This is the online version of the Louisiana Division's annual Black History Month exhibit, 1996 edition. It includes the full text of the inhouse exhibition along with five images in addition to the one seen above. To view the images just click on the highlighted words or phrases as they appear in the text below.


Front Panels


"Not all men are called to specialized or professional jobs; even fewer to the heights of genius in the arts and sciences; many are called to be laborers in factories, fields, and streets. But no work is insignificant." [Martin Luther King, Jr. Where Do We Go from Here? (1968)]


The diversity in employment of worth remarked on by Dr. King is well illustrated by the history of African-American occupations in the city of New Orleans. This exhibit identifies just a smattering of the jobs held by local black men and women over the past 150 years or so. Some of the people depicted here are well known, others labored anonymously, but no less importantly, in the long process of making New Orleans a great city. The stories of many thousands more wait to be discovered by diligent researchers into the history of African Americans in the Crescent City.

Before the Civil War, when slavery dominated the economy of the American South, New Orleans stood out from the rest of the nation in the way that it employed its slaves. In most southern states, and in most of Louisiana, the vast majority of slaves worked as agricultural laborers on large and small plantations. But the Crescent City, the largest metropolis in the South and one of the most important commercial centers in all of America, found many diverse ways to put its slaves to work.


"While most city slaves were domestic servants, there were also many who were highly skilled.... Many of the city slaves worked as draymen, porters, carpenters, masons, bricklayers, painters, plasterers, tinners, coopers, wheelwrights, cabinetmakers, blacksmiths, shoemakers, millers, bakers, and barbers. Most, however, were unskilled laborers often owned by brickyards, iron foundries, hospitals, distilleries, railroad companies, and Catholic convents." [John W. Blassingame, Black New Orleans,1860-1880 (Chicago, 1973), 2]


Antebellum New Orleans was also home to the largest population of free black men and women of any city in the United States. Many of these individuals shared the French, Spanish, and Catholic heritage of the city at large. Among these gens de couleur libre there were even some whose wealth and background put them into a refined upper class. Many more free black men and women, meanwhile, worked in occupations devoted to satisfying the tastes of those at the apex of African-American society in the Crescent City.


"In 1850 an overwhelming majority of the free Negro men in New Orleans worked as carpenters, masons, cigar makers, shoemakers, clerks, mechanics, coopers, barbers, draymen, painters, blacksmiths, butchers, cabinetmakers, cooks, stewards, and upholsters. ...the 1,792 free Negro males listed in the 1850 census were engaged in fifty-four different occupations; only 9.9 percent of them were unskilled laborers. Some of them even held jobs as architects, bookbinders, brokers, engineers, doctors, jewelers, merchants, and musicians." [John W. Blassingame, Black New Orleans,1860-1880 (Chicago, 1973), 10]


The skills they had learned in the years before the Civil War permitted many in the local black community to prosper during the heady days of Reconstruction. Though short-lived, the political power enjoyed by local African Americans during the 1870s was real. Some black politicians were able to reach high public office either through appointment or by popular election. P.B.S. Pinchback, who served as acting governor of the state from 1872 to 1873, is but the best known of dozens of successful local black politicians. Other black New Orleanians made names for themselves as attorneys, newspaper publishers, commission merchants, and insurance executives.

In the late 1870s there began a series of actions by white conservatives to reduce the political, social, and economic power of local African Americans, the descendants of the old black Creole class, as well as the mass of recently emancipated slaves. Blacks were able to maintain their economic power in such key areas as dock workers, artisans, and various businesses serving the increasingly segregated African-American community. For the most part, though, New Orleans blacks worked in the lowest positions within the local economy.

The economic condition of the African-American community at the end of the nineteenth century marked the status quo for more than fifty years. A small black middle class managed to survive largely by providing services to the larger population living around it. Teachers, ministers, hair dressers, and undertakers were among the more successful occupations for African-American New Orleanians during this period.

Beginning in the years following World War II and accelerating during the late 1960s, local blacks began to regain some of the political power they had enjoyed during Reconstruction years. Spurred once again by federal legislation mandating civil and voting rights, African Americans progressed politically in the Crescent City and in 1977 garnered the ultimate prize with the election of Dutch Morial as mayor. Since that time there has been a new expansion in economic opportunities for black citizens. In the public sector, in the health care industry, in education, and in tourism, African Americans are participating in the local workforce in positions never before held.

Despite this important progress much remains to be done. For every "success story" like Alden McDonald, Larry Lundy, Norman Francis, and Marc Morial, there are too many other African-American New Orleanians who are unemployed, underemployed, or otherwise not enjoying the fruits of the overall economic well being characteristic of America today. As Mayor Morial noted in 1994, "Business enterprises owned by women and by members of racial and ethnic minorities must move more into the mainstream of the New Orleans economy. Thus, this administration will implement programs that will foster an economic environment in which these business enterprises can prosper."


