To people who have seen New Orleans on TV or even been there on a vacation, the top two photos there tends to be their idea of what the city looks like, maybe with some rowdy Bourbon Street Mardi Gras party thrown into the mix. And it’s true that parts of the city are truly beautiful, and that no other city in the country or the world looks quite like it. The closest you’ll get to the architecture is in the Caribbean and mostly hasn’t been preserved and transformed in the same ways. And the reason the oldest preserved parts of town share a style with French Caribbean plantation cities is because the Disneyland shit you see above was built on slavery.
More slaves passed through New Orleans than any other city in the US or proto-US. Most southern cities had a slave market - New Orleans WAS a slave market. The whole damned thing. Throughout the Central Business District, and most of what we now call the French Quarter or Vieux Carré, and chunks of Faubourg-Maringy, everywhere at the front of town, bordering on the river, there were slave pens where humans were crammed in and fattened up like cattle for sale, slave markets where families were ripped apart. About 1/3 of those sold were children under 13.
The man on the horse in Jackson Square, above, in front of St. Louis Cathedral, is Andrew Jackson, responsible for the Indian Remove Act (we’ll talk about that later), who was famously and vehemently anti-abolitionist, and right there on the square are grand and famous historic hotels that held slave auctions in their lobbies.
The original colonnade structures of the French Market, where Hannibal did his shopping in Chapter 2 of What The Water Gave Me, were markets for slaves and slave produced goods. Now the expanded buildings are pretty great, and one of my favorite things to do when I’m in town - you can find almost anything there and the smallest buy-in fee for vendors is currently $7. How much does your local farmers market charge the vendors? Look it up, I’ll wait. That’s why they sell such bougie shit there instead of groceries (unless you’re very lucky).
This was going to be a post about neighborhood racial segregation and tiny restaurants in New Orleans but I got distracted, so I guess you’ll get a bonus post later about that. But you want to know why I got so distracted? The big picture above, captioned Sales of Estates Pictures and Slaves In The Rotunda depicts the St. Louis Hotel, now the Omni Royal Orleans Hotel, except I couldn’t remember the old name so I googled the new one and the internet asked me if I wanted to have my romantic New Orleans getaway wedding there among the old world southern charm. It’s been rebuilt repeatedly after fires and hurricanes and the Civil War. It’s not even the same building. But it is the same building, in a My Grandfather’s Ax kind of way. It’s built on the same foundation. The whole city was built on the same foundation.
I’m going to say this again in my next post, but it can never, ever be said enough, so here we go:
A white person in New Orleans can expect to earn more than twice what a black person earns.