the first mayor of New Orleans, Homer Plessy - the plaintiff from the landmark 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson Supreme Court decision on civil rights, and Ernest N. "Dutch" Morial - the first African-American Mayor of New Orleans.
The renown Voodoo priestess Marie Laveau is believed to be interred in the Glapion family crypt. Other notable New Orleanians here include Bernard de Marigny - the French-Creole playboy who brought the game of craps to the United States, Barthelemy Lafon - the architect and surveyor who allegedly became one of Jean Lafitte's pirates, and Paul Morphy, one of the earliest world champions of chess.
The cemetery spans just one square block, but is the resting place of over 100,000 dead.
Saint Louis #2
St. Louis #2 is located some 3 blocks back from St. Louis #1, bordering Claiborne Avenue. It was consecrated in 1823. A number of notable jazz and rhythm & blues musicians are buried here, including Danny Barker and Ernie K. Doe. Also entombed here is Dominique You, a notorious pirate who assisted in the defense of the city against the British in the Battle of New Orleans. Andre Cailloux, African-American hero of the American Civil War is also buried here.
The cemetery received minor flooding during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and its tombs seemed virtually untouched by the storm when the water went down, aside from the brownish waterline visible on all structures that were flooded.
There are also many notable citizens of 19th and 20th century New Orleans laid to rest here. For example the tomb of Blessed Mother Henriette DeLille, who is a candidate for sainthood by the Catholic church, among others.
It was listed in National Register of Historic Places in 1975.
Politicians interred or entombed here:
Pierre Soulé (1801-1870) — of New Orleans, Orleans Parish, La. Born in France,
August 28, 1801. Member of Louisiana state senate, 1845; U.S. Senator from Louisiana, 1847, 1849-53; U.S. Minister to Spain, 1853-55; general in the Confederate Army during the Civil War. Died in New Orleans, Orleans Parish, La., March 26, 1870.
Charles Genois (c.1793-1866) — of New Orleans, Orleans Parish, La. Whig Mayor of New Orleans, La., 1838-40. Died August 30, 1866.
Robert Brown Elliott (1842-1884) — also known as R. B. Elliott — of South Carolina. Born in Massachusetts, 1842. Republican. Delegate to Republican National Convention from South Carolina, 1868 (alternate), 1880; member of South Carolina state legislature; U.S. Representative from South Carolina 3rd District, 1871-75. Black. Died in 1884.
Paul Capdevielle (1844-1922) — of New Orleans, Orleans Parish, La. Born in New Orleans, Orleans Parish, La., 1844. Mayor of New Orleans, La., 1900-04. Died in Bay St. Louis, Hancock County, Miss., 1922.
Carleton Hunt (1836-1921) — of Louisiana. Born in New Orleans, Orleans Parish, La., January 1, 1836. Nephew of Theodore Gaillard Hunt. Democrat. Served in the Confederate Army during the Civil War; U.S. Representative from Louisiana 1st District, 1883-85. Died August 14, 1921.
Saint Louis #3
St. Louis #3 is located some 2 miles back from the French Quarter, some 30 blocks from the Mississippi, fronting Esplanade Avenue near Bayou St. John. It opened in 1854. The crypts on average are more elaborate than at the other St. Louis cemeteries, including a number of fine 19th century marble tombs.
Those entombed include ragtime composer Paul Sarebresole and photographer E. J. Bellocq.
St. Louis #3 also includes a Greek Orthodox section. The cemetery was heavily flooded during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, but its tombs escaped relatively unscathed. There was some plaster damage from debris.
The French Market is a market and series of commercial buildings in the French Quarter of New Orleans, Louisiana, USA.
A section of the French Market about 1940
It stretches just inland from the Mississippi River in the section of the French Quarter downriver from Jackson Square, with the famous Café du Monde at the upriver end, down to the flea market stalls across from the New Orleans Mint building.
While part of this space has been dedicated as a market since 1791 (earlier city markets were at different locations), the oldest structures in the market date to about 1813. Major renovations were done by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s.
Rebuilding and renovations have continued into the 21st century. Much of the area formerly housing arcades of roofed but walless merchant stands now houses shops and restaurants separated by doors and walls, and catering to the tourism industry.
The flea market is especially busy on weekends. Free musical events are often given in the French Market. The New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park office and visitor's center is in the French Market.
The market is included on the Louisiana African American Heritage Trail.
Amistad Research Center, Tulane University
Tulane University Logo
Tulane University is a private, nonsectarian research university located in New Orleans, Louisiana. Founded as a public medical college in 1834, the school grew into a comprehensive university and was eventually privatized under the endowments of Paul Tulane and Josephine Louise Newcomb in the late 19th century. It is the only American university that has been converted from a public institution to a private institution. The university was elected to the Association of American Universities, an organization of leading research universities, in 1958. Other satellite campuses of its continuing education and MBA programs are located in Elmwood, LA, Covington, LA, Biloxi, MS and Houston, TX.
Founding and early history – 19th century
Paul Tulane, eponymous philanthropist of the school
The university dates from 1834 as the Medical College of Louisiana. With the addition of a law department, it became The University of Louisiana in 1847, a public university. 1851 saw the establishment of an "Academic Department."
The university closed for three years during the American Civil War; after reopening, it went through a period of financial challenges. Paul Tulane donated extensive real estate within New Orleans for the support of education; this donation led to the establishment of a Tulane Educational Fund (TEF), whose board of administrators sought to support the University of Louisiana instead of establishing a new university. In response, through the influence of former Civil War general Randall Lee Gibson, the Louisiana state legislature transferred control of the University of Louisiana to the administrators of the TEF in 1884. This act created the Tulane University of Louisiana.
In 1885, a Graduate Division started. One year later, gifts from Josephine Louise Newcomb totaling over $3.6 million led to the establishment of H. Sophie Newcomb Memorial College within Tulane University. Newcomb was the first coordinate college for women in the United States, and became a model for such institutions as Radcliffe College and Barnard College.
In 1894 a College of Technology formed. In the same year the university moved to its present-day uptown campus on St. Charles Avenue, five miles by streetcar from downtown.
Gibson Hall in the early 20th century. It faces St. Charles Avenue and is the entry landmark to the uptown campus.
In 1901, the cornerstone was laid for the F.W. Tilton Library, endowed by the New Orleans businessman and philanthropist Frederick William Tilton (1821–1890).
An Architecture Department originated within the College of Technology in 1907. One year later, Schools of Dentistry and Pharmacy appeared, both temporarily: Dentistry ended in 1928, and Pharmacy six years later.
In 1914, Tulane established a College of Commerce, the first business school in the South.
1925 saw the formal establishment of the Graduate School. Two years later, the university set up a School of Social Work, the first in the Deep South.
The house of Tulane's president on St. Charles Avenue was once the mansion of Sam Zemurray who was the head of the United Fruit Company which became infamous for its exploitation of Latin American countries as "banana republics."
University College dates from 1942. The School of Architecture grew out of Engineering in 1950.
The School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine dates from 1967 and is the oldest school of its kind in the country. Also, Tulane's School of Tropical Medicine is the only one of its kind in the country.
On April 23, 1975, President Gerald R. Ford, Jr., spoke at Tulane University's Fogelman Arena at the invitation of Congressman F. Edward Hebert, the powerful representative of Louisiana’s 1st Congressional District. During the historic speech, Ford announced that the Vietnam War was "finished as far as America is concerned"- one week before the fall of Saigon. Ford drew parallels to the Battle of New Orleans saying that such positive activity could do for America’s morale what the battle did in 1815.
In July 2004, Tulane received two $30 million donations to its endowment, the largest individual or combined gifts in the university's history. The donations came from Jim Clark, a member of the university's board of trustees and founder of Netscape, and David Filo, a graduate of its School of Engineering and co-founder of Yahoo!.
A record 34,000 students applied for admission to Tulane's class of 2012, and the average SAT score of the class was 1365, marking a rise of approximately 30 points above the average of the class of 2011. In December 2008, the Tulane admissions office reported that, as of the Thanksgiving holidays, it had received more than 32,800 applications for the class of 2013, almost equaling the 34,000 received last year for the entire admissions period running through mid-January. Consequently, the admissions office expects the class of 2013 to be the strongest in the university's history, with an average SAT score approaching 1400.
A fund raising campaign called "Promise & Distinction" raised $730.6 million as of October 3, 2008, increasing the university's total endowment to more than $1.1 billion.
Mahalia Jackson's grave, Providence Park Cemetery, Metairie;
Mahalia Jackson (October 26, 1911 – January 27, 1972) was an African-American gospel singer, widely regarded as the best in the history of the genre, and is the first "Queen of Gospel Music". With her powerful, distinct voice, Mahalia Jackson became one of the most influential gospel singers in the world. She recorded about 30albums (mostly for Columbia Records) during her career, and her 45 rpm records included a dozen "golds"—million-sellers. She was best known for her contralto voice range.
Mahalia Jackson, born Mahala Jackson, nicknamed “Halie," grew up in the Black Pearl section of the Carrollton neighborhood of Uptown New Orleans, Louisiana. The three-room dwelling on Pitt Street housed thirteen people. This included Little Mahala (named after her aunt, whom the family called Aunt Duke), her brother Roosevelt, whom they called Peter, and her mother Charity. Several aunts and cousins lived in the house as well. Aunt Mahala was given the nickname "Duke" after proving herself the undisputed “boss” of the family. The extended family (the Clarks) consisted of her mother's siblings - Isabell, Mahala, Boston, Porterfield, Hannah, Alice, Rhoda, Bessie, their children, grandchildren and patriarch Rev. Paul Clark, a former slave. Mahalia's father, John A. Jackson, Sr. was a stevedore (dockworker) and a barber who later became a pastor. He fathered four other children besides Mahalia - Wilmon (older) and then Yvonne, Pearl and Johnny, Jr. (by his marriage shortly after Halie's birth). Her father's sister, Jeanette Jackson-Burnett, and husband, Josie, were vaudeville entertainers.
When Halie was born she suffered from a condition known as genu varum or what is commonly called "bowed legs." The doctors wanted to perform surgery by breaking Halie's legs, but one of the resident aunts opposed it. So Halie's mother would rub her legs down with greasy dishwater. The condition never stopped young Halie from performing her dance steps for the white woman her mother and Aunt Bell cleaned house for.
When Mahalia was five, her mother Charity died, leaving the family to decide who would raise Halie and her brother. Aunt Duke assumed this responsibility, and the children were forced to work from sunup to sundown. Aunt Duke would always inspect the house using the "white glove" method. If the house was not cleaned properly, Halie would be beaten with a "cat-o-nine-tails." If one of the other relatives was unable to do their chores, or clean at their job, Halie or one of her cousins was expected to perform that particular task. School was hardly an option. Halie loved to sing and church is where she loved to sing the most. Halie’s Aunt Bell told her that one-day she would sing in front of royalty. Halie would one day see that prediction of her aunts come true. Mahalia Jackson began her singing career at the local Mount Mariah Baptist Church. She was baptized in Mississippi by Mt. Moriah's pastor, the Rev. E. D. Lawrence, then went back to the church to "receive the right hand of fellowship."
Mahalia Jackson, photographed by Carl Van Vechten in 1962
1920s – 1940s
In 1927, at the age of sixteen, Jackson moved from the south to Chicago, Illinois, in the midst of the Great Migration. After her first Sunday church service, where she had given an impromptu performance of her favorite song, "Hand Me Down My Favorite Trumpet, Gabriel", she was invited to join the Greater Salem Baptist Church Choir. She began touring the city's churches and surrounding areas with the Johnson Gospel Singers, one of the earliest professional gospel groups. In 1929 Jackson met the composer Thomas A. Dorsey, known as the Father of Gospel Music. He gave her musical advice, and in the mid-1930s they began a fourteen-year association of touring, with Jackson singing Dorsey's songs in church programs and at conventions. His "Take My Hand, Precious Lord" became her signature song.
In 1936 Jackson married Isaac Lanes Grey Hockenhull ("Ike"), a graduate of Fisk University and Tuskegee Institute, who was 10 years her senior. Mahalia refused to sing secular music, a pledge she would keep throughout her professional life. She was frequently offered money to do so and she divorced Isaac in 1941 because of his unrelenting pressure on her to sing secular music and his addiction to gambling on racehorses.
In 1931, Jackson recorded "You Better Run, Run, Run". Not much is known about this recording, and is impossible to find. Biographer Laurraine Goreau cites that it was also around this time she added 'i' to her name, changing it from Mahala to Mahalia, pronounced /məˈheɪliə/. At age 26, Mahalia's second set of records were recorded on May 21, 1937 under the Decca Coral label, accompanied by Estelle Allen (piano), in order; "God's Gonna Separate The Wheat From The Tares," "My Lord," "Keep Me Everyday," and "God Shall Wipe All Tears Away." Financially, these were not successful, and Decca let her go.