"We have the record of kings and gentlemen ad nauseam and in stupid detail; but of the common run of human beings and particularly of the half or wholly submerged working group, the world has saved all too little authentic record and tried to forget or ignore even the little saved." [W.E.B. DuBois, (ca. 1903)]


DuBois spoke the above words at a time when historians depended on collections built around the papers left by "Great Men." Of course that meant that only the accomplishments of white males were recognized as being of importance in the development of the United States of America. Fortunately, historians in more recent years have begun to explore sources beyond the traditional collections, more often than not concentrating on records that document the social fabric of entire communities. The investigation of a wider body of historical source material has made it possible for many important black men and women and their contributions to become known to all Americans.

The New Orleans City Archives is an outstanding example of a collection that documents the entire social fabric of the local community. This exhibit on the African-American work experience in the Crescent City draws on the variety of documentation in the Archives and in other Louisiana Division collections. It presents but a small fragment of the story of local black endeavor. The City Archives stands open to scholars and other researchers interested in further investigation of the subject

Many free black youths learned trades through apprenticeships with established artisans and craftsmen, both black and white. Indenture agreements between the apprentices and their mentors were witnessed by the Mayor and recorded in books kept in his office. This 1821 indenture bound the free black brothers Francois and Joseph Charles to the white cabinet maker Caleb Stringer for a period of five years.

As the commercial center of the antebellum South, New Orleans depended on an adequate system of transportation to get its varied goods to market. The municipal government regulated this activity by licensing operators of carts, carriages, and other conveyances. This document is a security bond designed to insure that the licensee, a free black man by the name of Jacques Voltaire, abided by the rules governing such vehicles.

A typical newspaper advertisement for an upcoming slave sale. Such advertisements were careful to highlight any occupational talents possessed by the individual slaves--such special skills were sure to bring top dollar at the sale. This advertiser was also careful to list his slave Seraphine's "vices," a form of antebellum truth in advertising.

New Orleans had an African-American newspaper, L'Union, even before Abraham Lincoln issued his final Emancipation Proclamation at the beginning of 1863. Paul Trevigne served as editor of L'Union and later edited its successor, The New Orleans Tribune. This sheet from the October 26, 1867 Tribune includes at least three references to local black occupations during the early Reconstruction period. The article in column one refers to the employment of black police officers (well over a year prior to the establishment of the Metropolitan Police as a biracial force). A "thank you" in the second column refers to C.S. Sauvinet, an African-American employee of the Freedmen's Savings Bank. And, finally, column seven includes an advertisement for St. F. Casanave, a black broker and agent. Casanave later was an agent for the Louisiana State Lottery.

Basile Bares was a former slave and a talented musician and composer in the Crescent City. This item of sheet music illustrates but one of his many compositions and arrangements.

In a city with such a strong Catholic heritage it was only natural that many, if not most, free black citizens embraced the practice of that religion. Free black Catholics were responsible for the establishment of at least one religious order, the Sisters of the Holy Family. These pages from a printed French language copy of the sisterhood's charter describe the society's mission and identify its principals, including foundress Henriette Delile.

This page from the city comptroller's published report for the first half of 1858 shows that the city hired black musician Jordan B. Noble to provide music for that year's Battle of New Orleans anniversary celebration. Noble had been the drummer in Andrew Jackson's 7th Infantry Regiment during the famous battle of 1815.

African-American roustabouts on the city docks.

Belfield's Pharmacy, 1830 St. Bernard Ave., in 1931, from The Roneagle.

African-American concrete workers during the construction of City Park Stadium, in 1936, a project sponsored by the Works Progress Administration.

Woods Directory, published in 1914, offered African Americans an opportunity to advertise their businesses and services. Subtitled "Being a Colored Business, Professional and Trades Directory of New Orleans, Louisiana," the directory also lists churches, clubs, hospitals, parks, schools, theatres, and societies. The ads displayed here illustrate the diversity and accomplishment of the African-American business community in New Orleans.

Members of the faculty of McDonogh 35 High and Normal School, 1931, then located at 655 S. Rampart. During the 1930-31 session, the introduction says, "nearly 800 students enrolled, to receive instruction from twenty teachers." McDonogh 35 was the only four-year high school for black students until Booker T. Washington High School opened in 1942.

Third from left on row two is Charles B. Rousseve, who taught English, French, and Psychology. From the 1931 edition of The Roneagle, the McDonogh 35 yearbook. His picture appears again later in this exhibit.

Dr. Wesley N. Segre, a pediatrician, examines a child at the Mary Buck Health Center, ca. 1952. The Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners licensed forty African-American physicians in Orleans Parish in 1952.

The Preservation Hall Jazz Band, photographed by Keith Medley in Lafayette Square, ca. 1980.


Display Case #1

"African Americans in New Orleans: Making a Living" was designed and mounted by archivists Wayne Everard and Irene Wainwright with the assistance of Ridgway's, Inc. and of Robert Baxter and Charles DeLong of New Orleans Public Library's Duplications section. The exhibit will remain on view in this space through April 9. It is also available online at http://www.gnofn.org/~nopl/exhibits/black96.htm where it will remain indefinitely.

