Learn more about the history of New Orleans

If you’re interested in the history of New Orleans, there are a few things you can do to learn more. These places will help you understand how the city was founded and how it became what it is today.

The city was a melting pot of cultures, with Europeans, Native Americans, Freed Slave people, and Spanish immigrants. These influences are still visible in the culture, music, food and architecture.

History of New Orleans

From the time it was founded in 1718 until its purchase by the United States in 1803, New Orleans’s history is a tale of conflict, romance, intrigue and inspiration. This 300-year history is a colorful marinade of Spanish, French and Caribbean influences that has shaped the Creole culture that dominates today’s city.

During its early days, Creole society was made up of French aristocrats, farmers, soldiers, indentured servants and enslaved African and Caribbean people. This generous-for-its-time attitude toward race shaped New Orleans’s unique identity.

French colony

New Orleans is a thriving city that is still influenced by aspects of French and European culture, including language, food and architecture. This history is a big part of what makes New Orleans special and unique, and it’s worth learning more about.

The French colony in Louisiana began at the turn of the 17th century when explorers Jean-Baptise Le Moyne, Sieur d’Iberville and Pierre le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville arrived with expeditioners and soldiers. They set up camp in the Mississippi Delta, aiming to establish a trading center for France.

Slave trade

The Transatlantic Slave Trade was an incredibly cruel and heinous practice that forced millions of people of African descent to live in slave states, separated from their families and communities. These people were deprived of their property, their money, their documents and much more.

New Orleans, like many other ports in the South, was a major center of the slave trade. Slaves were bought and sold citywide, in auction blocks in the sumptuous rotunda of the St. Louis Hotel, private homes, public parks, decks of ships moored along the Mississippi River and high-walled slave pens.

Civil War

When the Civil War broke out, New Orleans was a major Confederate port. It was also the largest slave market in the country.

The enslaved population of the city was a vital part of the infrastructure and culture of New Orleans. They worked in fields, built homes, and provided medicine for the city’s population.

After the Civil War, a large number of free people of color began to move into the city. These people fought for racial equality and political reform. However, white supremacist forces began to push Black people back into the shadows.

Civil Rights movement

During the Civil Rights movement, New Orleans was a hotbed of activism. Local churches, national civil rights organizations, and college students organized to protest segregation through nonviolent means.

While the movement was a success in gaining equal rights for Black people, it also had its own setbacks. Some of these included the removal of public housing and the privatization of schools, which were largely run by Black people.

However, the city was able to survive these challenges because of the leadership of courageous individuals in the Black community. Through their efforts, these activists helped develop a local network that nurtured and sustained their work.

Post-World War II

The post-World War II era marked an important turning point in New Orleans’s history. After decades of racial subjugation, Black residents became more active in the civil rights movement and began challenging school segregation.

In a 2008 essay, Amy R. Sumpter explains that in 1862, “free people of color had accumulated considerable wealth and were famous for their skilled labor throughout the city.”

They were also targets of nativist abuse by the American Party (also known nationally as the Know-Nothing Party). By employing native-born thugs, the American Party shut down immigrant voting in 1860 and 1860.


The city of New Orleans was devastated by Hurricane Katrina, but it still retains a sense of pride in its heritage and people. The city has also grown into a center for entrepreneurship and socially conscious young people.

However, many locals fear that gentrification and rising rents are undermining the culture of New Orleans. They worry about the impact on black and Hispanic neighborhoods, and they say the city’s focus on the tourism industry has been too focused on luxury development.