In 1947 she signed up with the Apollo label, and in 1948 recorded the William Herbert Brewster song "Move On Up A Little Higher", a recording so popular that stores could not stock enough copies of it to meet demand, selling an astonishing eight million copies. (The song was later honored with the Grammy Hall of Fame Award in (1998)). The success of this record rocketed Jackson to fame in the U.S. and soon after in Europe. During this time she toured as a concert artist, appearing more frequently in concert halls and less often in churches. As a consequences of this change in her venues, her arrangements expanded from piano and organ to orchestral accompaniments.
Other recordings received wide praise, including: "Let the Power of the Holy Ghost Fall on Me" (1949), which won the French Academy's Grand Prix du Disque; and "Silent Night, Holy Night", which became one of the best-selling singles in the history of Norway. When Jackson sang "Silent Night" on Denmark's national radio, more than twenty thousand requests for copies poured in. Other recordings on the Apollo label included "He Knows My Heart" (1946), "Amazing Grace" (1947), "Tired" (1947), "I Can Put My Trust in Jesus" (1949), "Walk with Me" (1949), "Let the Power of the Holy Ghost Fall on Me" (1949), "Go Tell It on the Mountain" (1950), "The Lord's Prayer" (1950), "How I Got Over" (1951), "His Eye is on the Sparrow" (1951), "I Believe" (1953), "Didn't It Rain" (1953), "Hands of God" (1953), and "Nobody Knows" (1954).
1950s – 1970s
In 1950 she became the first gospel singer to perform at New York's Carnegie Hall. She started touring Europe in 1952 and was hailed by critics as the "world's greatest gospel singer". In Paris she was called the Angel of Peace, and throughout the continent she sang to capacity audiences. Jackson's career in the late 1950s and early 1960s continued to rise. She began a radio series on CBS and signed to Columbia Records in 1954. Down Beat music magazine stated on November 17, 1954: "It is generally agreed that the greatest spiritual singer now alive is Mahalia Jackson." Her debut album for Columbia was The World's Greatest Gospel Singer, recorded in 1954, followed by Bless This House in 1956.
With her mainstream success, Jackson was criticized by some gospel purists who felt she had watered down her sound for popular accessibility. Jackson had many notable accomplishments during this period, including her performance of many songs in the 1958 film, St. Louis Blues, and singing "Trouble of the World" in 1959's Imitation of Life; recording with Percy Faith.When Mahalia Jackson recorded with Percy Faith in the Power and the Glory album, the Orchestra arched their bows to honor her in solemn recognition of her great voice. She was the main attraction in the first gospel music showcase at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1957, which was organized by Joe Bostic and recorded by the VOICE OF AMERICA, and performed again in 1958 (Newport 1958). In 1961 she sang at U.S. President John F. Kennedy's inauguration. She recorded her second Christmas album Silent Night (Songs for Christmas) in 1962. By this time, she had also become a familiar face to British television viewers as a result of short films of her performing that were occasionally shown. Historian Noel Serrano stated; "God touched the vocal chords of this Great Woman and placed a special elixer to sing for His honor and Glory!"
At the March on Washington in 1963, she sang in front of 250,000 people "I've Been 'Buked, and I've Been Scorned". Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. made his famous "I Have a Dream" speech there. She also sang "Take My Hand, Precious Lord" at his funeral after he was assassinated. Jackson sang to crowds at the 1964 New York World's Fair and was accompanied by "wonderboy preacher" Al Sharpton. She toured Europe again in 1961 (Recorded Live in Europe 1961), 1963-1964and 1967, 1968 and 1969. In 1970, she performed for the President of Liberia and also toured several Caribbean Islands that year as well. And graced the continent of Asia with her presence by singing for the Royal Family of Japan, and the Prime Minister and the people of India in the Spring of 1971.
Her last album was What The World Needs Now (1969). She ended her career in 1971 with a concert in Germany, and when she returned, made one of her final television appearances on The Flip Wilson Show. Jackson devoted much of her time and energy to helping others. She established the Mahalia Jackson Scholarship Foundation for young people who wanted to attend college. For her efforts in helping international understanding, she received the Silver Dove Award.
Chicago remained her home until the end. She opened a beauty parlor and a florist shop with her earnings, while also investing in real estate ($100,000 a year at her peak).
Mahalia Jackson died in Chicago on January 27, 1972 of heart failure and diabetes complications. Two cities paid tribute, Chicago and New Orleans. Beginning in Chicago, outside the Greater Salem Baptist Church, 50,000 of the people who had known and loved Mahalia Jackson filed silently past her mahogany, glass-topped coffin in final tribute to the queen of gospel song. The next day, as many as could —6,000 or more — filled every seat and stood along the walls of the city's public concert hall, the Arie Crown Theater of McCormick Place, for a two-hour funeral service. Mahalia's pastor, the Rev. Leon Jenkins, Mayor Richard J. Daley, Mrs. Coretta Scott King eulogized Mahalia during Chicago funeral as "a friend - proud, black and beautiful." Sammy Davis, Jr. and Ella Fitzgerald paid their respects. Dr. Joseph H. Jackson, president of the National Baptist Convention, U.S.A., Inc., of which Mahalia was Official Soloist, delivered the eulogy at Chicago funeral. Aretha Franklin, closed the Chicago rites with a moving rendition of "Precious Lord, Take My Hand".
Three days later, a thousand miles away, the scene repeated itself: again the long lines, again the silent tribute, again the thousands filling, this time, the great hall of the Rivergate Convention Center in downtown New Orleans. Mayor Moon Landrieu and Louisiana Governor John J. McKeithen joined gospel singer Bessie Griffin; Dick Gregory praised 'Mahalia's "moral force" as main reason for her success", and Lou Rawls sang "Just a Closer Walk With Thee". The funeral cortège of 24 limousines drove slowly past her childhood place of worship, Mt. Moriah Baptist Church, where her recordings played through loudspeakers. It made its way to Providence Memorial Park in Metairie, Louisiana where Jackson was entombed. Despite the inscription of Jackson's birth year on her headstone as 1912, she was actually born in 1911.
Jackson's estate was reported at "more than a million dollars". Some reporters estimated that record royalties, TV and movie residuals, and various investments made it worth more. The bulk of the estate was left to a number of relatives — many of whom cared for Mahalia during those lean years when she was just another young black girl in the South. Among principal heirs were relatives including her half-brother John Jackson and aunt Hannah Robinson. Neither ex-husband, Isaac Hockenhull (1936-1941) nor Sigmund Galloway (1964-1967), was noted in her will.
Legacy and honors
Mahalia Jackson is widely regarded as the greatest gospel singer in history and one of the great voices of the twentieth century. Her music was never played widely on any but traditional gospel and traditional Christian radio stations. Her music was heard for decades on Family Radio. Her good friend Martin Luther King Jr said, "A voice like hers comes along once in a millennium."
In addition to sharing her singing talent with the world, she mentored the extraordinarily gifted Aretha Franklin. Mahalia was also good friends with Dorothy Norwood and fellow Chicago-based gospel singer Albertina Walker (who is the present "Queen of Gospel Music", heir to Mahalia's legacy.) She also discovered a young Della Reese. Jackson was present at the opening night of Chicago's Old Town School of Folk Music in December 1957.
On the twentieth anniversary of her passing, Smithsonian Folkways Recording commemorated Jackson with the album, I Sing Because I'm Happy, which includes interviews about her childhood conducted by Jules Scherwin.
The National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences created the Gospel Music or Other Religious Recording category for Mahalia making her the first Gospel Music Artist to win the prestigeous Grammy Award. She performed for Presidents Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon. She has also given performances for Queen Elizabeth II and Sir Winston Churchill of the U.K., the King and Queen of Denmark, the Presidents of France and Liberia, the Empress of Japan, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi of India, the prime ministers of several Caribbean islands and several other heads of state and political figures worldwide.
Among Mahalia's surviving relatives is her great-nephew, Indiana Pacers forward Danny Granger.
Arna Bontemps African American Museum (birthplace of writer of the Harlem Renaissance), Alexandria;
The Arna Bontemps African American Museum is a museum in the United States city of Alexandria, Louisiana. The museum is housed in the restored home that was the birthplace of the poet Arna Bontemps, renowned as one of the leaders of the Harlem Renaissance.
The museum and cultural center is located at 1327 3rd Street. The Bontemps museum is one of the first 26 featured sites on the Louisiana African American Heritage Trail.
Arna Wendell Bontemps Museum
Arna Bontemps - a noted Black poet, author, anthologist, librarian - was born in Alexandria, Louisiana on October 13, 1902.
He is credited with writing over 20 books, plays, and anthologies and was considered the leading authority on the Harlem Renaissance.
He was part of a core of young Black writers who led the "New Negro" movement. Bontemps wanted a front row seat to view and participate in the stirrings of jazz, theater and literature taking place in Harlem.
His scholarly interest in fostering a new appraisal of his race and re-evaluation of the Black man's place in American history is just a part of his legacy.
His children's books are unique and his poetry and writings convey the rhythms and richness of the African American culture which was to influence a number of writers who followed him. (Edwin Blair. "Literary Habitats." Preservation in Print. September 1996.)
Arna Wendell Bontemps
Arna Bontemps - a noted Black poet, author, anthologist, librarian - was born in Alexandria, Louisiana on October 13, 1902. He was baptized at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral. Arna, son of Paul Bismark and Marie Pembrooke Bontemps, lived in a typical turn-of-the-century, middle class, wood-frame house at the corner of Ninth and Winn Streets. As a youth he moved with his family to California as a part of the great migration of that period.
Arna attended public schools and graduated at age 17 from Pacific Union College (PUC). He completed his degree in three years. While in college, Bontemps became interested in writing. He wrote poetry, essays, short stories, fiction, non-fiction, and children’s books.
Arna Bontemps was also a teacher in a private academy in New York City. He received professional training in librarianship at the Graduate School at the University of Chicago and served as the librarian at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. He and his wife had six children.
Bontemps' writings were greatly influenced by his memories of Alexandria, his cultural and social roots. As an adult, he returned to the South because of certain changes he observed as "Jim Crow" laws were being eradicated. Bontemps would later write in his novel, Black Thunder, "Time is not a river. Time is a pendulum...intricate patterns of recurrence in...experience and in...history".
Bontemps is credited with writing over 20 books, plays, and anthologies and was considered the leading authority on the Harlem Renaissance. He was part of a core of young Black writers who led the "New Negro" movement. Bontemps wanted a front row seat to view and participate in the stirrings of jazz, theater and literature taking place in Harlem. His scholarly interest in fostering a new appraisal of his race and reevaluation of the Black man's place in American history is just a part of his legacy. His children's books are unique and his poetry and writings convey the rhythms and richness of the African American culture which was to influence a number of writers who followed him. (Edwin Blair. "Literary Habitats." Preservation in Print. September 1996.)
The recent resurgence of interest in Bontemps' unpublished children's stories by Oxford University Press speaks to his universal appeal. The 1996 Academy Award nominated short film, "A Tuesday Morning Ride," is an adaptation of Bontemps' 1933 short story, "A Summer Tragedy". The revival of his play, "St. Louis Woman," written with Countee Cullen and adapted from Bontemps' first novel God Sends Sunday, gives further credence to his literary genius.
When Arna Bontemps addressed the end of cultural colonialism, he wrote of the Harlem Renaissance writers and of their counterpart, the "lost generation": "Once they find a (united) voice, they will bring a fresh and fierce sense of reality to their vision of human life.... What American literature needs at this moment is color, music, gusto...." (Harlem Renaissance Remembered)
The Arna Bontemps African American Museum and Cultural Arts Center was founded in 1988 by the Arna Bontemps Foundation, Incorporated, a non-profit, tax-exempt organization. The organization was formed through the Division of Community Affairs, Office of the Mayor, City of Alexandria, Louisiana.
The Museum is the restored childhood home of Arna Bontemps - poet, author, anthologist, and librarian - who was considered the leading authority of the Harlem Renaissance. The period - sometimes referred to as the "New Negro" movement - is when young Black writers went to Harlem to share the Black experience through their writing.
The home, which was impacted by I-49 construction, was rescued, relocated, restored, and established as the first African American Museum in Louisiana. Since its opening in August of 1992, the Museum has become a nationally recognized treasured landmark and a model institution that serves a cross-cultural community. The birthplace home of Arna Wendell Bontemps stands as a symbol of our past, present, and future. The Museum belongs to the community just as the works of Arna Bontemps belong to Alexandria and the world.
The mission of the Arna Bontemps Museum is to further knowledge of the legacy of Bontemps and to promote awareness of African American history and culture through programs in the humanities and arts that include preservation of artifacts, mounting exhibits, and educational programs.
The Arna Bontemps African American Museum and Cultural Arts Center seeks to achieve the following goals through its programs: 1) promote an understanding and appreciation of African American culture among a diverse audience; 2) establish the Arna Bontemps African American Museum and Cultural Arts Center as an important part of the community through community-wide programs that facilitate interaction among different cultures; and 3) become a partner in multicultural education through collaborative programming.
As the first African American Museum in Louisiana, the Arna Bontemps African American Museum and Cultural Arts Center "has become one of the primary cultural institutions in Rapides Parish.... In its purpose, featuring African American history, the museum carries a unique role in Central Louisiana..." observed William Worthen, Jr., American Association of Museum Surveyor in his museum assessment, December 11, 1996. Mr. Worthen further states that "The Harlem Renaissance was a singularly important period in African American history...the Museum has a connection many...institutions don't have."