Among the best sources for information about slave occupations are the advertisements for slave sales that appeared in the daily newspapers. This scrapbook, kept by auctioneer Benjamin Kendig, is filled with clippings of such ads. The variety of jobs--cook, waiter, house servant, washer, teamster, and seamstress--listed in these 1857 notices illustrates well the diversity of the urban slave phenomenon. Of special note is the description of George, "a No. 1 meat and pastry cook, capable of taking charge of the cooking department of a first rate hotel, restaurant, boarding house or private family; can't be surpassed as a cook in this city."

Very few of the names recorded in this 1855 census of merchants are identified as African Americans. Note here, at #264, that George, a slave, appears to have been operating an "eating house for Negroes" in partnership with a Mr. Kirchoff [the St. Mary Street noted in the record is now Church Street].

Local laws governing the licensing of peddlers allowed masters to designate slaves to do the actual selling. This register from the Mayor's Office, ca. 1826, identifies a dozen or so slaves who were authorized to peddle for the men who held the actual licenses.


"As a result of the training he received during the antebellum period, the New Orleans Negro was probably more highly skilled than black laborers in any other city in the United States." [John W. Blassingame, Black New Orleans, 1860-1880 (Chicago, 1973), 60]


Antebellum city directories identified at least some of the free people of color residing in New Orleans, but listed few occupations for those individuals. Of the several free blacks shown on these two pages from the 1855 directory, only Louis Petit, a carpenter, is classified by occupation. The federal census records for 1850 and 1860, available on microfilm in the Louisiana Division, provide a more complete view of the free black population and its employment status.

After the Civil War city directories for at least some years continued to include racial designations for at least some of the black citizens of New Orleans. These pages from the 1867 edition show the occupations for several "colored" persons, including photographer John Roberts. The federal census records for 1870-1920 provide more thorough documentation of African-American New Orleanians and the jobs they held.

Some slave owners hired their people out to the city for employment on the public works. This volume from the Surveyor of the city's First Municipality in 1841 lists the names of individual slaves and their masters and records the number of days worked each month along with the amount of wages due each master. The separate entry at the bottom of the folio shows that some of the work assigned to these black day laborers took place in the city cemetery, then located on Bayou St. John. Other tasks allocated to these workers included cleaning the streets and markets, lighting the streets, maintaining bridges, wharves, and levees, and opening streets. Other pages in this and similar record books show that slaves confined to the Police Jail were sent out in chains to work alongside the wage-earners.

Many Southerners disapproved of the practice by which slave owners "hired out" their people to work as wage earners for third parties. Hiring out weakened the control that the master had over his slaves and gave the bondsmen a degree of freedom deemed to be dangerous to the "Peculiar Institution." The city of New Orleans attempted to regulate the employment of "slaves as hirelings by the day" with this ordinance, passed in 1817.

The practice of hiring out slaves to work for individuals other than the legal master sometimes created problems for all parties involved. In the Parish Court lawsuit brought by slave owner Samuel McMaster against steamboat captain Nicholas Beckwith, McMaster charged the captain with taking the slave John Scott away from Louisiana to Louisville. McMaster claimed that Beckwith had deprived him of the use and value of his slave, and sued for damages. Numerous third parties offered testimony in this matter, testimony that provides interesting detail on the movements and activities of Scott during the late 1820s. In this document another steamboat captain, Richard Groom, attests that while Scott worked for him, "...he was a good cook and acquitted himself to my entire satisfaction. ... He was as good a servant as I would want to have."


"... blacks did in fact possess a majority of New Orleans waterfront jobs. They constituted half of the better-paid screwmen, longshoremen, and yardmen, and they dominated the lower-paid ranks of teamsters and loaders, car loaders and unloaders, railroad terminal freight handlers, coastwise longshoremen, coal wheelers, and coal shifters. These latter jobs occupied the lower end of the waterfront's occupational hierarchy, where wages and working conditions were worse than in the better paying longshore and screwmen's trades." [Eric Arnesen, Waterfront Workers in New Orleans: Race, Class, and Politics, 1863-1923 (Chicago, 1994), 250]



Display Case #2


"In spite of discrimination, blacks were able to garner a disproportionate share of certain skilled jobs. While Negroes constituted only 25 percent of the total labor force, they held from 30 to 65 percent of all jobs as steamboat men, draymen, masons, bakers, carpenters, cigar makers, plasterers, barbers, and gardeners in 1870." [John W. Blassingame, Black New Orleans, 1860-1880 (Chicago, 1973), 61]


One of the most extraordinary African-American New Orleanians of the nineteenth century was Francois Lacroix. A merchant tailor by trade, Lacroix acquired massive land holdings in the city and accumulated a considerable fortune. The civil court proceedings to settle his estate lasted for over a quarter century following his death in 1876 and generated an enormous amount of paper. The Francois Lacroix succession record includes many interesting documents that provide insights into both his own life and the larger life of the black community in New Orleans.

