New Orleans, A Resilient People: A Reading List

To help the victims of Hurricane Ida, visit these links to learn more about the local organizations who need your financial support in serving those affected:

If you’ve been keeping up with the national news, you may be aware of Hurricane Ida and the destruction it’s caused to New Orleans, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. The strength of the hurricane has now lessened to a tropical depression, but there are still many people without power, food, homes and other important resources. We’ve created this New Orleans-focused reading list in hopes to shed a light on New Orleans past in various ways. While getting assistance to those affected by Hurricane Ida is the most important action that needs to be taken now, we’ve also created this reading list to highlight some of our titles focused on subject matter related to the birthplace of Jazz. The resilience of the people of New Orleans has consistently been an inspiration to us all and we hope that same strength can be found during these trying times.


CRESCENT CITY GIRLS: THE LIVES OF YOUNG BLACK WOMEN IN SEGREGATED NEW ORLEANS

BY LAKISHA MICHELLE SIMMONS

What was it like to grow up black and female in the segregated South? To answer this question, LaKisha Simmons blends social history and cultural studies, recreating children’s streets and neighborhoods within Jim Crow New Orleans and offering a rare look into black girls’ personal lives. Simmons argues that these children faced the difficult task of adhering to middle-class expectations of purity and respectability even as they encountered the daily realities of Jim Crow violence, which included interracial sexual aggression, street harassment, and presumptions of black girls’ impurity.

THE BALLAD OF ROBERT CHARLES: SEARCHING FOR THE NEW ORLEANS RIOT OF 1900

BY K. STEPHEN PRINCE

Prince treats the 1900 New Orleans Riot as a prism through which to explore the everyday and spectacular state-sponsored and extralegal violence plaguing Black lives at the dawn of the twentieth century. In doing so, Prince resurrects the ghosts of a disavowed past to speak to enduring problems of race and the right to the city.

Shirley E. Thompson, University of Texas at Austin

CARIBBEAN NEW ORLEANS: EMPIRE, RACE, AND THE MAKING OF A SLAVE SOCIETY

BY CÉCILE VIDAL

Published by the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture and the University of North Carolina Press

Combining Atlantic and imperial perspectives, Caribbean New Orleans offers a lively portrait of the city and a probing investigation of the French colonists who established racial slavery there as well as the African slaves who were forced to toil for them. Casting early New Orleans as a Caribbean outpost of the French Empire rather than as a North American frontier town, Cécile Vidal reveals the persistent influence of the Antilles, especially Saint-Domingue, which shaped the city’s development through the eighteenth century. In so doing, she urges us to rethink our usual divisions of racial systems into mainland and Caribbean categories.

CRUISING FOR CONSPIRATORS: HOW A NEW ORLEANS DA PROSECUTED THE KENNEDY ASSASSINATION AS A SEX CRIME

BY ALECIA P. LONG

In Cruising for Conspirators Alecia Long offers us a fresh new perspective on an endlessly enthralling subject—the alleged conspiracy behind the assassination of John F. Kennedy—revealing how a pervasive cultural and institutional homophobia shaped the prosecution of the only person ever tried in the affair. This is an engrossing and important book, meticulously researched and profoundly relevant to our country’s ongoing attempts to grapple with the deep-rooted inequities of its past.

Gary Krist, author of The Mirage Factory and Empire of Sin

CITY OF A MILLION DREAMS: A HISTORY OF NEW ORLEANS AT YEAR 300

BY JASON BERRY

In 2015, the beautiful jazz funeral in New Orleans for composer Allen Toussaint coincided with a debate over removing four Confederate monuments. Mayor Mitch Landrieu led the ceremony, attended by living legends of jazz, music aficionados, politicians, and everyday people. The scene captured the history and culture of the city in microcosm–a city legendary for its noisy, complicated, tradition-rich splendor. In City of a Million Dreams, Jason Berry delivers a character-driven history of New Orleans at its tricentennial. Chronicling cycles of invention, struggle, death, and rebirth, Berry reveals the city’s survival as a triumph of diversity, its map-of-the-world neighborhoods marked by resilience despite hurricanes, epidemics, fires, and floods.