Urban Slavery and Everyday Resistance

Enslaved people were among the first to enter the French colony of New Orleans. Furthermore, they were instrumental to the creation of a successful city, building much of the infrastructure, acting as the first doctors, and cultivating early essential crops, like rice. During the antebellum era (1803-1861) 750,000 enslaved people were forcibly shipped south to New Orleans. This number doesn't include the many enslaved people who were illegally shipped from Caribbean islands or traded overland from the Upper South. The fabric of New Orleans French Quarter was visibly interlaced with the inseparable contributions of the enslaved population and the free people who sold them and benefitted from their labor. This tour seeks to illustrate how enslavement permeated the antebellum era and how its survivors managed to carve out meaningful and courageous lives for themselves despite their circumstances.

The Levee: Gateway to Uncertainty

During the mid-1800’s ships tightly packed the port of New Orleans, according to historian Walter Johnson, “one could walk deck to deck from one end of the city to the other.” All along the docks, ships unloaded and loaded cargo daily. New Orleans…

Henry Bibb and The Slave Pens of New Orleans

During the major slave-trading season, September through May, yards surrounded by high brick walls called slave pens bustled with activity in the areas surrounding the French Quarter. Slave traders forced enslaved men, women, and children to line up…

The Story of Fanny: Escaping Bondage in New Orleans

There were times when enslaved people in New Orleans could no longer bear the intense burden that came with the constant suffering of bondage. Escape became the last hope for some of these slaves despite the dangers that they would surely face if…

The Beaurepaire Family: Freedom to Slavery and Back Again

The house today marked 727-9 Burgundy Street, relatively unchanged since the early 1800s, has a history that reflects the tricky navigation of enslavement and freedom by a family called the Beaurepaires. Louis Beaurepaire, a free man of color, bought…

Congo Square: Mythology and Music

For many Congo Square is the site that inspires the most fantastical images of enslaved life in New Orleans. From the 1840s to the 1880s, intellectuals and artists like George Washington Cable, Louis Gottschalk, and Lafcadio Hearn brought Congo…

St. Louis Hotel & Exchange: Auctioning off Lives

Numerous 19th-century travelers who frequented New Orleans for business and pleasure described the slave auction block in St. Louis Hotel. Sensationalism aside, visitors recorded their surprise at the grandeur and spectacle of the Hotel’s exchange…

Maroons in Antebellum New Orleans: Independence at any Cost

The term ‘Maroon’ refers to enslaved people who ran away from slave owners and remained in the south to join or establish independent, hidden settlements. Maroons utilized the area’s topography to evade capture. While one might expect maroons to…