Francois Lacroix and his partner Etienne Cordeviolle operated a profitable clothing store on Chartres St. in the Vieux Carre. The style of the billhead on this invoice for goods sold in the year 1840 suggests that the Lacroix establishment was indeed a fashionable store.

Francois Lacroix had so much property to rent that he had a standard form of lease prepared to make it easier for his agent to handle the business.

This letter from J.D. Bingham, Quartermaster of the United States, shows that Francois Lacroix claimed ownership of land used by the federal army to erect a smallpox hospital for the Crescent City.

The immensity of Lacroix's land holdings is illustrated by this advertisement for the sale of one hundred lots of ground belonging to his estate. Note also the 1895 date of the sale, testimony to the complexity of the Lacroix estate.

Julien Lacroix, Francois' brother, was a successful grocer in the seventh ward until his death in 1868. This bill from the surviving business appears to document the variety of foodstuffs enjoyed by Francois Lacroix in the last days of his life.

Filed in the Lacroix succession record is this document, the undertaker's bill for Lacroix's funeral. It shows that Lacroix went out in style, with ten carriages in his funeral procession and with a fine coffin to shelter him for eternity. The undertaker, Nelson Morand, was a prominent African-American inhabitant of the city's seventh ward.


"... the roustabout's job, often filled by former slaves in the decades after the Civil War, was perhaps the least desirable of all transportation-related work. Although wages were sometimes high, roustabouts endured harsh treatment, poor food, and bad living conditions; moreover, as rural, illiterate workers with a reputation for fast living, they were rarely welcomed by the city's established black community." [Eric Arnesen, Waterfront Workers in New Orleans: Race, Class, and Politics, 1863-1923 (Chicago, 1994), 39]


Black and white laborers on one of the riverfront wharves in New Orleans, ca. 1890s.

African-American dockworkers formed their own union, the Longshoremen's Protective Union Benevolent Association, in 1872. The LPUBA succeeded in holding its own in the struggle to keep black longshoremen competitive with their white counterparts on the New Orleans riverfront. This document is a 1888 typewritten copy of an original agreement signed one year previously by the LPUBA and the white union. These conference rules were designed to maintain both groups as active participants in loading and unloading vessels docked in the port of New Orleans.


"During the 1880s and after the turn of the century, longshore workers sustained a movement that ran counter to the dominant trend of black subordination, exclusion, and segregation in the age of Jim Crow." [Eric Arnesen, Waterfront Workers in New Orleans: Race, Class, and Politics, 1863-1923 (Chicago, 1994), ix]


African Americans worked on board steamboats as well as on the docks. This ca. 1896 photograph shows black dining room attendants on the "Bluff City."


"The occupational base which blacks established during Reconstruction served them well in the twentieth century. ... The economic successes of Negroes during Reconstruction were the most important factors in their ability to avoid complete strangulation by white unions, corrupt city officials, and anti-Negro employers in New Orleans in the twentieth century." [John W. Blassingame, Black New Orleans, 1860-1880 (Chicago, 1973), 63]


Reconstruction opened up the political arena to black office seekers for the first time in our history. Many elections held during the period were hotly contested and often were decided by lawsuits. This document, from the Eighth District Court suit of John Tobin vs Jules A. Massicot, indicates that Tobin challenged the latter's election as Criminal Sheriff for New Orleans. The court upheld Massicot's victory and he served as Sheriff from 1870-1872. He later served three terms as one of the state Senators from the Crescent City.

African-American politicians occupied numerous important offices during the Reconstruction period. These pages from the official journal of the Louisiana House of Representatives include the names of several black state legislators from the Crescent City during the 1872 session of the Legislature including Charles W. Ringgold, chairman of the Committee on Corporations, Edgar Davis, Victor E. McCarthy, William B. Barrett, and Raford Blunt, chairman of the Committee on Parochial Affairs.

A cabin boy, deckhand, and steward on Mississippi River steamboats before and during the Civil War, P.B.S. Pinchback emerged from the struggle ready to set out on what proved to be a successful political career. He was elected to the Louisiana senate in 1871 and later served as acting governor following the impeachment of Henry Clay Warmoth in 1872. Pinchback was also owner and manager of the Louisianian, one of several African-American newspapers published in New Orleans during the latter half of the nineteenth century. He is pictured here in Jewell's Crescent City Illustrated (1873), an early New Orleans "city guide" publication.


Display Case #3

Two young boys survey the wares of an African-American fruit seller in this undated photograph by New Orleans photographer Charles L. Franck. Although the Louisiana Division's Photograph Collection contains a number of Franck's prints, The Historic New Orleans Collection owns the full Franck collection.

This street vendor, photographed by Charles L. Franck, was one of many African Americans who made a sometimes precarious living peddling vegetables, fruit, meats, fish, and other edibles in the residential districts of the city.

A pole peddler, photographed by George Mugnier. The poles were probably used for clotheslines.


