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New Orleans Mardi Gras

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New Orleans was founded in 1718 and celebrates 300 years of splendor, beauty, festivities and art.

Fleur-di-lis necklace

Fleur-di-lis necklace

In 1762 and 1763 France signed treaties ceding Louisiana to Spain. For 40 years New Orleans was a Spanish city, trading heavily with Cuba and adopting the Spanish racial rules that allowed for a class of free people of color. The city was ravaged by fires in 1788 and 1794 and rebuilt in brick with buildings and a cathedral that still stand today.

In 1803 Louisiana reverted to the French, who sold it to the United States 20 days later in the. The final battle of the War of 1812 was fought in defense of New Orleans; Colonel Andrew Jackson led a coalition of pirates, free blacks and Tennessee Volunteers to defeat a British force outside the city.

During the first half of the 19th century, New Orleans became the United States’ wealthiest and third-largest city. Its port shipped the produce of much of the nation’s interior to the Caribbean, South America and Europe. Thousands of slaves were sold in its markets, but its free black community thrived. Until 1830, the majority of its residents still spoke French.

At the start of the Civil War, New Orleans was the largest city in the Confederacy, but it was only a year until Union troops, having captured its downriver defenses, took the city unopposed. During the Reconstruction era race became a potent political force, as emancipated slaves and free people of color were brought into the political process and, with the 1870s rise of the White League and the Ku Klux Klan, forced back out of it. Although the rise of railroads made shipping on the Mississippi less essential than it had been, New Orleans remained a powerful and influential port.

fleur-di-lis

Fleur-di-lis necklace

By 1900, the city’s streetcars were electrified, and New Orleans jazz was born in its clubs and dance halls. The city grew. New pump technology drove the ambitious draining of the low-lying swampland located between the city’s riverside crescent and Lake Pontchartrain. New levees and drainage canals meant that many residents could live below sea level. Hurricanes in 1909, 1915, 1947 and 1965 damaged the city, but never catastrophically.

After World War II, suburbanization and conflicts over school integration drew many white residents out of the city, leaving a core that was increasingly African-American and impoverished. Despite these social changes, the city grew as a tourist attraction, with hundreds of thousands of annual visitors drawn to its Mardi Gras festivities and to the culture that had inspired playwright Tennessee Williams, trumpeter Louis Armstrong and chef Jean Galatoire.

On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina struck a haphazardly evacuated New Orleans. The Category 5 storm’s winds tore away roofs and drove a storm surge that breached four levees, flooding 80 percent of the city. Hundreds were killed in the flooding and thousands were trapped for days in harsh circumstances before state and federal rescuers could reach them.

The waters receded, but a year later only half the city’s residents had returned. Within five years 80 percent were back, but New Orleans—though as diverse, unique and historic as ever—remained far from reclaiming its 1930s nickname, “the city that care forgot.”

Crocodile belt & Buckle

Crocodile belt & Buckle