The Man Who Changed His Skin

Thirty years ago John Howard Griffin, a white Texan, became an itinerant Southern black for four weeks. His account of the experience galvanized the nation.

On a sunny November day in 1959, a tall, brown-haired Texan entered the home of a New Orleans friend. Five days later an unemployed, bald black man walked out. The name of both was John Howard Griffin, and the journey he began that Louisiana evening was to take him to a country farther than any he had ever been in, one bordered only by the shade of its citizens’ skin. Read more »

A Heart’s Love For New Orleans

The modern city plays host to conventions and tourists, but it still retains the slightly racy charm that has always made it dear to its natives

Writers have been good to New Orleans, or maybe it’s the other way around.Read more »

Good Fences

The first settlers marked the borders of their lives with simple fences that grew ever more elaborate over the centuries

Good fences make good neighbors,” wrote Robert Frost, and he meant that fences did more than just enclose space; like his woods and roads, they bounded a social and psychological landscape. That fences also form a kind of historical document is suggested by the photographs on these pages. 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 »

Congo Square

An Inquiry Into the Origins of Jazz

Jazz endures in a special sort of American reserve. Accepted as a part of our national heritage, still it is as if the interior sound of this music prevents most of us from embracing it as fully as we have its derivatives, pop music and rock. We hear in that interior sound an intensity of purpose and also a frustration that fends off our casual familiarity and makes us content with the image of the music rather than its reality.Read more »

Buildings For Sale: Unexpected Beauty From A City Archive

People who have never been to New Orleans usually can name several things that it’s famous for (Mardi Gras, jazz, A Streetcar Named Desire , the Superdome, jambalaya, red beans and rice), but they are apt to have only a hazy notion of what the city looks like. Iron-lace balconies may come to mind, but little else. And yet, for many years—particularly during the ante-bellum era—New Orleans produced some of the most charming, distinctive, and varied architecture in the nation. Read more »

Mules

IN THE DELTA

The low-lying Delta—six and a half million acres of land rich with soil left by the Mississippi and Yazoo rivers in flood—was first opened to a cotton-hungry world in the mid-1820’s. The price of cotton was high. The profitable bluff country along the Mississippi had already been pre-empted. Second sons and questing newcomers were pressing for a chance of their own. Read more »

The Chief Of State And The Chief

In the snarled disputes over the Yazoo land claims in 1790 George Washington and an educated Creek chieftain turned out to be the diplomatic kingpins

Shortly past noon on April 30, 1789, a tall, somber man, dressed in a simple brown suit, was inaugurated as the first President of the United States at Federal Hall in New York City. For the people who watched the ceremony it was a day of celebration and of enthusiastic confidence in the man who now led them. But the emotion that stirred the crowd, the cannon salutes, the cheers, could not soothe the anxiety of the new President.Read more »

Pistols For Two … Coffee For One

“It is astonishing that the murderous practice of Benjamin Franklin. Yet continue it did, duelling should continue so long in vogue,” said often with peculiarly American variations

Few boys survive their school days without using their fists now and then. If these fights are extemporaneous affairs, fought in the immediate heat of anger, they are little more than animal reflex actions. But if they are of the “I’ll see you after school” variety, allowing time for rage to be replaced by trepidation, they become highly complex manifestations of human emotions and social pressures. By the time the young gladiators arrive on the field of combat, usually one or both of them would much prefer to be home watching television.Read more »

Vendetta In New Orleans

The city panicked with fear of the Mafia when the police chief was murdered

The lamplight filtering through the haze and drizzle gave the streets of New Orleans an eerie pallor that October night in 1890. It was nearing midnight when Dave Hennessy, the city’s thirty-two-year-old police chief, left his office and headed home, escorted by an old friend, Captain William O’Connor. There had been threats on Hennessy’s life, but the popular and respected chief took them lightly. When the two men reached Girod Street, where Hennessy lived, the chief told O’Connor it was not necessary to accompany him any farther.Read more »