A National Register of Historic Places site.
The only historical landmark in Rapides Parish listed in African American Historical Places published by the National Park Service in 1994.
Referenced by former Senator J. Bennett Johnston in the Lower Mississippi Delta Initiative Act as an emerging museum that serves as a model for other museums.
Cited in Alexandria's All-America City Award.
Recognized by the Louisiana Preservation Alliance and the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.
Featured topic at the 1996 African American Museums Association's National Conference.
Highlighted in local, state and national periodicals.
The Arna Bontemps African American Museum and Cultural Arts Center has become a significant provider of quality cultural and educational programming.
Madam C.J. Walker's birthplace, Delta;
Madam Walker in a photograph ca. 1914 by Addison Scurlock.
Madam C.J. Walker (December 23, 1867 – May 25, 1919) was an American businesswoman, hair care entrepreneur, tycoon and philanthropist.
Her fortune was made by developing and marketing a hugely successful line of beauty and hair products for black women. The Guinness Book of Records cites Walker as the first female, black or white, who became a millionaire by her own achievements.
In 2002, scholar Molefi Kete Asante listed Madam C. J. Walker on his list of 100 Greatest African Americans.
She was born Sarah Breedlove in Delta, Louisiana, the first member of her family to be born free. Her parents had been slaves. At age 14, she married a man named Moses McWilliams and was widowed at age 20. She then moved to St. Louis, Missouri to join her brothers. Sarah worked as a laundress for as little as a dollar and a half a day, but she was able to save enough to educate her daughter. While living in St. Louis, she joined St. Paul's African Methodist Episcopal Church, which helped develop her speaking, interpersonal and organizational skills. She was married in 1894 to John Davis and divorced about nine years later.
When she began to lose her hair, she had the idea for a line of hair care products. Like that of most other Americans in the early 1900s, Walker's home lacked indoor plumbing, electricity and central heating. Like many women of that era, she washed her hair only once a month. As a result, she suffered from severe dandruff and scalp disease that nearly caused her to go bald. In 1905, Sarah moved to Denver, Colorado, where she worked as a sales agent for Annie Malone, another black woman entrepreneur who manufactured hair care products. Sarah also consulted with a Denver pharmacist, who analyzed Malone's formula and helped Walker formulate her own products. In addition, she often told reporters that the ingredients for her "Wonderful Hair Grower" had come to her in a dream.
In 1906 she married Charles Joseph Walker, a St. Louis newspaperman, and changed her name to "Madam C.J. Walker". She founded the Madam C.J. Walker Manufacturing Company to sell hair care products and cosmetics.
Madam Walker divorced her third husband in 1910 and moved her growing manufacturing operations to a new industrial complex in Indianapolis. By 1917 she had the largest business in the United States owned by a black person
“ I am a woman who came from the cotton fields of the South. From there I was promoted to the washtub. From there I was promoted to the cook kitchen. And from there I promoted myself into the business of manufacturing hair goods and preparations...I have built my own factory on my own ground.”
“ There is no royal, flower-strewn path to success. And if there is, I have not found it for if I have accomplished anything in life, it is because I have been willing to work hard.”
Walker saw her personal wealth not as an end in itself, but as a means to help promote and expand economic opportunities for others, especially black people. She took great pride in the profitable employment — and alternative to domestic labor — that her company afforded many thousands of black women who worked as commissioned agents for Walker's company. Her agents could earn from $5 to $15 a day, in an era when unskilled white laborers were making about $11 a week. One of her employees, Marjorie Joyner, started under her influence and went on to lead the next generation of African American beauty entrepreneurs.
Walker was also known for her philanthropy, leaving two-thirds of her estate to educational institutions and charities including the NAACP, the Tuskegee Institute and Bethune-Cookman College. In 1919, her $5,000 pledge to the NAACP's anti-lynching campaign was the largest gift the organization had ever received. She died soon after, on May 25, 1919, at age 51, at her estate, Villa Lewaro, due to kidney failure and other complications resulting from hypertension. She was buried at Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx.
Walker's daughter, A'Lelia Walker, carried on the tradition, opening her mother's home and her own to writers and artists of the emergent Harlem Renaissance and promoting important members of that movement. She converted a section of her Harlem townhouse at 108-110 West 136th Street into the Dark Tower, a salon and tearoom where Harlem and Greenwich Village artists, writers and musicians gathered. Poet Langston Hughes called her "The joy goddess of Harlem's 1920s" in his autobiography, The Big Sea, because of the lavish parties she hosted in Harlem and Irvington.
Walker had a mansion called "Villa Lewaro" built in the wealthy New York suburb of Irvington on Hudson, New York, near the estates of John D. Rockefeller and Jay Gould. She spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on furnishings. The Italianate villa was designed by architect Vertner Tandy, the first registered black architect in the state of New York, in 1915. Walker also owned townhouses in Indianapolis and New York.
Villa Lewaro, also known as the Anne E. Poth Home, was the home of Madam C. J. Walker, 1867-1919, believed to be the first female, and first African-American, millionaire. It is an Italianate villa house designed for Walker by Vertner Tandy, the first registered African-American architect, and has been considered to be one of his greatest works. It was constructed during 1916-1918 at an estimated cost of $250,000, and was furnished lavishly. The name Villa Lewaro was coined by a distinguished visitor, Enrico Caruso, from the first two letters of each word in Lelia Walker Robinson, the name of her daughter, who later went by the name of A'Lelia Walker.
The home was used as a conference center on race relations issues. Walker died there in 1919; the house was inherited by her daughter A'Lelia Walker who owned it until she herself died in 1931. It then became the Anne E. Poth Home for Convalescent and Aged Members of the Companions of the Forest in America.
The house became a National Historic Landmark in 1976.
The house is located at the intersection of Fargo Lane and North Broadway (US 9) in Irvington, New York. It is a private residence and not open to the public.
Melrose Plantation, center of Louisiana Créole culture;
Melrose Plantation, also known as Yucca Plantation, is a National Historic Landmark in Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana.
The National Park Service states its significance succinctly: "Established in the late 18th century by Marie Therese Coincoin, a former slave who became a wealthy businesswoman, the grounds of Yucca Plantation (now known as Melrose Plantation) contain what may well be the oldest buildings of African design built by Blacks, for the use of Blacks, in the country. The African House, a unique, nearly square structure with an umbrella-like roof which extends some 10' beyond the exterior walls on all four sides, may be of direct African derivation." Buildings include the main house, the Yucca House, the Ghana House, and the African House, plus some outbuildings. The plantation was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1974. In 2008, it was included among the first 26 sites on the Louisiana African American Heritage Trail.
As with many historic sites steeped in lore, evidence disproves the asserted identity of the founder and no evidence has been found or presented to support the claim that the property was originally named Yucca Plantation. The names attributed to the extant buildings date to early twentieth century promotion of the plantation as a cultural center by its then owners.
Historical investigations from the 1970s and archaeological investigation that began at Melrose Plantation in 2001 have uncovered evidence that both confirm and challenge local tradition about the complex. Research shows conclusively, through original contemporary records, that the several hundred acres of land were, in fact, granted in 1796 to Coincoin's second son, Louis Metoyer, who would not be freed by his white father until 1802. Under Louisiana's Code Noir, enslaved men were not supposed to be granted land.
Contrary to the 1970s-era assessment, which dated the construction of Louis Metoyer's first home (Yucca House) to the mid-1790s, a land survey of 1813 places Louis Metoyer's residence south of the Red River (and south of the center of the Melrose complex). It was at the eastern edge of the plantation settled by his elder brother Augustin Metoyer. The question of early occupancy must still be settled. These were the two brothers who built the St. Augustine Parish (Isle Brevelle) Church in Natchez, Louisiana, the first built by free people of color.
Nonetheless, the plantation is important for its association with the Metoyer family, which was prominent in Isle Brevelle and a strong center of the Creoles of color community. Construction began on the "Big House" at Melrose before the 11 March 1832 death of Louis Metoyer. His son Jean Baptiste Louis Metoyer completed the construction in 1833. At J. B. L.'s death in 1838, his $112,761 estate (roughly $2,600,000 in 2007 purchasing power) was divided between a minor son and a young widow with no experience in financial matters. Amid the financial depression that followed the Panic of 1837, the mother and son fell heavily in debt. After the mother emancipated the teenaged Théophile Louis Metoyer from the disabilities of minority, creditors launched a series of lawsuits. The Louis Metoyer Plantation went on the auction block.
On 22 March 1847, it was struck off at $8,340 to the highest bidder, the French Créole brothers Henry and Hypolite Hertzog, on behalf of their sister Jeanne Fanny (Widow Dassize) Bossier. Hertzog and Bossier then operated a cotton plantation, in partnership, until 1880. Like most planters of the region in the wake of Civil War and Reconstruction, they struggled financially and did little to improve or maintain the property. (In a twist of irony, the debtors who sued them included J. B. L. Metoyer's widow.)
In December 1881, the Metoyer-Hertzog-Bossier Plantation (still unnamed at this point) was sold again at auction to satisfy an 1879 judgment rendered against them in Louisiana's Fifth District Circuit. The purchaser, F. R. Cauranneau of New Orleans, held the land and houses as an absentee owner until April 1884, when he found a buyer willing to pay $4,500 cash. The new owner, an Irish immigrant merchant named Joseph Henry who had married into a prominent local family, gave the property the name Melrose, by which it remains known today.
Analysis of glass at the site confirms three major periods of occupancy of Yucca House, c.1807-1821, c.1874-1888 (renovation likely after the 1884 purchase by Joseph Henry), and c.1916-1930, renovation by Henry's son John and his wife Carmelite "Miss Cammie" Henry. Remains of European ceramic ware also indicate post-1810 initial occupancy of Yucca House, contrary to the 1796 date that had been earlier proposed.
Because of its strong association with the Coincoin-Metoyer family, Melrose Plantation is the major site where the history of Creoles in the region is physically interpreted for tourists.
Laura Plantation, Vacherie;
Laura Plantation is a historic plantation in St. James Parish, Louisiana on the West Bank of the Mississippi River near Vacherie, Louisiana. It is significant for its early 19th c. Créole-style raised big house and several surviving outbuildings, including six slave quarters. It is one of only 15 plantation complexes in Louisiana with this degree of complete structures. Because of its importance, the plantation is on the National Register of Historic Places. It is also included on the Louisiana African American Heritage Trail.
Alcée Fortier, who later became Professor of Romance Languages and folklore at Tulane University, was said to have collected Louisiana Creole versions of the West African Br'er Rabbit stories here in the 1870s.
Originally known as DuParc, the plantation was established in 1755. The current plantation house was built in 1805 by a French Créole family.
The complex continued functioning as a plantation into the 20th century. The plantation complex consists of the "big house"; several outbuildings, including six original slave quarters; and a maison de reprise (a second house or mother-in-law cottage). The existence of the slave quarters, which workers continued to live in up until 1930, contributes to the historic significance of the complex. Because of its importance, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is used to interpret history and for heritage tourism.
Shaded by the low branches of large oak trees, the main house is almost hidden from the road. Constructed in c. 1805, the "big house" at Laura Plantation has a raised brick basement story and a briquette-entre-poteaux (brick between posts) upper floor. It is one of only 30 substantial Créole raised houses in the state. Also noteworthy are the federal-style interior woodwork and Norman roof truss, unusual for Créole houses.
The interior of the "big house" is furnished with original antiques. Some pieces were donated to the plantation by families of the original owners. Owners have left some areas inside the home unrestored to give visitors a sense of history.
A large collection of family treasures and apparel are on display, giving a sense of daily life. Laura Locoul Gore's memoirs provided much of what is known about life on Laura Plantation.
In 2004 the plantation house was significantly damaged by an electrical fire. Restoration work was completed in 2006, despite the interruption of Hurricane Katrina.
Laura Locoul Gore was the fourth mistress of the plantation. She was born in the house in 1861. She inherited it and ran it as a sugar business until 1891, when she sold the plantation to the St. James Sugar Cooperative, with the condition the plantation always be called Laura.
Laura Plantation's association with the Br'er Rabbit tales drew preservationist Norman Marmillion's attention to the site. He created a for-profit company that attracted enough investors to embark on a ten-year plan of restoration. Some investors are descendants of former owners.
Two slave quarters at Laura Plantation
Courtesy of Lagniappe Tours, Foundation for Historical Louisiana
The Br'er Rabbit and Br'er Fox tales are variations on stories that originated in Senegal and were brought to America around the 1720s by enslaved Africans. According to the plantation's history, Alcée Fortier, a neighbor of the family and student of folklore, came there in the 1870s to listen to the freedmen. He collected the stories which freedmen told their children in Louisiana Créole. These stories were about Compair Lapin and Compair Bouki (the clever rabbit and stupid fool), in which the rabbit plays a trickster role. Twenty-five years later in 1894, Fortier published stories which he had collected and translated in the edition Louisiana Folk Tales: In French Dialect and English Translation. Fortier did publish such a book and may have collected the tales at Laura and his own family's plantation.