"I stop to think sometimes, and I wonder how the poor colored people got along. You couldn't work in the department stores, the men couldn't drive a bus, you couldn't work for the telephone company, you couldn't work for the Public Service, so if you didn't do menial labor, or housework, or learn to be a cigar maker, or you weren't lucky enough to get an education to teach, well, you were in very bad luck because then these people had nothing to do. You see, they didn't give the poor colored people jobs." [Eugenia Lacarra, quoted in Arthe A. Anthony, "'Lost Boundaries': Racial Passing Poverty in Segregated New Orleans," Louisiana History (Summer 1995), 291]


A New Orleans Police Department commemorative album published in 1900 included photographs of the six African-American patrolmen then on the force--George St. Avide, Louis J. Therence, William H. Robinson, Henry Labeaud, George Doyle, and Benjamin J. Blair. After 1915, NOPD recruited no more black policemen until 1950.

An African-American laborer readies a bale of cotton for the press at the Dock Board's Public Cotton Warehouse. The photograph was taken by Charles L. Franck for the Board of Commissioners of the Port of New Orleans on February 21, 1917.

Bucksell's Pharmacy was located at 2333 Magnolia, corner Erato, in 1920. Around the corner, in the same building, was the dental parlor of Dr. Reginald E. Watkins. This photograph by Charles L. Franck was probably taken a few years earlier.

The 1918 New Orleans City Directory shows that Edward N. Sloan operated a saloon at 1532 Gasquet Street (now Cleveland Avenue). In that same year, he was arrested for buying stolen property and is shown in a NOPD mug shot, which records that he was 58 years old, was born in the West Indies, and had the tattoo of an anchor on his left forearm. The New Orleans Police Department arrest cards contain no other criminal records for Mr. Sloan, and it is not known whether the accusation against him was valid.

Hypolite Chevalier, a 35-year-old Louisiana native, listed himself as a jockey when he was arrested in 1911. He does not appear to have had any other brushes with the law.

These pages from the 1914 Woods Directory provide only a glimpse of the variety of trades and professions followed by African Americans near the turn of the century.

Colored New Orleans: High Points of Negro Endeavor, 1922 and 1923 was published by the Colored Civic League of New Orleans in order to publicize the achievements of African-American New Orleanians. "The Negro is part of the community," says the introduction to this volume, "but on account of existing conditions he is a community within a community, having a distinct life of his own apart from that of the community life, but it has with the community life no effective point of contact. Its standards, methods, practices, purposes and achievements are generally unseen by the rest of the community." Colored New Orleans sought to make this unseen community more visible by providing a list of African Americans who followed a wide range of professions and trades, and by including advertisements and photographs of black professionals and businesses. Shown here are two photos of nursing students and public health nurses and, on the opposite page, a list of names of registered practical nurses.

African-American laborers worked on many WPA sponsored civic improvement projects in New Orleans during the 1930s and 1940s. The men photographed here are part of the demolition crew that tore down the old Charity Hospital in 1936.


Display Case #4


"Blacks were especially hard hit [by the Depression]. Black institutions were financially shaky at the best of times, and the Depression wrought enormous damage to the infrastructure of black society. Banks folded; businesses went under; insurance companies saw their receipts dry up; churches and Masonic halls were mortgaged up to the hilt; universities had to go cap in hand to white philanthropists. Some black institutions--even the Louisiana Weekly--passed into white ownership." [Adam Fairclough. Race & Democracy: The Civil Rights Struggle in Louisiana, 1915-1972. (Athens, Georgia , 1995), 41-42]


The Works Progress Administration provided educational programs and job opportunities for African Americans during the difficult years of the Great Depression. Pictured here are workers employed in the "Colored Book-Binding Project," New Orleans, January, 1937.

New Orleans physicians and surgeons, 1942. At the time, African-American doctors were allowed to practice only at Flint-Goodridge Hospital and were barred from membership in the Orleans Parish Medical Society. The signature on this photograph in Delta Shadows shows that it was taken by A.P. Bedou, once the private photographer to Booker T. Washington and official photographer for Tuskeegee Institute. His photographic studio was located at South Rampart and Common Streets in 1942.


"Even more vital to the NAACP's development was the network of doctors, pharmacists, and businessmen associated with the black insurance industry. Growing out of neighborhood-based benevolent societies that furnished health care, sickness pensions, and funeral benefits, the insurance companies became the most important black-owned businesses in Louisiana. At a time when there were only 1,600 Negro-owned businesses in the entire state, when Louisiana had only two or three black lawyers, and when the census identified only 656 blacks in New Orleans as professionals or semiprofessionals, the significance of the insurance industry as a source or race leadership can scarcely be overstated." [Adam Fairclough. Race & Democracy: The Civil Rights Struggle in Louisiana, 1915-1972 (Athens, Georgia , 1995), 18-19]


Concrete finishers at the Naval Reserve Air Training Base (on the site of what is now the University of New Orleans), another WPA construction project, April, 1941.

Faculty members of Lafon Public School, 2601 7th Street, in a photograph reproduced from Delta Shadows: A Pageant of Negro Progress in New Orleans, 1942. Teaching was one of the few professional occupations open to African-American women at the time.

