As any Louisianan can tell you, "Tremé" is not just an acclaimed HBO television series that follows residents of a New Orleans neighborhood as they attempt to rebuild their lives and unique culture after Hurricane Katrina. No, Faubourg Tremé (Faubourg meaning "suburb" in French) is a real place! It is one of the oldest black neighborhoods in America and, among other things, is considered to be the birthplace of the New Orleans brass band tradition. It's beautifully depicted in the TV show, which has just started its fourth and final season.
When Tremé was constructed, it had the largest number of free people of color in the South. In later years, they (and slaves who had acquired their freedom) were able to purchase their own property in the neighborhood, a remarkable feat when you realize that this was when the rest of the South was entrenched in slavery. The district grew up around Congo Square, an open meeting area where African American commerce flourished and a unique Creole culture emerged. Black people used this area to market goods, socialize, and participate in drumming, music making, and dancing.
Today, visitors and natives alike come to Tremé to celebrate the achievements of African Americans. It is home to several fascinating museums (dedicated to African American life, art, and history), Armstrong Park (a memorial to jazz great Louis Armstrong), St. Augustine’s Church (the oldest predominantly black Catholic parish in the country), and many other fascinating sights.
The next time you’re in the New Orleans area, make sure you pay a visit to Tremé. I would highly recommend that you take a walking tour like this one for an in-depth look at the city and its people as well as some of the areas featured in the TV series. You’ll see how black and white, free and enslaved, rich and poor all lived together and created much of what defines New Orleans culture today.
Planning a trip to New Orleans? Be sure to visit TourLouisiana.com for more information!