The History of New Orleans Louisiana

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New Orleans LA has a long and fascinating history. From a conflicted land, it grew to become one of the most important port cities in the world. It has seen many reigns and rulers and has been a home to millions of people from different backgrounds. The road to NOLA’s becoming a flourishing cosmopolitan city was not an easy one. New Orleans endured years of natural disasters, invasions, and conflicts to become what it is today. Let’s briefly explore the story of New Orleans.

The beginnings

The land which makes up the current day New Orleans in Louisiana was the home to indigenous Americans from around 1000BC. Since then, various communities have inhabited and have been uprooted from this place. The French Sailor Robert de La Salle is the first person from the Old World to lay claim to this land. In 1682, he sailed into the River Mississippi and France attributed the place to their nation. Another Frenchman, Jean Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville, laid the official foundation of the place and named it ‘La Nouvelle-Orleans’, the French for New Orleans. The name was given to honor Philip II, Duke of Orleans. In this manner, the city of New Orleans came into being.

Violent storms uprooted the very first settlements. Then in 1722, the first place to undergo construction and development was Place d’Armes, known as Jackson Square today. It remains one of the most important landmarks of modern New Orleans. The area came to be known as Vieux Carré, or Old Town. This is the place that makes up today’s French Quarters.

Under Spanish Control

The colony that the French built for themselves was handed over to Spain shortly after the French arrived there. In 1763, France lost the Seven Years War to Britain. In fear of British invasion, the French handed over the territory to the empire of Spain. Thus began the 39-year Spanish rule on New Orleans. During Spanish rule, there were several conflicts between the French and the Spanish. New Orleans also suffered two terrible incidents of fire breaking out during this reign. The Spanish reign, despite these difficulties, played a key role in establishing New Orleans as a major port city. The Great Fire of 1788 destroyed much of the old New Orleans. The Spanish construction was evidently more European in style, face rise to the “second-generation Creole” style which can still be seen in New Orleans.

The nineteenth century

In 1800 Louisiana was returned to France by Spain. France was not to reign for much longer anyway. Just three years later, in 1803, the ruler of France Napoleon Bonaparte sold New Orleans to the United States of America. The deal was finalized on 20th December 1803. USA had to pay Napoleon a sum of 15 million dollars to buy New Orleans. In 1812, the British forces attempted to invade New Orleans only to be defeated by the American forces.

After the acquisition of New Orleans by the United States, it witnessed rapid growth and a huge number of immigrations. French, Spanish, Creole, Acadian, African, Haitian and Dominguan settlers populated the place in huge numbers. NOLA grew to become the fourth largest city in the United States by 1840.

The Creoles were local-born descendants of past settlers. Many creoles have French ancestry. They were the dominant community and their influence is still visible in the streets of New Orleans. The Creole cottages of the Faubourg Marigny, the Old Ursuline Convent, the former Charity Hospital are all remnants of an old French tradition.

The Civil War and thereafter

In May 1862, Union troops took over Confederate New Orleans and the region was under their rule for the rest of the Civil War. After the Civil War, a racially inclusive Reconstruction-era government sought a progressive state constitution and fought to establish civil rights for freed African-American slaves. White supremacist forces, however, continued racial subjugation after 1877. Then in 1896, the Supreme Court verdict on Plessy versus Ferguson sanctioned “separate but equal” policies.

Towards modernity

In the 1930s New Orleans suffered in the Great Depression like the rest of the country. Economic prosperity was revived by the second world war. A local shipbuilder, Andrew Higgins, developed boats that were very effective in war. These ‘Higgins Boats’ contributed to the economy of New Orleans. They were produced in racially integrated workhouses by many residents of New Orleans.

The late twentieth century saw the rise of tourism in New Orleans. Two of the first tourist attractions built were The New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum in 1972 and The Superdome in 1975.

In 2005, Hurricane Katrina devastated much of New Orleans. It has since recovered steadily and returned to its previous glory.