The WPA also employed African Americans in the construction of new wharves on the New Orleans riverfront.

Delta Shadows also featured the office force of the Keystone Insurance Company, which operated at 2107 and 2228 Dryades Street in 1942. Among the officers of the company was Dr. Andrew J. Young, Sr., the father of former Atlanta mayor and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Andrew J. Young, Jr.


"In 1940, blacks in New Orleans owned businesses of innumerable types and sizes. A publication for this year, entitled Journal of Negro Business listed thirty-eight grocery establishments, five general merchandise stores, twelve insurance companies, thirty cleaners-pressers, five newspapers, thirty-one radio repair shops, sixteen restaurants, eight taxicab companies, thirteen undertaking companies, seven dentists, and thirty-four physicians. There were also caterers, tailors, roofers, and plasterers." [Barbara A. Worthy. Blacks in New Orleans from the Great Depression to the Civil Rights Movement, 1930 to 1950 (New Orleans, 1994), 11]


Prominent members of the African-American professional community, pictured in Delta Shadows, 1942.

Dr. Leonard V. Bechet placed this advertisement in The Business and Professional Men's Guide, published in 1948 by the Southern Allied Civic Association His dental practice was located at 1402 St. Bernard Avenue. Dr. Bechet was also a trombonist and the leader of the Silver Bells band. His brother, Sidney Bechet, was one of the Crescent City's, and the world's, finest jazz musicians.

African-American soldiers training at an unidentified Louisiana Army camp, ca. 1941. Some 13,000-14,000 African Americans from the New Orleans area served in the armed forces during World War II.

Nurses at the city-run Child Health Clinic, Edna Pilsbury Health Center, provide instruction in baby care, November, 1957.

The 1956-1957 Crescent City Sepia Host, a "buyers and tourist guide to New Orleans," was designed for African-American New Orleanians and visitors to a segregated city and advertised restaurants, hotels, and businesses catering to the African-American public. Shown here is a "who's who" of "some of the most prominent citizens in New Orleans," along with their various occupations.

Businessman James Holtry; Joe Bartholomew, golf pro of the Pontchartrain Park golf course; Mayor Chep Morrison; and Herbert Jahncke, President of the Parkway and Parks Commission at the dedication of the Pontchartrain Park golf course, May 5, 1956.


Display Case #5

Two WPA-sponsored music projects, the WPA Brass Band and the Emergency Relief Administration Orchestra provided steady jobs for many African-American jazz musicians during the late 1930s. Pictured here at City Park is the WPA Brass Band, led by Pinchback Touro. Touro also lead the ERA Orchestra, which employed some 90 black jazzmen.

The WPA also supported the efforts of artists, writers, musicians, and other members of the arts community hard hit by unemployment. Shown here are two unidentified artists who participated in WPA-sponsored projects.

Billie Pierce (1907-1974), famed as a boogie-woogie pianist and blues singer, at Preservation Hall, photographed by Grauman Marks.

Legendary New Orleans jazzmen: left to right, Ernest Cangelotti (cornet), Louis Cottrell (clarinet), Paul Barbarin (drums), Placide Adams (bass), Lester Santiago (piano), and H.E. Minor (banjo), also photographed by Grauman Marks.

A young Aaron Neville at a Duncan Plaza Brown Bag Concert, ca. 1980, photographed by Keith Medley.

Rodolphe Lucien Desdunes' Nos Hommes et Notre Histoire (Our People and Our History) was published in Montreal in 1911. The volume includes biographies of some fifty Creoles of color who lived during the mid to late 19th century--including doctors, lawyers, teachers, musicians, artists and writers. This is a first edition of Desdunes' work.

Desdunes worked as a clerk in the Custom House, where he suffered an eye injury which eventually led to blindness. He also wrote for The Crusader and was among the organizers of the Citizen's Committee, which mounted the challenge to segregation in public transportation that eventually became Plessy v. Ferguson.

Les Ecrits de Langue Francaise en Louisiane aux XIX Siecle, edited by Edward Laroque Tinker, includes bio-bibliographies of twenty-seven free people of color, including some of the poets of Les Cenelles, a collection of poems by New Orleanian gens de colour libre, published in 1845.


"The men and women who make up this prestigious circle of chefs are all primarily self-taught rather than formally trained. Almost without exception they began their professional careers as dishwashers. Along the way they received help, guidance, and assistance ... from other professionals who, like them, also lacked formal training. In this sense, they are proud heirs to the rich legacy of Creole cuisine they have inherited from Black professional cooks. It is certainly to their credit that they have perfected the art of Creole cooking in almost complete anonymity and frequently in a hostile environment." [Nathan Burton and Rudy Lombard. Creole Feast: 15 Master Chefs of New Orleans (New York, 1978), xvii]


African-American cooks and chefs, men and women, contributed immensely to New Orleans' famous Creole cuisine, which Rudy Lombard called "the aristocrat of all cuisines" in Creole Feast: 15 Master Chefs of New Orleans. Shown here are two of the "unsung" chefs featured in Creole Feast: Chef Louis Bluestein of Brennan's, the Roosevelt Hotel and the Pontchartrain Hotel, and Lena Richards, caterer and cooking instructor, whose 1940 New Orleans Cookbook is also shown here.

