The state of Louisiana has a very distinct personality, different from any of our other 49 states. One of the key reasons is the widely diverse nationalities and races that call LA home, now and throughout history. Louisiana is a melting pot of Indian, French, Spanish, Cajun, and so many more, each one adding a distinct flavor to the stew…or should I say gumbo!
Today, I want to focus on one of these groups. African Americans have played such an important role in shaping Louisiana’s iconic image; their culture, food, language, and, needless to say, their music have all been vital in defining the Louisiana we all know and love. Many famous and important people of African descent have been born and raised here, and many consider New Orleans to be our country’s most African-American city.
A wonderful way to learn about the African-American contribution here in LA is to experience the Louisiana African American Heritage Trail. The trail begins in New Orleans and winds its way north along The Mississippi River to Baton Rouge and Shreveport with many stops in between. In New Orleans, you can walk to most of the sites, which makes it quite convenient. But to take it all in, you’ll need the use of a car or other transportation. Download the free iPhone app and you'll have a complete guide to the trail with directions, maps, photos, stories, and more.
What will you experience? Well, there are a variety of museums, art galleries, exhibits, fascinating plantation complexes, historic cemeteries and the first 2 churches founded by free people of color. You’ll learn about the fascinating history behind the Mardi Gras Indians, sample some delicious delights from local chefs and so much more.
There are so many places to explore along the trail and too many to list here, but these are some of my favorites:
Tangipahoa African American Heritage Museum -features artwork depicting the history of African people in the U.S., starting with the sometimes-shocking images of the Middle Passage slave trades and continuing through to the Civil Rights Movement. Website.
Providence Park Cemetery – visit the grave of legendary gospel singer Mahalia Jackson, who was born, raised and laid to rest here in New Orleans.
- Melrose Plantation – a beautiful location, significant because it is home to the oldest buildings of African design built by freed slaves for the use of Black people. Website
For more information about the path of the African American Heritage Trail, visit "A Story Like No Other", a multimedia website packed with information about the various sites along the trail.
I highly recommend taking a trip on Louisiana’s African American Heritage Trail. It’s a great way to experience this amazingly rich culture and to see why they have been, and continue to be, such an integral ingredient in the makeup of the great state of Louisiana!