The Future Of New Orleans

Can the disasters that befell other cities help save this one?

When hurricane Katrina battered down the levees that protected our most fabled big city last September, many of us familiar with America’s “can do” traditions figured it would be a matter of weeks, maybe even days, before the Crescent City was at least on the mend again.

Read more »

What Is Jazz?

Wynton Marsalis believes America is in danger of losing the truest mirror of our national identity. If that’s the case, we are at least fortunate that today jazz’s foremost performer is also its most eloquent advocate.

When Wynton Marsalis burst into the public eye in the early 1980s, it was as a virtuoso trumpet player. From the start he was an articulate talker too, but his bracing opinions were off-thecuff and intuitive; his ideas, like his playing, needed seasoning. In the years since, not only has Marsalis’s music deepened tremendously, his thinking has matured and coalesced to produce a coherent theory of jazz.Read more »

The New Creationists

The foremost student of a belief held by nearly half of all Americans traces its history from Darwin’s bombshell through the storms of the Scopes trial to today’s “scientific creationists”—who find William Jennings Bryan too liberal

The year 1963 brought the death of George McCready Price, whom the science writer Martin Gardner described as “the last and greatest of the anti-evolutionists.” The greatest perhaps, but certainly not the last. That year also witnessed the birth of the Creation Research Society and—more generally—the age of scientific creationism. By the end of the decade battles were being waged over including creationism in public school curricula; the fight culminated in the 1981 court challenge to the Arkansas creationist law. If the proceedings lacked the carnival atmosphere of the 1925 Scopes trial, they compensated by attracting an impressive list of expert witnesses from the ranks of scientists, philosophers, and theologians. Unfavorable court decisions have settled for the moment the issue of equal-time state laws, but creation science as a movement has hardly slowed. Several creation research institutes continue seeking evidence to confute evolution, and the theory’s proponents have evolved new tactics for including special creation in public school curricula. The phenomenon of scientific creationism has evoked a cottage industry of analysts: journalists, sociologists, philosophers of science, theologians, and particularly scientists, who believe they have the most to lose from a theory that denies Darwin. The call to arms that went out among various scientific groups characterized creationists almost uniformly as dangerous quacks who were gulling the public with a specious science.

A True And Delectable History Of Creole Cooking

New Orleans cuisine—with its French roux, African okra, Indian filé, and Spanish peppers—is literally a gastronomic melting pot. Here’s how it all came together.

Across most of America nowadays the term Creole when applied to food variably conjures up images of charred, blackened fish and meat, overbearing, fiery seasonings, and a ubiquitous red sauce not unlike the kind you buy in a can. As a seventh-generation native of south Louisiana, and as a food writer, I join other locals in feeling a twinge of horror at what has befallen my native cuisine since it became the food fad of the eighties.Read more »

FDR And The Kingfish

A brilliant demagogue named Huey Long was scrambling for the Presidency when an assassin’s bullets cut him down just fifty years ago

In May 1932 Louisiana’s flamboyant senator, Huey Pierce Long, told a throng of newspapermen to prepare for a headline-making announcement. After months of temporizing, he was finally ready to reveal whom he would support for his party’s presidential nomination at the upcoming Democratic national convention: his choice was the patrician governor of New York, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. They were an odd couple, and the decision was not one the Kingfish—a nickname borrowed from the popular “Amos ’n Andy” radio show—had come to easily.Read more »

Bernardo De Gálvez

The Forgotten Revolutionary Conquistador Who Saved Louisiana

Imagine, for a moment, an alternate ending to the American Revolution. The thirteen rebel colonies sign a peace of exhaustion with Great Britain in 1783. Instead of a trans-Appalachian nation, with boundaries on the Mississippi, the Americans are restricted to a few river valleys in Tennessee and Kentucky. The Mississippi valley is British, as well as Canada and all the territory north of the Ohio, peopled with hostile Indians whom Britain controls.Read more »

Barataria

With astonishing tenacity, the people of the rich river-mouth region of the Mississippi have remained what and where they are through two and a half centuries

Just a few decades more, or so we are told, and the process of the homogenization of America will have been completed. All regional personalities will have been sanitized out of existence, and the national culture will be a bland, predictable, and packaged product. Probably this is not a prospect we need immediately contemplate. This is a hell of a big country, as the poet Charles Olson said, and it will take considerably more time and enterprise before it can be so reduced.Read more »

The Carpetbagger

A TALE OF RECONSTRUCTION
Of the turbulent career of Pinckney B. S. Pinchback, adventurer, operator, and first black governor of Louisiana. He reminds one powerfully, says the author, of the late Adam Clay ton Powell, Jr.

His name seems pure invention —Pinckney B. S. Pinchback. It sounds so much like pinchbeck , dictionary-defined as “counterfeit or spurious,” that one suspects a joke by political enemies. But the name was genuine, and so was the man, and so was the record. Louisiana voters elected him to important public office at least five times, and for thirty-five days in December of 1872 and January of 1873 he was the governor of Louisiana. And that was a landmark—the highest official position in a state ever achieved by an American black man.Read more »

A Wrecker’s Dozen

There are places on this earth, in Europe particularly, where conservation is taken to mean the preservation of the notable works of man as well as nature. Magnificent old railroad stations and churches, public buildings, historic houses, architectural landmarks of all kinds, are valued for their beauty or for the memories they evoke, for the sense of continuity they give a place, or, often, just because they have been around a long time and a great many people are fond of them. But here in America we don’t—most of us, anyway—seem to feel that way.Read more »

The River Houses

Along the Mississippi the spirit of vanished culture lingers in the ruined columns of the great plantations

In southern Louisiana, along the misty, turbulent lower Mississippi, can be found some of the most evocative relics of the American past. These plantation houses—a few preserved, but most in ruins now, nearly hidden by the humid lushness of cypress and hanging moss—are what remain of the last great non-urban culture in the United States.

 
Read more »