Situated on River Road between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, the Laura Plantation complex is located just upriver from the west bank community of Vacherie. The plantation is significant for its raised Creole plantation "big house" and its rare collection of outbuildings, including six slave quarters, that illustrate the development of a sugar cane plantation from the antebellum period well into the 20th century. The land on which Laura plantation stands was originally owned by André Neau, who obtained it through a French royal land grant in 1755. In the late 1700s, the plantation became the property of the Dupare family and was divided between two family members in 1876. The house continued in the hands of Dupare heirs until 1891, when Dupare descendant Laura Locoul sold the property to A. Florian Waguespack. A condition of the sale was that the plantation and house continue to be called "Laura". Constructed c.1820, the main house at Laura has a raised brick basement story and a briquette-entre-poteaux (brick between posts) upper floor. The house is special because of its Federal style interior woodwork and Norman roof truss. In Louisiana, far more Creole houses with Greek Revival woodwork have survived than have those showing Federal influence. Few examples of the Norman roof truss construction technique survive, and they are usually found in very early Creole houses.
Although Creole residences once dominated the rural landscape of central and southern Louisiana, today perhaps only 300 to 400 examples of these buildings remain standing outside New Orleans. Of these, the majority are small or moderately sized one-story houses, while only approximately 30, including the main house Laura, are members of the distinct group of substantial raised plantation houses regarded as the apex of the Creole style. Little attention has been given to preserving the coterie of dependencies that were the "workhorses" of cotton and sugar production on Louisiana plantations. Historically the state was dotted with hundreds of plantation complexes such as Laura, but today they are rare survivors. One of about 15 surviving plantation complexes in the state, Laura might be compared to Whitney or Evergreen plantations in St. John the Baptist Parish. Thus, it is a very important visual reminder of the large agricultural enterprise common in antebellum and post-war Louisiana.
Laura Plantation is located on River Road midway between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. The home is open for tours daily, except for Creole holidays (New Year's, Mardi Gras, Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas). The first tour is at 10:00am, the last at 4:00pm. Gates close at 5:00pm. There is a fee for admission and groups are encouraged to call ahead. Call 225-265-7690 or visit the website for more information.
Evergreen Plantation, Wallace;
Evergreen Plantation is a plantation located on Louisiana Highway 18 near Wallace, Louisiana. The main house was constructed mostly in 1832 and the plantation's historical crop was sugar cane. It was an operating plantation up until about 1930, when the Depression brought its end.
Drawing by the Historic American Buildings Survey
The complex was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1992.
The plantation includes 37 contributing buildings, all but eight of them antebellum, making it one of the most complete plantation complexes in the state and the South. Of great significance are the 22 slave quarters, arranged in a double row along an allée of oak trees.
Among the outbuildings are a garconnière, where young bachelors of the family or guests could stay; a pigeonnier for keeping pigeons (a sign of status among the planters); an overseer's cottage; and late 19th century barns.
Because of its quality and significance, the plantation is also included among the first 26 featured sites on the Louisiana African American Heritage Trail.
River Road African American Museum, Donaldsonville;
River Road African American Museum is a museum of culture and history in Donaldsonville, Louisiana. Founded in 1994, it was among the first Louisiana museums to tell the story of Africans and African Americans, both slave and free. The museum notes their contributions to the River Road region, both before and after the American Civil War. Because of its significance, the museum was identified as one of the first 26 sites included by the state in 2008 on the Louisiana African American Heritage Trail.
The founder Kathe Hambrick created the African American Museum to celebrate the culture and contributions of African Americans in Louisiana, and to provide a more accurate historic account.
Hambrick began to work on the museum in 1991. Returning to Ascension Parish after years away, she noted that despite the tens of thousands of visitors that area plantations received, few were able to learn anything about the contributions of Africans and African Americans, whether slave or free. In the 1990s, few of the plantations provided the histories of African Americans in the region, ither before or after the Civil War. People of African descent had a 300-year history in the region and had contributed strongly to its economy and culture. In addition, many worked on the plantations that had continued to operate into the 20th century. Hambrick originally established the museum in 1994 at notable Tezcuco Plantation. It suffered a damaging fire in 2002. When the owners decided against rebuilding, Hambrick had to find a new home.
Hambrick then relocated the River Road African American Museum to Donaldsonville, about 15 miles from Baton Rouge. She was able to move buildings to the site which had historic significance in area history: the first black elementary school in Ascension Parish, the meeting house of an early African American insurance agency, and the African Plantation house, owned by the first African-American doctor in the parish.
The museum has developed exhibits about black inventors, jazz musicians, and community and political leaders from the area. Another exhibit was about the free people of color in the parish, developed from census and town records. The museum has a strong collection of artifacts and memorabilia from plantations along the River Road from New Orleans to Baton Rouge; some donated by the plantations; other material donated by individuals from their own families. It also hosts traveling exhibits from other venues, frequent educational programs and workshops in culture.
In addition, the museum provides a venue for important events celebrating African and African American culture and holidays such as Juneteenth. It offers informative tours of the region with a deeper look at African American history than is generally available.
Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day, commemorates the announcement of the abolition of slavery in the U.S. State of Texas. Celebrated on June 19, the term is a portmanteau of June and nineteenth, and is an official annual holiday in 29 of the United States.
Juneteenth celebration in Austin, Texas on 19 June 1900
The holiday originated in Galveston, Texas; for more than a century, the state of Texas was the primary home of Juneteenth celebrations, however, one small community in Arkansas (Wilmar) boasts that its celebration, called "June Dinner" has been consistently observed and celebrated, except for one year, since approximately 1870. Since 1980, Juneteenth has been an official state holiday in Texas. It is considered a "partial staffing holiday" meaning that state offices do not close but some employees will be using a floating holiday to take the day off. Twelve other states list it as an official holiday, including Arkansas, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Alaska. In California, Governor Schwarzenegger proclaimed June 19th "Juneteenth" on June 19, 2005, however, some of these states, such as Connecticut, do not consider it a legal holiday and do not close government offices in observance of the occasion. Its informal observance has spread to some other states, with a few celebrations even taking place in other countries.
As of June 2008, 29 states and the District of Columbia have recognized Juneteenth as either a state holiday or state holiday observance; these include Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wyoming.
Grambling State University, Grambling;
Grambling State University is a public, coeducational university, which is among the Historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in the United States. Located in Grambling, Louisiana, Grambling State was founded in 1901 and accredited in 1949.
The school became Grambling College in 1946 named after a sawmill owner, Judson H. Grambling, who donated a parcel of land for the school to be constructed. With the addition of graduate departments, Grambling gained university status in 1974.
The university has distinction of being the home of legendary football coach Eddie Robinson. It has also been included on the Louisiana African American Heritage Trail.
A constituent member of the University of Louisiana System, GSU is fully accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). Its instructional programs are delivered through a School of Graduate Studies and Research and four undergraduate colleges:
Arts and Sciences
The university offers 64 programs, leading to certification, associate's, bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees. The university offers the only doctorate in developmental education in the nation.
Grambling State University emerged from the desire of African-American farmers in rural north Louisiana who wanted to educate other African Americans in the northern part of the state. In 1896, the North Louisiana Colored Agriculture Relief Association was formed to organize and operate a school.
After opening a small school west of what is now the town of Grambling, the Association requested assistance from Booker T. Washington of Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. Charles P. Adams, sent to aid the group in organizing an industrial school, became its founder and first president.
Under Adams’ leadership, the Colored Industrial and Agricultural School opened on November 1, 1901. Four years later, the school moved to its present location and was renamed the North Louisiana Agricultural and Industrial School. By 1928, the school was able to offer two-year professional certificates and diplomas after becoming a state junior college. The school was renamed Louisiana Negro Normal and Industrial Institute.
Composer Sam Spence wrote an instrumental piece for NFL Films entitled "Ramblin' Man from Gramblin,'" acknowledging both the University as well as the Bob Seger song "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man".
In 1936, the program was reorganized to emphasize rural education. It became known as "The Louisiana Plan" or "A Venture in Rural Teacher Education." Professional teaching certificates were awarded when a third year was added in 1936, and the first baccalaureate degree was awarded in 1944 in elementary education.
The institution’s name was changed to Grambling College in 1946 in honor of a white sawmill owner, P.G. Grambling, who donated a parcel of land for the school. Thereafter, the college prepared secondary teachers and added curricula in sciences, liberal arts and business. With these programs in effect, the school was transformed from a single purpose institution of teacher education into a multipurpose college. In 1949, the college was accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).
In 1974, the addition of graduate programs in early childhood and elementary education gave the school a new status and a new name – Grambling State University.
In 2006, Grambling State was the setting for the Black Entertainment Television network docudrama "Season of the Tiger," which chronicled the daily lives of members of the football team and marching band throughout the 2005 season.
From 1977 to 2000, the university moved and prospered. Several new academic programs were incorporated and new facilities were added to the 384-acre (1.55 km2) campus, including a business and computer science building, school of nursing, student services building, stadium, stadium support facility and an intramural sports center.
Tangipahoa African American Heritage Museum, Hammond;
Port Hudson Battlefield, Jackson;
Annual Civil War Reenactment at Port Hudson, Louisiana.
Port Hudson is a small town in Louisiana located about 20 miles northeast of Baton Rouge. It is most famous for an American Civil War battle known as the Siege of Port Hudson. Port Hudson is located at 30.678 North and 91.269 West. Port Hudson is along the Mississippi River.
The battlefield was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1974 by the U.S. Department of the Interior. It is also among 26 featured sites on the Louisiana African American Heritage Trail.
Whitney Plantation Historic District, Wallace;
Whitney Plantation is preserved in Whitney Plantation Historic District near Wallace, Louisiana in St. John the Baptist Parish.
The French Creole raised-style main house built in 1803 is the most important in the state. In addition, the plantation has numerous extant outbuildings: a pigeonnier, a plantation store, the only surviving French Creole barn in Louisiana, and slave quarters. The complex includes three archaeological sites which have had varying degrees of exploration.
The 1884 Mialaret House, associated buildings and property were added by later purchase, and helps express the long working history of the plantation.
As the properties are held privately, they are not open for viewing. Some of the land is still planted in sugar cane.
The historic district was listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 1992. Whitney Plantation is also one of 26 sites featured on the Louisiana African American Heritage Trail.
Pigeonnier and plantation store within the Whitney Plantation Historic District
Courtesy of the Louisiana Division of Historic Preservation
Historic district buildings including the Whitney Plantation Main House, plantation store, and French Creole barn
Courtesy of the Louisiana Division of Historic Preservation
The Whitney Plantation Historic District is located on a 3,000-foot stretch of the famous, historic River Road in St. John the Baptist Parish, Louisiana. Aside from the raised Creole main house, originally erected in 1803, the district contains an overseer's house, a rare French Creole barn, a manager's house, a plantation store, a two story tall pigeonnier (structures used by upper-class French for housing pigeons), and the 1884 Creole and Greek revival style Mialaret House, as well as other sites of historic interest. The Creole mansion and dependencies are grouped in a cluster, which forms the focal point of the district. Sugarcane and rice were the principal crops during the historic period, and Whitney's fields are still planted in cane. The district's plantation house is architecturally important statewide as one of Louisiana's most important examples of Creole architecture. Nationally, the art produced within the Whitney Plantation House, including the wall murals dating between 1836 and 1839, are important. Whitney's surviving French Creole barn is the last example known to survive in the State.
French Creole Barn
The plantation that came to be known as Whitney appears to have been founded by Ambrose Haydel. A German, Haydel immigrated to Louisiana with his mother and siblings in 1721 and married shortly thereafter. Ambrose Haydel and his wife may have lived on the Whitney land tract as early as 1750. By the end of the 18th century, Haydel's sons, Jean Jacques, and Nicholas, owned adjoining plantations which included and expanded upon their father's original holdings. It was apparently Jean Jacques who built the Whitney main house around 1790 and expanded it around 1803. In 1820, he sold the property to his sons Jean Jacques, Jr., and Marcellin.
Marcellin eventually gained total control of the rest of the family's land, and commissioned the 1836-1839 remodeling. The plantation remained in the family's hands until it was sold to a Northerner, Bradish Johnson, after the Civil War. It was Johnson who actually named the property Whitney in honor of his grandson, Harry Payne Whitney.
The Whitney Plantation Historic District is located of Hwy. 18 in Wallace. All of the buildings within the district are privately owned, and not open to the public.
Driving Back Into Louisiana’s History
Leonard Julien Jr. by the home where he grew up in Donaldsonville, La. Mr. Julien’s father invented a machine to plant sugar cane.
By RON STODGHILL
Published: May 25, 2008
STRIDING across the rain-soaked field of an abandoned Louisiana plantation, Mitch Landrieu, the state’s lieutenant governor, waved his hands impatiently. “C’mon, you’ve got to see this,” he called out, sounding more P. T. Barnum than politician. Marching beside him was the Whitney Plantation’s owner, John Cummings, a wealthy Louisiana lawyer turned preservationist who, with Mr. Landrieu’s help, hopes to prove that the old Southern plantation, or at least this one, is still very much in business.
