Urban Slavery and Everyday Resistance

Tour curated by: Kate Mason

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.

Locations for Tour

Imagine, being forced into a life of fear under the forced rule of another, losing your home, your family, and your hope. As you exit the ship that has brought you into a new place you realize you are stuck learning to embrace uncertainty. Your life,…

Although Henry Bibb was born into slavery and had been incarcerated in several different facilities, by the time he arrived in 1839, New Orleans was an entirely new type of prison to him. During the major slave-trading season, September through May,…

There were times when enslaved people in New Orleans could no longer bear the intense burden that came with the day in and day out sufferings of a life spent in bondage. Escape became the last hope for some of these slaves despite of the dangers that…

Congo Square is, for many, 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…

The St. Louis Hotel’s slave auction block has been written about by numerous travelers who frequented New Orleans for business and pleasure. Sensationalism aside, visitors seem to have been surprised by the grandeur and spectacle of the Hotel’s…

Maroons were slaves who ran away from their plantations, not to head North to pass as a free person of color, but instead they chose to stay close to home and establish their own independent settlements, utilizing the area’s topography to evade…