A 1983 menu from Chef Austin Leslie's Chez Helene, 1540 N. Robertson Street. Long a favorite with locals, Chez Helene gained national fame when Frank's Place, the short-lived but critically acclaimed sit-com inspired by Chef Leslie's restaurant, aired on CBS in 1988. The restaurant was named for Leslie's aunt, Helen Dejean Pollock, who established Chez Helene in 1964, having opened her first restaurant on Perdido Street in 1942. This and other menus in the exhibit are from the Louisiana Division Menu Collection.

Chef Louis Evans began his career as a cook at Sclafani's in Metairie in 1959. Ten years later he joined the staff of the Pontchartrain Hotel, where he built the stellar reputation of the Caribbean Room. Promoted to executive chef in 1973, he spent 18 years at the Pontchartrain before moving to Kabby's at the Hilton in 1987. In that same year, he became only the second Louisianian to be elected to membership in the Order of the Golden Toque, a 100-member national organization of chefs. He died in 1990 at the age of 49.

The Praline Connection opened at 542 Frenchmen Street in the Faubourg Marigny in 1991. Owners Curtis Moore, Jr. and Cecil Kaigler, who met while both were employed by British Petroleum, expanded to a second location at 901 S. Peters St. in the Warehouse District in 1993.

Eddie Baquet, Sr. opened Eddie's on Law Street in 1966, but other members of his family had been in the restaurant business since 1940. The family tradition has continued into the next generation. Eddie Baquet's son Wayne and his wife Janet opened Zachary's (named for their young son) on Oak Street in 1993. Closed temporarily after a fire, the restaurant has recently reopened.

Leah Chase, co-owner and executive chef of Dooky Chase, is one of New Orleans' most celebrated chefs, an author of several cookbooks, and a civic activist who has done much to advance both the reputation of Creole cuisine and the quality of life of her fellow citizens.


Display Case #6


"In 1950 blacks made up about a third of the New Orleans population but only 0.08 percent of the workers employed by NOPSI..., 0.015 percent of the phone company's workforce, and 0.054 percent of the workers in city government. There were no black firemen and only a handful of black policemen. In the private sector (with the obvious exception of black-owned businesses) clerks, stenographers, bank tellers, sales assistants, and transit drivers were all "white only" occupations. NOPSI did not hire its first black bus drivers until 1961. Many unions still excluded blacks as a matter of policy....Craft unions of plumbers, electrical workers, and machinists still barred black apprentices. There were one or two bright spots. In the Post Office the proportion of black clerks rose to almost a quarter after the Senate held hearings on discrimination in 1948. In education, the proportion of black teachers in the state remained about the same, but they doubled in number between 1940 and 1960, and pay improved dramatically." [Adam Fairclough. Race & Democracy: The Civil Rights Struggle in Louisiana, 1915-1972 (Athens, Georgia , 1995), 149-150]


City employees of the Mosquito Control Board, ca. 1940s.

A Department of Sanitation employee, 1955.

Park and Parkways Commission workers. It is possible that they are replanting palm trees removed from Claiborne Avenue prior to the construction of Interstate-10.

Applicants completing information sheets for the Civil Service Police Patrolman examination. African Americans began to enter the Police Department in increasing numbers in the late 1960s.


"In 1950 Carlton Pecot and another black man became New Orleans policemen....Mayor Morrison and his subordinates placed the new black patrolmen carefully....They assigned the new men to the juvenile bureau...dressed them in plain clothes, and tucked them away in a predominantly black district where very few white voters dared to venture. This cautious manipulation worked superbly. They were hardly noticed." [Edward F. Haas. DeLesseps S. Morrison and the Image of Reform (Baton Rouge, 1974), 77-78]


New Orleans Police Department juvenile officers questioning a young boy, ca. 1950. One of the officers is probably Carlton H. Pecot, who, with a second officer (probably the other man pictured here), became the first African-American NOPD patrolman to join the force in some forty years.

New graduates of the New Orleans Police Training School.

New Orleans Fire Department personnel demonstrating new fire equipment.


"By 1950 New Orleans was the only large city in the South with no black policemen. Faced with court action initiated by a rejected black applicant [to NOPD] who had achieved one of the highest test scores on record, Morrison agreed to the recruitment of two blacks, with the private understanding that they were to operate in Negro areas only. The men in question, moreover, were dressed in plainclothes and assigned to the juvenile bureau. As Morrison's biographer noted, 'The cautious manipulation worked superbly. They were hardly noticed.' In New Orleans, as in ultra-segregationist Shreveport and Monroe, the recruitment of black policemen did not signify any retreat from segregation. Few in number, they were accorded an inferior status, segregated within the organization, and utilized as a means of combating black crime." [Adam Fairclough. Race & Democracy: The Civil Rights Struggle in Louisiana, 1915-1972 (Athens, Georgia , 1995), 153]


A NORD supervisor coaching young baseball players.