Louisiana’s African-American Heritage Trail
The River Road African-American Museum
Centuries past its prime, the Whitney Plantation sits grandly beneath a canopy of oak trees along a dusty road in St. John the Baptist Parish, a sleepy river community 35 miles northwest of New Orleans. The estate, promoted as the most complete plantation in the South, is an antebellum gem. It includes, among other things, a Creole and Greek Revival-style mansion, an overseer’s house, a blacksmith shop and the oldest kitchen in Louisiana. Built in the late 1700s by Jean Jacques Haydel Jr., the grandson of a German immigrant with a penchant for fine art, the house walls are adorned with murals said to be painted by the Italian artist Domenico Canova, a relation of the neo-Classical sculptor Antonio Canova.
Yet Mr. Landrieu is far less interested in the Haydels than the legacy of the 254 slaves who once inhabited the nearly dozen shacks behind the big house during Whitney’s reign among the largest sugar farms in Louisiana. His muddy shoes planted in front of a row of neatly situated sun-bleached shacks during a recent visit, Mr. Landrieu nudged a reporter toward what he likes to call a living museum:
“Go on in. You have to go inside. When you walk in that space, you can’t deny what happened to these people. You can feel it, touch it, smell it.”
He compared the experience to visiting the former Nazi death camp at Auschwitz.
Personal politics aside, in an era of proliferating theme parks and “Girls Gone Wild” spring breaks, it is entirely possible that hanging out in former slave quarters — or, for that matter, the adjacent so-called “negro pen” lockup — runs counter to most Americans’ idea of a vacation. But in post-Katrina Louisiana, where an antidote to recent images of black disillusionment, despair and displacement has so far proven elusive, the recently started African-American Heritage Trail offers a disarmingly triumphant immersion into Louisiana’s rich black history and culture through such powerful juxtapositions of freedom and bondage and the creativity that sprung out of both conditions.
Served up in heaping gumbo-style portions, the African-American Heritage Trail is not always easy to digest: it spans 26 sites, wending its way through museums, marketplaces and cemeteries from New Orleans to Shreveport.
To be sure, this is one wandering, race-obsessed road trip: not even those tasty Cracklin or Boudin balls at Highway 190 truck stops, or the reassuring baritone of the actor Louis Gossett Jr., who narrates a fact-filled audiotape of people and places, can always cut the lull of hundreds of miles of often barren, rural highway. And if you’re toting kids as this trailee was, you might feel at points as if you’re driving the African-American Headache Trail.
But if you can hang in, there’s a realism to this traveling history lesson, with a richly tactile and authentic quality. You’ll find it as you stand in front of the childhood home of Homer Plessy, whose refusal to move from the “whites only” section of a rail car would lead to the landmark Supreme Court case Plessy v. Ferguson; as you take in the story of Madame C. J. Walker, the hair-care entrepreneur who bootstrapped her way out of poverty to become the nation’s first black female millionaire; as you stroll through Armstrong Park in New Orleans, named to honor the jazz pioneering work of Louis Armstrong. And of course it’s there in the Cajun and Creole cooking that puts an exclamation mark behind each stop.
In a state that relishes its contradictions, Louisiana’s African-American trail is actually the brainchild of Mr. Landrieu, the white liberal scion of a famous Louisiana political family. In the 1970s, his father, Maurice Edwin Landrieu, known as Moon, made history, and his share of enemies, when as New Orleans mayor, he hired the first blacks into his administration. Mitch, a self-proclaimed champion of social justice, said he conceived the trail as a way of brokering dialogue between the races at a time when the nation sorely needed it, an idea that gained urgency in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
“We want to transform the discussion about race and poverty in America,” said the 47-year-old Mr. Landrieu, who served 16 years in the State House of Representatives (his father and sister, Mary Landrieu, also a Democrat and currently a United States Senator, held the same seat). “Many, many white people and black people of good will have been separated by ideological fights that have been powerful. But you can’t transform the discussion if you can’t remember what happened.”
Mr. Cummings puts it another way: “Is black men not caring for their children today in any way connected to slavery? These are the kinds of questions we should be asking. I want to get beyond the moonlight and magnolia myths of the plantation.”
There is a more practical basis for the trail also. “There’s not enough money to build a museum in every parish in Louisiana,” Mr. Landrieu said. So, over the past couple of years, he has spearheaded an effort to link private-sector cultural attractions into a network of state-sponsored tourism programs, from bird-watching to golf tours. The African-American Heritage Trail is but the latest example of fiscal creativity with Louisiana’s tourism program.
“The whole state of Louisiana really is a museum,” he said.
At the turn of the 19th century, Louisiana was a major player in the Deep South in international slave trade, thanks to its location on the Mississippi River and its rise as a sugar capital. Far more compelling than its robust slave population, though, was the culture that developed around it, as a blend of French governance, liberal manumission laws and tradition of racial mixing created an especially unique twist to an already peculiar institution.
A trail weighted with such historical crosscurrents could easily turn into a kind of four-wheel Rubik’s Cube in the wrong guide’s hands. That is why what appears at first blush a freewheeling journey that can begin and end virtually anywhere in Louisiana is best approached with a degree of conformity.
There are some obvious reasons to start the trail in New Orleans, including the fact that airfares to there will most likely be cheapest. But perhaps the most compelling reason to begin in New Orleans is that one of the oldest, richest strains of African-American culture flows directly from there, or more specifically, from Tremé, which according to historians, is the nation’s oldest surviving black community. On the northern fringe of the French Quarter, Tremé, also known as Faubourg Tremé, bears resemblance to a well-to-do Caribbean community, with pastel-colored Creole and shotgun-style cottages and Greek Revival-style homes lining narrow shaded streets.
Throughout the 19th century, Tremé (named after Claude Tremé, a Frenchman who split up the lots and sold them off) was populated by free people of color — many of them fair-skinned French-speaking Creoles — who identified more with their European than African ancestry as they dominated the trades as merchants, businessmen and real estate speculators.
Many States, Many African-American Heritage Trails (May 25, 2008) In many cases, their ascension up the social ladder was orchestrated through Cordon Bleu or quadroon balls, private soirees in which wealthy Creole families presented their daughters to white suitors for long-term relationships.
So fascinating are the quadroon balls that you’ll want to visit the African-American Museum, located in the heart of Tremé, for more nitty gritty on these affairs, as well as the lowdown on Tremé’s most infamous Creole woman, Marie Laveau, known as the voodoo queen, who is believed to have resided, at one point, in the Passebon Cottage on the museum’s property.
The centerpiece of Tremé, though, is St. Augustine Catholic Church, which embodies much of the community’s complex cultural narrative. Built in the mid 1800s at the request of people of color, St. Augustine remains the spiritual nerve center of the New Orleans black community.
The church also has the distinction of being one of the nation’s first integrated churches thanks to a legendary “War of the Pews” in which free people of color and whites one-upped one another in purchasing family pews for Sunday Mass. Free blacks not only nabbed two pews for every white family pew, but also gave them as gifts to their enslaved black brethren. After church, and filled with the spirit, colored congregants would migrate to Congo Square (today within Louis Armstrong Park) where they would sing, dance and play music in their native African traditions.
With the French Quarter so nearby, dinner at the Praline Connection, a black-owned, child-friendly Creole soul food joint in neighboring Faubourg Marigny, is a good way to cap the evening — and the New Orleans portion of the trail. While this unpretentious, affordable place, isn’t exactly historic — it was founded in 1990 — its gumbo has earned praise from locals, as have the smothered pork chops and other specialties. And kids, exhausted by now, will squeal as straight-faced waiters serve up fried alligator as nonchalantly as a bowl of Cap’n Crunch.
A few sites on the heritage trail veer from Mr. Landrieu’s “living museum” construct, though they are not necessarily any less satisfying. Among them is the River Road African-American Museum, in the town of Donaldsonville, about 65 miles north of New Orleans. The River Road area is brimming with historical significance: Donaldsonville elected the nation’s first African-American mayor, Pierre Caliste Landry, in 1868, Others who hail from the area include King Oliver, Louis Armstrong’s musical mentor, and a corps of enslaved African-American soldiers who fought with the Union at nearby Fort Butler.
The museum’s founder, Kathe Hambrick, a native of Donaldsonville, enthuses over their tales to audiences as though reminiscing over her own family scrapbook. Ms. Hambrick started the museum in 1994 after living for several years in California.
“Everywhere I turned, there was this word ‘plantation,’ ” Ms. Hambrick said. “And every time I heard it, I would get this knot in my stomach. One day I decided to take one of these plantation tours. It was all about antiques, furniture, architecture and the wealthy lifestyle. But I wanted to know how many lives of my ancestors did it take to produce one cup of sugar.”
Since then, Ms. Hambrick has assembled a collection that combines everything from shackles and plantation tools with antebellum maps and deeds from slave auctions. The production is heavy stuff, and its details, while fascinating to adults, may be less so to small children yearning to return to the open air.
But a couple of hours north, the Louisiana landscape opens wide, and as you travel along Highway 1 toward the town of Natchitoches (pronounced NACK-ah-tish), home of the Cane River Creoles, the hard stories in Donaldsonville fade under the great magnolias that shade the entrance of Melrose Plantation. This is where the love story of Marie-Therese, known as Coincoin, the grand matriarch of Melrose, took place.
Raised as a slave in the household of a Louisiana military commander, Marie-Therese was later sold to Claude Thomas Pierre Metoyer, a French merchant. The two fell in love and she eventually bore him 10 children. Marie-Therese and her children eventually gained their freedom and became wealthy landowners in their own right. As the story goes, Marie-Therese Metoyer owned slaves but also bought many slaves their freedom along the way.
One of her sons, Nicholas Augustin Metoyer, financed the first Catholic church in the United States built for people of color. St. Augustine Catholic Church was founded in 1803 and is located in Natchitoches.
The story of the Metoyers seems to illustrate Mr. Landrieu’s belief that the trail “is about so much more than civil rights — it’s about hope.” He paused, and rephrased his thought for wider appeal. “This trail is really about how hope hits the streets.”
African American Museum, St. Martinville;
St. Augustine Parish (Isle Brevelle) Church, Natchez, Louisiana;
St. Augustine Catholic Church (Isle Brevelle) is in Natchez, Louisiana. Tradition holds that the church was established by Nicolas Augustin Métoyer, a newly freed slave, in 1803 and that services have been held continuously since then. As is often the case, historical records challenge the local lore. Parish records document the founding of the Chapel of St. Augustine "as a mission of the church of St. François of Natchitoches" in July 1829, when the church was constructed. It did not become a parish church with a resident priest until 1856.
The church is included in the Cane River National Heritage Area. Because of the significance of the church and the Créole community, it is listed on the Louisiana African American Heritage Trail.
When Father Jean Baptiste Blanc consecrated the chapel for religious use (19 July 1829), he reported that it had been "erected on Isle Brevelle on the plantation of Sieur Augustin Métoyer through the care and generosity of the above-named Augustin Métoyer, aided by Louis Métoyer, his brother. ... The said chapel ... having been dedicated to St. Augustine, shall be considered as under the protection of this great doctor."  Tradition also describes the role of Augustin's brother Louis (founder of the nearby National Historic Landmark, Melrose Plantation), as the chapel's designer and builder.
Whether dated by evidence or local lore, the Church of St. Augustine is believed to be the oldest church built by free people of color for their own use. Among Southern churches of all denominations, it is also distinctive for its racial role reversals. Surviving pew records show that the front seats were occupied by the Créole de couleur Metoyer family that built the chapel. Seated behind them were the families of prominent white planters within the community.
St. Augustin Chapel was named a parish in 1856, which meant that it received a resident priest. Post-Civil War, it chalked up another apparent first in U.S. racial history. Its own congregation by this time was almost exclusively non-white; however, it was the mother church for the predominantly white Mission Ste. Anne on Old River.
The original structure has not survived. Union forces during the Red River Campaign of May 1864 were said to have torched the first church. A second church burned in the early 1900s. Tradition holds that early furnishings included paintings of patron saints Augustine and Louis in honor of the Métoyer brothers, as well as an altar brought from Europe by other family members. The original bell that hung in the belfry above the vestibule is said to be the one still in use. An image of the original church survives as a backdrop in the contemporary oil portrait of its founder that hangs in the church today.
The Métoyer brothers were two of ten children of the French merchant Claude Thomas Pierre Métoyer and the former slave Marie Thérèse Coincoin, sometimes (albeit erroneously) called Marie Thérèse Metoyer, whose services he had initially rented. When the parish priest filed charges against the black Coincoin for bearing half-white children while living in the residence of a white man, and threatened to sell her away to New Orleans, Métoyer bought her from her owner and privately manumitted her. Across the next thirty-seven years he manumitted their offspring. Coincoin, as a médecine, planter, and businesswoman, then labored to buy the freedom of five black children previously born to her of a slave union. Together, her offspring created a large Créole community in Natchitoches Parish that spread the length of Cane River. Its core would be, and still is, St. Augustine Parish on Isle Brevelle.
