|The Streets They Walked:
New Orleans for the Historical Explorer
Keith Weldon Medley
Welcome to old New Orleans. Settled by the French in 1718 as a strategic outpost near the mouth of the Mississippi River, New Orleans has become renowned for its well-into-the-night life, diverse musical offerings, festivals, Mardi Gras celebrations, Creole cuisine, nineteenth century neighborhoods, and romantic strolls along the Mississippi River. As the birthplace of Jazz with 17 National Register Historic Districts, and the hometown of Louis Armstrong and Mahalia Jackson, the city continues to offer natives and visitors an entwined menage a trois of history, architecture, and culture. Since the city’s neighborhood layouts have not appreciably changed since their inception, visitors can often go to the very place where historical events occurred and visit addresses that housed the city’s historic individuals and institutions. It is a place where visitors can walk many of the same streets that Orleanians have walked over the last 275 years.
People of African descent – enslaved and free - have been in New Orleans since its earliest days. Between the years 1718 and 1722, boatloads of Africans from the Senegambia region of Western Africa arrived at the rare piece of high ground on the Mississippi near the Gulf of Mexico. Along with outcasts from French society, their common unenviable task was to carve a French outpost from the inhospitable environment of the Louisiana swamps. Since that time, people of African descent have made a tremendous impact on the construction, survival, defense, and culture of the city that was called la ville de la Nouvelle Orleans.
French Quarter – Louisiana State Museum
The French Quarter is the site of the original City of New Orleans...