Inspectors for the Department of Safety and Permits' Building Inspections Bureau.

Park and Parkways Commission tree surgeons, May, 1973.


"... Landrieu believed that his 'single greatest accomplishment' was the 'significant progress' made in opening up opportunities for blacks 'through the political process.' There was much to substantiate this claim. At the beginning of 1970, blacks occupied only 19.4 percent (1,833 out of 8,219) of the positions in the city's classified civil service; eight years later they claimed 43 percent (4,304 out of 10,009). Landrieu also kept his promise to name black department heads--director of property management Andrew Sanchez and twenty-nine-year-old welfare director Sidney Barthelemy were the first--and he went even further by naming Robert Tucker as executive assistant and ultimately appointing Terrence Duvernay as chief administrative officer. And if the new black presence in government was unprecedented, Landrieu also did not hesitate to use his political leverage to create opportunities in the private sector as well." [Arnold R. Hirsch, "Simply a Matter of Black and White: The Transformation of Race and Politics in Twentieth-Century New Orleans," in Creole New Orleans: Race and Americanization (Baton Rouge, 1992), 296]


Morris F.X. Jeff, Sr. served as supervisor of Negro programs during the New Orleans Recreation Department's early years. He is shown here at the Rosenwald Center in August, 1952 with Ed Durlacher, a nationally known square dance caller. NORD began to desegregate its programs in 1963.

Mechanics at the Park and Parkways Commission's lawnmower shop in Gentilly.

City workers erecting the Mardi Gras viewing stands in front of Gallier Hall, ca. 1970s.

Dorothy Anderson, supervisor of the city-owned Historical Pharmaceutical Museum during the administration of Mayor Dutch Morial.

Naomi White Warren Farve, Louisiana State Representative for District 101.

A New Orleans Health Department technician.

City employees receiving CPR training.

Erroll Williams, Assessor for the Third District, with several of his constituents. Mr. Williams also served as Director of the Finance Department and Chief Administrative Officer under the administration of Mayor Dutch Morial.

Chief Warren Woodfork, the first African-American superintendent of the New Orleans Police Department, with Mayor Ernest N. Morial.

Paul Valteau, Orleans Parish Civil Sheriff.


"City government provides the black middle class of New Orleans with genuine employment opportunities. Specifically, during Morial's first four-year term, the number of blacks in city government increased by 11 percent....Blacks hold many of the leading positions in city government...." [Monte Piliawsky, The Impact of Black Mayors on the Black Community: The Case of New Orleans' Ernest Morial (New Orleans), 18-19]


Warren Bell, former news anchor, WVUE-TV.

Judge Israel M. Augustine, Jr. served as the first counsel for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and became the first African-American judge of Orleans Parish Criminal District Court. He also served as judge of the Louisiana Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal.

Lea Stevenson (seated, third from left), reporter for WVUE News, ca. 1980.

Dr. Alma Young, Professor, College of Urban and Public Affairs, University of New Orleans. Dr. Young was the first woman appointed to the Board of Commissioners of the Port of New Orleans. During the administration of Mayor Ernest N. Morial, she served as Special Assistant to the Mayor. She also served as Chair of the Downtown Development District.

Okla Jones served as City Attorney under Mayor Sidney Barthelemy and was later elected judge of Orleans Parish Civil District Court. In 1994, he was appointed Judge of U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana by President Bill Clinton.

Charles Barthelemy Rousseve, educator and historian, author of The Negro in Louisiana, 1937. Another photo of a much younger Mr. Rousseve, then a teacher at McDonogh 35 High School, can be seen on the second introductory panel of this exhibit.

Alden J. McDonald, Jr., Chief Executive Officer of Liberty Bank and Trust Co., one of the nation's largest black-owned commercial banks.

Dr. Anthony James Hackett, physician, former president of the Board of Directors of Dillard University, and founder and president of United Federal Savings and Loan. Dr. Hackett was one of the first African-American doctors admitted to the Orleans Parish Medical Society and the first African American appointed to the Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners.

Dr. Clarence C. Haydel, Jr., physician.

Irma Muse Dixon, former Louisiana state representative and currently a member of the Public Service Commission, with Mayor Dutch Morial.

Dr. Samuel DuBois Cook, President of Dillard University.

Dr. Emmet W. Bashful, photographed in 1984, when he was Chancellor of Southern University at New Orleans.

Rose Loving, former President of the Orleans Parish School Board.

Dr. Everett J. Williams, former Superintendent of New Orleans Public Schools.

Mayor Morial with members of his office staff and city department heads during a birthday celebration.

Duplain W. Rhodes, Jr., chairman of the board of Rhodes Enterprises, one of the oldest black-owned businesses in New Orleans. Consisting today of a number of corporations dealing in insurance, funeral services, transportation, and real estate, Rhodes Enterprises traces its origins to 1884, when Duplain W. Rhodes, Sr. moved to New Orleans and began using his wagon to transport African Americans for burial.