Marie Thérèse ditte Coincoin (August 1742-1816) was notable as a free médecine, planter, and businesswoman in Natchitoches Parish. She was freed from slavery after a long liaison and ten children with Claude Thomas Pierre Métoyer. She and her descendants established the community of Créoles of color at Isle Brevelle, including what is believed to be the first church founded by free people of color for free people of color, St. Augustine Parish (Isle Brevelle) Church, Natchez, Louisiana. It is included on the Louisiana African American Heritage Trail.
Early life and family
Coincoin was born at the Louisiana French outpost of Natchitoches, the fourth of eleven children of François and Marie Françoise. They were an African-born couple held in slavery by the post's founder and commandant, Chevalier Louis Juchereau de St. Denis. As children, Coincoin and her sister Marie Louise ditte Mariotte were trained in pharmacology and nursing. These skills helped provide livelihoods for them when they gained their freedom as adults.
Slavery and freedom
Coincoin became the young mother of five children (born of a union with an American Indian slave, according to tradition). About 1765 her mistress leased Coincoin to a young French merchant, Claude Thomas Pierre Métoyer, who made Coincoin his concubine. After Métoyer freed her in 1778, their liaison continued until 1788, when he married another Marie Thérèse, a white French Créole widow. Métoyer gave Coincoin a tract of 68 acres (280,000 m2) of alluvial river-bottom land and gradually manumitted the surviving eight of the ten children she had borne to him.
As a free woman, Coincoin earned her livelihood as a médecine, a planter of tobacco, and a trapper. She sold meat at the post. She also shipped barrels of oil and bargeloads of tobacco to market at New Orleans.
About 1794 she applied for a Spanish grant and was awarded the standard 800 arpents (about 666 acres) of land. She located her grant in the piney hills, west of Cane River, for use as a vacherie and hired a Spaniard to operate it for her. Like many other freed slaves in colonial Louisiana, Coincoin bought slaves to labor for her as her own health began to fail. By the time she divided her property among her children in Spring 1816, in anticipation of death, the three African-born adults whom she had purchased had created a household of 16 slaves.
Coincoin has long been a popular figure in Louisiana lore. She is frequently said to have owned large estates, including Cane River's fabled Melrose Plantation. In fact, this land was granted to and built on by one of her sons, Louis Métoyer. In reality, Coincoin lived a life of frugality and service to others, investing all her income into the purchase of freedom for her pre-Métoyer children, grandchildren, and other youth in the neighborhood.
The example which she set and the religious and moral values which she instilled in her offspring were the guiding forces of an exceptional community built by her children and grandchildren on Cane River. Her eldest son Augustin Metoyer donated the land for a church, St. Augustine Parish (Isle Brevelle) Church, and commissioned his brother Louis to build it in 1829 at Isle Brevelle, Natchez. It is believed to be America's first church founded by free people of color.
Coincoin's grave is no longer marked. The small bousillage cabin shown for her on a contemporary land survey no longer stands. Its site has been identified and is being archaeologically studied. Her legacy lives on in more than 10,000 offspring whose forebears, across two centuries of racial bias and persecution, drew strength and inspiration from her memory.
Tradition holds that Coincoin's African-born parents retained their culture, with a strong sense of pride, and some evidence supports that. No known document identifies the African birthplace of either parent. Coincoin and four of her siblings carried African names as dits. One African linguist proposed in the 1970s that the African Coincoin (spelled variously by French and Spanish scribes but pronounced KoKwe) was the name used by second-born daughters among those who speak the Glidzi dialect among the Ewe of coastal Togo.
Historians Mills and Mills found evidence that Coincoin was indeed the second-born daughter in her birth family. However, other possible origins of the name Coincoin, together with the sibling names uncovered by the Millses, are being pursued by the Africanist Kevin MacDonald at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London.
Black Heritage Art Gallery, Central School Art and Humanities Center, Lake Charles;
Creole Heritage Folk Life Center, Opelousas;
Cane River Creole National Historical Park-Creole Center, Natchitoches;
Cane River Creole National Historical Park is located within the Cane River National Heritage Area in Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana. The United States National Historical Park protects a total of 67 historic structures at two locations, Magnolia Plantation and Oakland Plantation. Both plantation sites lie along the Cane River. The park was established by the U.S. Congress in 1994 in order to preserve examples of French and Creole architecture and to interpret the multi-cultural history of the area.
Due to the preservation and restoration work in progress on the historic structures in the park, limited services are available to the public. Tours of Oakland Plantation are available to the public but the buildings of Magnolia Plantation can only be visited with prior reservations.
Because of the significance of these sites, the park is one of the destinations on the state's Louisiana African American Heritage Trail.
Magnolia Plantation is a site in Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana.
It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 2001. The plantation is included in the Cane River Creole National Historical Park. This is a destination on the Louisiana African American Heritage Trail.
The plantation traces its roots back to Jean Baptiste LeComte II, who received French and Spanish land grants in the mid-1700s. This was the beginning of the plantation's history, although the structures were not built until the 1800s, and the plantation was not officially in use until 1830. Ambrose LeComte, son of Jean Baptiste, married Julia Buard and began a tradition of community and cultivation on a vast piece of property. Their two daughters, Laura and Ursula Atala, married two sons from the Hertzog family: Bernard Theophile Henry and Matthew Hertzog, respectively. Atala and Matthew Hertzog took over the plantation shortly after their marriage in 1852, thus linking the Hertzog name to Magnolia.
Magnolia Plantation is exceptional because of the farming technology, such as the cotton picker tractors and two cotton gins (both steam- and animal-powered). It also has 21 buildings contributing to the site, an unusual number for surviving plantations. Among these are the eight quarters, rare brick cabins used by workers who lived and worked on the plantation for 100 years after the Civil War.
The plantation was also exceptional for its effect on the community and the Cane River area. La Côte Joyeuse became home to many, including writer Francois Mignon. He claimed to have come to visit Magnolia on Cane River for a week and stayed sixty years. For 100 years after the US Civil War, "the Hertzogs", as the place was familiarly known, was the center of a community of Creoles of color and blacks who lived and worked on the plantation as tenant farmers and laborers. Changes in agriculture led people to urban jobs in the mid-20th century.
The area is owned by the National Park Service and the Allan family, among them Danielle Allan and her cousin Holly Guinard, Verity Cushman, Christina Elder, Christopher Navia, Robert Freeman, Mr. Atwood, and Mrs. Gibson. The Park Service has acquired 16 buildings. It continues to improve their condition so that they may be preserved for future generations.
Magnolia Plantation is significant in the history of American agriculture as one of the largest and most intact plantation complexes in the southern United States. The site contains a collection of extremely rare slave cabins. Magnolia also retains its cotton pressing and ginning equipment. The late nineteenth century system gin is an extremely rare survivor within the region, as is the antebellum screw press.
Considered in context with extant structures on the plantation, cotton gins are potentially a powerful tool with which to interpret the American South's quintessential industry, the production of raw cotton. The period of significance spans from c.1835, the date of the earliest building, to 1939, when Magnolia, following a trend across the South during the 1930s and 40s, stopped ginning its own cotton.
The Cane River Creole National Historical Park is open Monday - Friday, 8am to 4:30pm. For more information about the plantation and for tour information, contact the
Curation Facility 400 Rapides Dr. Natchitoches, Louisiana 71457 (318) 352-0383
It is located at 5487 Louisiana Highway 119. The closest town is Derry, Louisiana.
The term Creoles of Colour refers to mixed-race blacks residing in the Gulf Coast and Louisiana area. The term Creole is a derivative of the Latin word ‘creare’ which means “to create” When Portuguese colonists discovered the New World, the word “crioulo” was used in reference to a slave of African descent who came from the New World. It eventually evolved to mean any New World colonist regardless of ethnic descent who resides in the Gulf Coast area.
During Louisiana’s colonial period Creole referred to black, white and mixed race Louisiana natives. They used the term to separate themselves from foreign-born and Anglo-American settlers.
The mixed-race Creoles of Colour become part of a separate ethnic group sometime during the 19th century. These freed persons of colour usually enjoyed many of the privileges of whites including property ownership and formal education. Often the Creoles of Colour were referred to as "gens de colour libre," French for "freed persons of colour." Because they were of a social order above many of the blacks during that time period, they went to great lengths to ensure that they and their offspring had very little contact with anyone who did not belong to their social class. While it was not illegal, it was a social taboo for Creoles of Colour to marry slaves and was rarely done. Many times, the Creoles of Colour were owners of slaves themselves. After the civil war, many of the Creoles of Colour lost their property and status and were made to join the ranks of the poverty-stricken ex-slaves.
In "Cane River," a novel written by Lalita Tademy,she explores the life of three generations of women in her family who represent the generation of mixed race creoles that resided in New Orleans before and after the civil war.
Oakland Plantation is also known as Bermuda and is associated with Atahoe Plantation and Isle Brevelle. It is a National Historic Landmark in the Bermuda Community near Natchitoches, Louisiana on the Cane River, near Magnolia Plantation and Melrose Plantation.
It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 2001.
Oakland’s main house is set at the head of a short alley of live oaks behind a small formal bottle garden.
Although common on nineteenth century French Creole plantations and even on the property of lesser domiciles, the bottle garden at Oakland is believed to be one of only two surviving in the Mississippi Valley. In the case of Oakland, parterres in a variety of shapes are outlined in various kinds of bottles – crock bottles from Scotland, square bitters bottles, round bottom beer bottles from Ireland, torpedo-shaped bottles from England, and wine bottles from France. In May of 2000, historic archaeologist Adriane Neidinger had just begun her investigation of the bottle garden. At this point, she was able to indicate a date range of late eighteenth to early twentieth century for the bottles, with an estimated average date of mid-nineteenth century.
The house is a classic example of a French Colonial style (or French Creole) raised plantation house. French Creole houses in the Mississippi Valley were typically of half-timber construction, but with framing and in-fill material markedly different from English half-timber houses. Framing members feature a steep angle brace (hereinafter referred to as French joinery), and the in-fill material is either bousillage, a mixture of clay, Spanish moss and sometimes animal hair, or briquette entre poteaux, bricks between posts. The latter is seldom seen outside New Orleans, while bousillage is typical of rural areas. Oakland’s infill is bousillage, a material which can also be seen in seven of the dependencies.
Oakland’s main house represents the largest rural house in the French Creole tradition in the Mississippi Valley – a large wood frame house raised a full story (or almost -- in this case about 6 feet) above grade on a high brick basement with a broad hip “umbrella roof” encompassing rooms and galleries on three or four sides – in the Mississippi River valley. In such houses, the upper story was the main living space. Rooms communicated with the gallery via French doors. Creole houses untouched by Anglo tradition were hall-less.
Prud’homme family history indicates that construction began in 1818, a date that is consistent with the architectural evidence. The evidence indicates that the house had achieved most of its present size and shape by the late 1820s.
The house has a very complex history of construction. (See floor plans.) The southern portion is the oldest. As initially built in 1818, the house consisted of four rooms completely surrounded by a gallery. This was surmounted by an umbrella-like hip roof with moderately complex joinery and two dormers in the front and two in the rear. Remnants of this roofline can still be seen in the attic. Between each pair of rooms was a chimney providing for a total of four fireplaces. No doubt this house had other standard Creole features such as French doors and wraparound mantels (mantels that wrap around the chimney flue in the French manner). All available evidence indicates that the house remained in this manner for only a very short time.
According to family history, shortly after Jean Pierre Emmanuel Prud’homme built his house, he began to modify it. Between the early 1820s and the late 1820s the house was enlarged. The architectural evidence strongly indicates that this enlargement project occurred in two distinct phases – first to the north and then to the west. The north addition consisted of a range of three rooms. The gallery and hip roof were extended to encompass these new rooms and a third dormer was added front and rear. The evidence that this house stood for a time prior to the western (rear) addition is as follows: The framing of the earliest part of the house and the northern addition is completely discrete from that of the western addition. All of the framing for the enlarged hip roof which encompassed the earliest part of the house plus the northern addition can still be seen in the attic.
The old rafters in the rear of this roofline still have the nail holes where roofing purlins would have been attached. Finally, remnants of the framing of the three dormers this rear roofline once contained can still be seen.
Most likely the western addition was in place by the late 1820s. This work consisted of adding a new room in the northwest corner behind the previously added range of three rooms on the north side. In addition, the two rear rooms of the earliest part of the house were extended to the west. Once again, the surrounding gallery and hip roof were extended. The hip roof was enlarged by adding new longer rafters to the existing roofline in the rear. This created an overall hip roof whose pitch is steeper and shorter in the front than in the rear. Family history and the architectural evidence indicates that the house remained in this appearance from the late 1820s until after the Civil War.
Oakland, despite some later changes, still looks much as it did c.1830. Among the many notable early details is the great elliptical archway between the front salon and the rear dining room. It features an elegant fanlight, reeded pilasters and four-part folding doors. Two Federal style wraparound mantels survive in the northern addition. Numerous handsome Federal style door and window surrounds remain. Of particular interest is the Federal style chair rail on the gallery. This is noteworthy because in Creole houses galleries often functioned as living rooms and were furnished and appointed as though they were interior rooms. The gallery is also noteworthy for its elegant columns with lamb’s tongue chamfering. In the post-Civil War years Jacques Alphonse Prud’homme (1838-1919) made a number of alterations. These were part of a general campaign undertaken c.1880, according to family history. A recently completed finishes analysis indicates that at least one of the alterations – the so-called “dressing room” addition created by enclosing the southwest corner of the rear gallery – occurred in the 1870s.
The 1880s work included the addition of a kitchen wing at the northwest corner of the house with a gallery of its own connecting to the main gallery. A portion of the north gallery was enclosed for a so-called “stranger’s room” – an unheated bedroom for unexpected travelers accessible only from the gallery. Interestingly, the sloping gallery floor was shimmed to provide a flat floor in this room. A narrow hallway was created using space on the edge of the north range of rooms. As a result, the once symmetrically placed fireplaces are now off center. A new opening fitted with an Italianate door was cut in the front façade to provide access to the hall.
This most likely was an enlargement of an existing French door opening. French doors that once opened into the salon/parlor were replaced with larger openings containing unusual triple-hung floor-length sash windows.
The parlor also received a new wooden Gothic Revival mantel. (The overall wraparound configuration of the mantel box was retained.) Paint tests reveal that the three other Greek Revival-looking wooden mantels in the south part of the house date from this period as well. Retardataire in both style and configuration, these mantels also wrap around the chimney flue. The majority of the 1880s work was done using old or salvaged buildings parts (windows, doors, door surrounds, etc.).
In the twentieth century the house received various minor changes. Most notable was the enclosure of a portion of the rear gallery at the northwest corner. Also, a wall (between two rooms) was taken out in the north side of the house, and a door was cut providing interior access to the “stranger’s room.” Finally, the kitchen was renovated and bathrooms installed.
Oakland’s basement story has some open spaces (with dirt floors) and some enclosed for rooms which are accessible from above. A trap door in the hall leads to the wine cellar, while a trap door from a bedroom leads to what was known traditionally as the “mammy’s room.”
Store/Post Office (contributing, fair condition) Stores such as the one at Oakland are an important character-defining feature of the post-Civil War plantation.
The Civil War and Reconstruction left the region's agricultural economy severely depressed, but they did not destroy the plantation system. By 1900, Louisiana had more plantations and fewer small farms than it did before the war. On cotton plantations such as Oakland, slave labor was replaced with a system known as sharecropping in which a landless farmer would work a portion of the planter's land for a share of the crop.
Hand in hand with sharecropping was a credit system known as crop lien, wherein a sharecropper (in need of food and provisions for his family) pledged his crop to a store in return for a line of credit. Country stores of this type were either set up by the planter on the plantation (such as Oakland) or were run by independent mercantile interests. The crop-lien system often led to virtual peonage because many sharecroppers found that when the cotton was finally in, their store purchases exceeded the value of their share of the crop.
According to family history, Oakland shifted to sharecropping in 1868. Based upon a ledger entry, a store is known to have been on the plantation by 1874. An 1878 photograph shows the store as a narrow gable fronted wood frame building with a shed-roof porch, a central entrance (no transom) and two six-over-six windows flanking the entrance. According to a 1998 report prepared by NPS architectural conservator Barbara Yocum, “the store did not retain this appearance for long, being enlarged in several stages to meet the demands for additional space. . . . While no written or photographic documentation is known of this work, examination of the building itself suggests the following evolution. The earliest additions lengthened the main building to the rear, extended the pedimented roof on the front side (replacing the existing porch roof), and provided a small shed addition on the north side. This was followed by a widening of the north shed, and its subsequent lengthening at some later date. All of this work was of frame construction using machine-cut nails, suggesting a construction date sometime before 1900. The last major addition to the store was made circa 1900 and covered the entire south elevation; wire nails were used in its construction.”
The store/post office has changed little since circa 1900, except for some deterioration. The interior retains most of its original shelving, counters, etc.
Carriage House (contributing, fair condition) The three-bay gable-fronted carriage house appears to have been framed up with salvaged lumber. The main frame features the remnants of French joinery. The three sets of double doors have forty-five degree angle corner cuts at the top. These are formed of multiple planks clinched with square nails. These doors may have been reused from another structure because virtually all of the clapboards on the carriage house are fastened with later (post c.1880) round head nails. In addition to the main structure, there is a small shed extension on each side.
Pigeonniers (2) (contributing, deteriorated condition) On Creole plantations pigeonniers were often located near the main house to connote prestige and identify the owner as a member of the “gentry” (see Part 8). There was no set pattern; their placement varied. Sometimes a set of pigeonniers framed the main view of the house, while sometimes there was only a single pigeonnier on the property. Similar but not identical, the two pigeonniers at Oakland (c.1830-c.1850) are set to the south side of the main house – one to the front and one to the rear. Each is a squarish two story tower under a pyramidal roof. Also, as was common, the upper story, which contains the roosting space and nesting boxes, is less than full height. Both feature bousillage construction on the lower story, and both have pigeon access holes on just one side.
There are some differences between the two. The east pigeonnier is slightly taller than its western counterpart. Also, the east pigeonnier features French joinery in the framing, while the west one does not. Overall, about 75% of the original clapboard siding remains. Both were in a deteriorated condition when NPS acquired Oakland, and they are at present completely encased in plywood protective structures as a temporary preservation measure.1
Little Chicken Coop/Big Chicken Coop/Storage Shed/Fattening Pen/Wash House
(all contributing and all in fair condition) These small wood frame buildings are located in a row immediately behind and facing the main house. All appear to be mid-nineteenth century; square nails are used throughout.
The little chicken coop is a gable-fronted structure containing large ladder-like perches on the interior. The lower portion is finished in flush boards, while the upper portions has horizontal slats.
The big chicken coop is similar in form and configuration. The only difference is its size and a rear lean-to.
The storage shed is a small side gable building with French joinery in the framing and horizontal flat boards for siding.
The fattening pen is a long, low, pitched roof structure containing three chambers whose walls are formed of vertical slats. The pen was used to fatten chickens prior to slaughter.
The wash house is a plain gable-fronted building with clapboard siding.
Carpenter’s Shop (contributing, fair condition) Although known by this name by the Prud-homme family, the original use of this mid-nineteenth century building is not documented. It is a small single room building about twice as deep as it is wide with a simple gable roof whose ridge runs perpendicular to the front. Rafters are of skinned poles. Its log walls are unusually finely made with half dovetail notching and logs fitting closely together. The building rests on rocks. The shed roof front porch gives way to the entrance, which is covered by a single leaf, heavy, multi-layer plank door mounted on strap hinges. Each side elevation has a single window opening covered by a similarly made shutter. There is no opening at the rear. All framing features square nails.
Stable (contributing, fair condition) This mid-nineteenth century, heavy timber, pegged building consists mainly of holding pens for animals. There is also a wide transverse corridor running north-south with a great open-work slated gate at each end. Structurally the stable consists of a large two-story central frame crib with single story sheds all around. The hip roof ridge runs east-west with a gablet at each end. Originally virtually all of the siding and the interior dividing walls between the pens consisted of horizontal slats spaced about three inches apart. The heavy studs were cut and chiseled out to accommodate these slats. Most of this work remains but some has been lost and some has been replaced by board and batten siding. Many of the pens retain their feeding troughs. The stable has square nails throughout, including the board and batten siding and many of the feeding troughs.
Tractor Shed (contributing, deteriorated condition) To the rear of the main house, behind the row of dependencies previously described, is a long, low shed-roofed open-fronted tractor shed constructed of salvaged timbers (some ancient). It is presumed to be over fifty years old.
Doctor’s House (contributing, good to fair condition) According to Prud-homme family history, this house already existed when Dr. J. A. Leveque (1832-1893) came to occupy it rent free in 1866. Apparently he enlarged the house to the south and west and added a small doctor’s office on the front gallery. It is difficult to assess the house because the columns are modern (although in the style of the original), the exterior is sheathed in substitute siding, and the interior walls are completely covered. Many of the clues are not available. It is a rambling galleried cottage, two rooms deep, that appears to have been enlarged more than once. The use of salvaged or re-used materials is much in evidence. The attic structure in the older portion of the house (to the north) is fairly complex, suggesting a date that may be contemporaneous with the main house. This portion features bousillage construction and simple mantels with late Federal-looking moldings. Its extant windows are six-over-six with fixed upper sashes, which would indicate a mid-nineteenth century date or earlier. The only other noteworthy clue is the front gallery wall of the older section, which features two simple Greek Revival pilasters. Further investigation is needed on this building to determine its exact history of construction. It appears to be an early to mid-nineteenth century house that grew to its present size by the late nineteenth century.
Doctor’s House Garage (contributing, fair condition) Immediately north of the doctor’s house is a small gable fronted garage with a pair of plank doors and corrugated metal siding. The roof has exposed rafter tails. The garage presumably dates from the 1920s/’30s.
Doctor’s House Shed (contributing, good condition) To the rear of the doctor’s house is a building resembling a privy. It is a small side-gable storage shed with clapboard siding and a single leaf plank door. It has square nail construction, indicating a date from before roughly 1880. Approximately fifty percent of the siding was replaced in a recent restoration project.
Doctor’s House Barn (non-contributing) This once historic building is considered non-contributing because most of its fabric was replaced in a recent restoration.
Barn (contributing, fair condition) A large log barn (mid-nineteenth century) is set at the rear of the property. At its center is a two story crib featuring peeled logs with rough saddle notching. The crib rests on stuccoed brick blocks and has a board floor set about four feet off the ground. Access to the crib is via a single opening which is pegged into the surrounding log structure. This is covered by a single leaf multi-layer heavy plank door mounted on strap hinges. The crib culminates in a gable roof with an appended skirting roof completely surrounding the core structure. The skirting roof is anchored by hewn struts that slot into the log structure at about the mid point. Various portions of the area covered by the skirting roof have been enclosed over the years. The present enclosure, though of some age, is assembled with round nails.
Cistern (contributing, fair condition) Immediately adjacent to the barn is an enormous buried jug-like brick cistern (mid-nineteenth century) which was used for water storage. Its upper portion protrudes from the earth like a great brick dome. The cistern is topped by a round brick and stucco neck open to the elements.
Corral Shed (contributing, fair condition) Located near the overseer’s house and adjacent to a former corral, this small gable-fronted wood frame shed appears to have been used for storage. Its plank walls are attached with round nails, indicating a date from after roughly 1880. Perhaps 40% of the building’s fabric has been replaced.
Overseer’s House (contributing, fair to deteriorated condition) The overseer’s house is a single story Creole house of bousillage construction raised about four feet above grade on brick piers. It is surmounted by a capacious hip roof. With a documented date of 1861 (courtesy of the plantation journal entries of overseer Seneca Pace), the house features late Greek Revival details including a shallow entablature and plank columns with fairly heavily molded capitals. Window and door surrounds also feature moldings considered typical of the Greek Revival era. There is a large central room with a smaller narrower room to the south; both feature bousillage construction. The rear of the house has a cabinet and loggia range typical of Creole floorplans. (Cabinets are small rooms set at each end of what is typically an open loggia.) Interestingly, the cabinets are original but are not of bousillage construction. Their wood frame walls are not covered in any manner; the structure is left exposed. A single off-center chimney provides for fireplaces in the two principal rooms. It is not known if these ever featured mantels; none are extant. Originally the front gallery extended around the north side of the house as far as the cabinet. This old north gallery was enclosed in the twentieth century. Other twentieth century changes include the replacement of much of the wood siding, the subsequent installation of tar paper siding and the enclosure of the rear loggia. Within the last couple of years the north corner of the front gallery was severely damaged in a storm and had to be repaired/rebuilt. Only one of the gallery columns survives in place. One is lying on the gallery. Some of the exterior has been covered with protective plywood panels as a temporary preservation measure.
Quarters Houses (2) (contributing, deteriorated condition) Two plantation quarters houses survive, albeit in very deteriorated condition, at the southern end of the property.
In 2000, one was completely encased in a protective plywood structure as a temporary preservation measure, and one was partially covered. Because the buildings were largely inaccessible, it was not possible to examine them closely, other than being able to observe that they are of bousillage construction. Each is a two room house with a central chimney and front gallery and a one room rear extension. HABS documentation suggests that they are slave quarters (one slave family per room) that were reconfigured in the post-bellum era for sharecropper use (i.e., the rear extension and cutting of doors between the rooms for single family use). Like the doctor’s house, further investigation of these buildings is needed.
Cotton Seed House (contributing, good condition) Located at the south end of the property, to the rear, is a heavy timber frame building used for the storage and handling of cotton seed. (Cotton seed was used not only for re-planting but for commercial products such as cotton seed oil.) The seed house is a long, low, gabled building with multiple openings and shed roof overhangs resting on struts. The interior contains a historic hopper and shute. Square nails indicate a construction date from before roughly 1880. The building was badly deteriorated when NPS acquired Oakland. It was restored recently, and approximately 50% of the siding is new.
Although the phrase “southern plantation” conjures up all sorts of images, particularly the grand whitecolumned mansion, the truth of the matter is that little remains to provide a true picture of what one was like.
Plantations were noted for their large number of buildings – in effect, a world within a world, or a self-contained community. As one nineteenth century traveler noted, “the planter has a building for everything.” However, in the overwhelming majority of cases, only the great house survives today. Plantation complexes with a significant complement of outbuildings are rare, especially when one considers the thousands that once existed.
This was documented by the LA SHPO in 1991 when preparing the NHL nomination for Evergreen Plantation in St. John the Baptist Parish. Phone interviews with senior SHPO members in other Southern states revealed that the typical complex, where it exists, might have six to ten buildings. By contrast, Oakland has twenty-four historic buildings/structures. It and a handful of other good-size complexes (most late nineteenth century) are all that are left to show someone the look of a plantation in the southern United States. Although Oakland lacks
its production component (the cotton gin) and has only two quarters houses left, it is nonetheless a remarkable
survivor to illustrate the Southern plantation landscape as it looked historically – with the planter having “a building for everything.” There is a row of utilitarian dependencies in the back yard, a barn, a stable, a cotton seed house, an overseer’s house, a carriage house, cook’s house, and a store. The later survives to represent an important character-defining feature of the postbellum plantation.
PRUD’HOMME FAMILY HISTORY
The land that would become Oakland Plantation was granted to Jean Pierre Emmanuel Prud’homme in 1789 by
the Spanish crown. A surveyor’s plat from 1816 reveals that Prud’homme owned both Section 104 and Section 44 of Township 8 north range 6 west. The Red River (later the Cane River) ran between these two sections.
The site of today’s plantation complex is Section 104 on the west side of the river.
Jean Pierre represented his family’s second generation born in Louisiana. His grandfather, Jean Prud’homme, had gone to Lousiana from France in the early eighteenth century. In the 1810 census, “Emanl” Prud’homme is listed as head of a household which included his wife, three children under ten years of age and 53 slaves.
Apparently his agricultural enterprises prospered, since by 1820 the number of slaves had grown to 74; by 1830 the slaves numbered 96; and by 1840, when Emmanuel Prud’homme was 78, they numbered 104. Emmanuel’s son was Pierre Phanor Prud’homme (1807-56), who, according to family tradition, took over management of the plantation in about 1835. The 1840 census lists Phanor as the owner of 40 slaves in his own right. With his father’s death in 1845, complete control of the plantation passed to him. According to the 1850 census, he owned $170,000 worth of real estate and a total of 1,800 acres, of which 800 acres were improved. The previous year, his plantation had produced 250 bales of ginned cotton (400-pound bales) and 4,500 bushels of corn. He owned 124 slaves. By 1860, he owned 3,400 acres, of which l,000 were improved, and 145 slaves, who lived in 30 dwellings. The year before, his lands had yielded 698 bales of cotton and 7,000 bushels of corn. Phanor had two sons who figure prominently in the history of the family plantation – Jacques Alphonse Prud’homme and Pierre Emmanuel Prud’homme. According to family tradition, the two brothers and their wives returned to the family plantation after the Civil War, trying to get the farming operations going again. Late in 1865, their father Phanor died. In 1867, the two brothers agreed to divide the family holdings, with Jacques Alphonse retaining that portion west of the river –where the nominated complex is located. Jacques Alphonse named his portion “Oakland,” while his brother named his portion on the other side of the river “Atahoe."
The 1870 agricultural census reveals that by that time, Jacques Alphonse, residing in the old home, was doing rather well. He owned l,400 acres of land, of which 500 were improved. The previous year, his land had produced 70 bales of cotton (450-pound bales) and l,200 bushels of corn. The plantation’s owner after Jacques Alphonse Prud’homme’s death in 1919 was his son Pierre Phanor Prud’homme II (1865-1948). In 1942, he sold it to his eldest son James Alphonse Prud’homme II (1896-1991). After James Alphonse’s death in 1991 and his wife’s a few years later, their heirs sold the nominated 42-acre parcel to the National Park Service in 1997.
Oakland Plantation is situated on a bend on the Cane River off highway 119 in the Bermuda Community near Natchitoches, Louisiana. In 1997 the National Park Service acquired the main buildings and surrounding land of Oakland. Since then, the Cane River Creole National Historical Park has progressed to advanced stages of preservation and conservation of the buildings, furniture, oil paintings, textiles, and history of the home as it was at the end of the plantation era in the 1960s. Free blacks and Creoles of color lived and worked on the plantation for nearly 100 years after the US Civil War. They were all an integral part of the region's community life. The plantation is strongly linked with the Prud'homme name in the community.
The building of Oakland was completed in 1821 by owners, Jean-Pierre Emanuel Prud'homme and his wife, Marie Catherine Lambre Prud'homme. The family tradition claims that Oakland was one of the first plantations to grow cotton on a large scale; they also had farm animals (made evident by extant buildings such as the dipping vat, the turkey shed, the mule barn, two pigeonniers and several chicken coops) and other crops. The Prudhommes also owned and operated a store on the property, which included the Bermuda Post Office for many years. The farm flourished in the late 1800s. J. Alphonse Prudhomme I won the gold medal at the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis for growing the highest grade cotton in the South.
After five generations (and a Civil War), the plantation has a strong and tangible history. This is, in large part, due to the work of Rosalie Lucile Keator, wife of J. Alphonse Prudhomme II. "LuLu" was an active advocate in the 1940s for the preservation of Oakland's history. Although she and "Phonsie" were the last generation to raise a family at Oakland, the story of the home comes alive because of her careful research. It is because of Mrs. Prudhomme's work that Oakland was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.
The Prudhomme family had donated a large portion of their artifacts and archives to the Prudhomme alma mater, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, before the creation of Cane River Creole National Historical Park (CRCNHP). Since 1997, CRCNHP has acquired donated gifts from the Prudhomme family and deaccessioned donations from UNC. The plantation includes an impressive array of artifacts.
Guided tours of Oakland are available Monday - Friday, 8am to 4:30pm. For more information, please contact the NPS Oakland Main Office at (318) 356 - 8441 or visit our website.
The architecture and landscapes of the Cane River region are enchantingly “Creole”.
Wander thoughtfully through the grounds of Oakland and Magnolia Plantations. While admiring a hand-wrought door hinge or a cleverly-worked wooden gate, we might reflect on the social and agricultural practices that built these tenant houses, pigeonniers, carpenter and blacksmith shops. The hand-hewn cypress beams, ancient bousillage walls, and weathered fencerows may remind us of the people who not only left us this legacy of rural landscapes and farm buildings, but also labored to bring the United States to the country it is today.
The Cane River
Meandering alongside the plantations, the Cane River has provided transport, sustenance, and entertainment for area residents for many generations.
Visitors to the plantations marvel at the massive pecan and live oak trees that support lacey lengths of green-gray Spanish moss. A similar dynamic is seen in way that the constancy and strength of the region's cultures support a contemporary population of residents who are resourceful, fun-loving, and family-oriented. Tempered growth in the Cane River region mantains the intimacy of these fragile, embraceable landscapes- which is the distinctive environment of Cane River Creole National Historical Park.
Oakland and Magnolia Plantations
Both Oakland and Magnolia Plantations owe their physical integrity to the families that kept them intact for seven and eight generations.
Descendents of the plantations' owners and descendents of the plantations' laborers remained on the land through periods of prosperity and depression, war and peace, and dramatic changes in governments, agriculture, technology, and labor systems.
The French Prud'homme family began farming the land at Oakland in 1785. Magnolia traces its mid-18th century origin to the French LeComte family, and also to the German Hertzog family.
The skills and strengths of enslaved African-Americans are evident in the buildings they constructed on both Oakland and Magnolia Plantations. Descendents of many enslaved residents remained on the land as tenant farmers and sharecroppers. The vibrant African American communities in the Natchitoches region today trace two hundred years of cultural history to this fertile land surrounding the Cane River.
Did You Know?
The plantation store opened on Oakland Plantation after the Civil War, sharecroppers and tenant farmers continued buying supplies for family and farming at the Prud'homme Store until 1983. For 50 years a Prud’homme family member served as postmaster at the Bermuda Post Office located inside.
Southern University, Baton Rouge;
Southern University and A&M College is a historically black college located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
The concept of Southern University was put forth by P. B. S. Pinchback, T. T. Allain, and Henry Demas as an institution "for the education of persons of color" at the 1879 Louisiana State Constitutional Convention.
In April 1880, the Louisiana General Assembly chartered Southern University, originally located in New Orleans. Southern opened its doors on March 7, 1881 (1881-03-07) with twelve students. One of the original locations of the early campus was the former Israel Sinai Temple Synagogue on Calliope Street, between St. Charles and Camp streets in New Orleans. Southern became a land grant school in 1890, and an Agricultural and Mechanical department was established. Because of continued growth and a lack of land for expansion, the university relocated to what was then Scotlandville, along Scott's Bluff facing the Mississippi River in 1914. It is included as a destination of the Louisiana African American Heritage Trail.
Presidents A.R. Gourrier 1881
George Fayerweather 1881-1882
Rev. C.H. Thompson 1882-1883
Rev. J.H. Harrisond 1883-
George W. Bathwell 1886-1887
H.A. Hill 1887-1899
Dr. Joseph S. Clark 1914-1938
Dr. Felton G. Clark 1938-1969
Dr. George L. Netterville 1969-1974
Dr. Jesse N. Stone 1974-1985
Dr. Joffre T. Whisenton 1985-1988
Dr. Dolores Spikes* 1988-1996
Dr. Leon Tarver II 1997-2005
Dr. Edward Jackson, (interim) 2005-2006
Dr. Ralph Slaughter 2006-present
*First female head of any college system in the U.S.
The new president and first president of what is now known as Southern University at Baton Rouge was Dr. Joseph Samuel Clark. Clark, an outstanding citizen in the Baton Rouge African American community, presided over Baton Rouge College and the Louisiana Colored Teachers Association. The Louisiana Constitutional Convention of 1921 authorized the reorganization and expansion of Southern University; and Legislative Act 100 of 1922 provided that the institution be reorganized under the control of the State Board of Education. Clark presided over Southern University during a transitionary period for the institution. The student enrollment grew from forty-seven students to 500 students and many of the school's early buildings were built during this time. Clark presided until his retirement in 1938, at which time the position was given to his son, Dr. Felton Grandison Clark, a renowned speaker and gentleman. Under his tenure, the university underwent tremendous growth. About 33of 114 current buildings were erected in his 30 years at the university. The student enrollment grew from 500 to nearly 10,000 students. Due to the reluctance of LSU Law School to admit African Americans into its law program, a special Louisiana Convention allowed a law program, Southern University Law Center to come to Southern University in 1947. The university was one of the first historically black colleges to receive a visit from a First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt, in 1943. Also during Clark's tenure, Southern University at New Orleans (SUNO) (1956) and Southern University at Shreveport/Bossier City (SUSLA) (1964) were founded. They were later incorporated into the Southern University System in 1974.
In 1969, the university saw a changing of the guard, when Clark retired and Dr. Leon G. Netterville took over the reins of leadership. On November 16, 1972, two students involved with "Students United", a student protest group on the campus, Denver Smith and Leonard Brown, were shot and killed outside the Old Auditorium (now the Southern University Museum of Art). The murder, apparently committed by a patrolman, has never been solved.
Colleges within the University Honors College
College of Agriculture, Family, and Consumer Sciences
College of Arts and Humanities
College of Business
College of Education
College of Engineering
College of Sciences
School of Architecture
School of Nursing
The Nelson Mandela School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs
The institution continued to grow and in 1974 a special session in the Louisiana Legislature established the Southern University System. The Southern University System consists of Southern University and A&M College, Baton Rouge, (SUBR); Southern University, New Orleans (SUNO); Southern University Law Center; Southern University Agricultural Center; and Southern University, Shreveport (SUSLA is a two-year, commuter college). The Southern University Museum of Art at Shreveport is another destination of the Louisiana African American Heritage Trail.
The university is in the midst of a major campus facelift with the recent completion of several new dormitories, on-campus apartments, renovation of on-campus A.W. Mumford Stadium, and plans for construction of other infrastructure.
Multicultural Center of the South, Shreveport;
The MultiCultural Center of the South, located in Downtown Shreveport, has a wide range of entertainment, educational family activities and programs, including lectures, symposia, live musical performances and cultural tour programs. The only institution of its kind in the state, it celebrates the 26 cultures in the Shreveport-Bossier area. It curates changing exhibits as well as featuring traveling exhibits from the Louisiana Art Museum. It holds art and performance classes for children, cultural celebrations, and holiday events featuring different cultures.
Together with Southern University Museum of Art, the Center is one of two sites in Shreveport designated among 26 featured destinations on the statewide Louisiana African American Heritage Trail. Lt. Governor Mitch Landrieu chose the Multicultural Center of the South as the site of his press conference to announce the Trail on February 28, 2008. Landrieu said, "What's unique about the trail is that we didn't go invest in new capital or buildings. We can't build anything more authentic than already exists."
Southern University Museum of Art, Shreveport; and
Northeast Louisiana Delta African American Heritage Museum, Monroe.