New Orleans (Template:IPAc-en or Template:IPAc-en, locally Template:IPAc-en or Template:IPAc-en; Template:Lang-fr Template:IPA-fr) is a major United States port and the largest city and metropolitan area in the state of Louisiana. The New Orleans metropolitan area, (New Orleans–Metairie–Kenner) has a population of 1,235,650 as of 2009, the 46th largest in the USA. The New Orleans – Metairie – Bogalusa combined statistical area has a population of 1,360,436 as of 2000. The city/parish alone has a population of 343,829 as of 2010.

The city is named after Philippe d'Orléans, Duke of Orléans, Regent of France, and is well known for its distinct French Creole architecture, as well as its cross cultural and multilingual heritage.[1] New Orleans is also famous for its cuisine, music (particularly as the birthplace of jazz),[2][3] and its annual celebrations and festivals, most notably Mardi Gras. The city is often referred to as the "most unique"[4] city in America.[5][6][7][8][9]

New Orleans is located in southeastern Louisiana, straddling the Mississippi River. The boundaries of the city and Orleans Parish (Template:Lang-fr) are coterminous.[10] The city and parish are bounded by the parishes of St. Tammany to the north, St. Bernard to the east, Plaquemines to the south and Jefferson to the south and west.[10][11][12] Lake Pontchartrain, part of which is included in the city limits, lies to the north and Lake Borgne lies to the east.[12]


Main article: History of New Orleans

Beginnings through the 19th centuryEdit

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La Nouvelle-Orléans (New Orleans) was founded May 7, 1718, by the French Mississippi Company, under the direction of Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville, on land inhabited by the Chitimacha. It was named for Philippe d'Orléans, Duke of Orléans, who was Regent of France at the time. His title came from the French city of Orléans. The French colony was ceded to the Spanish Empire in the Treaty of Paris (1763). During the American Revolutionary War, New Orleans was an important port to smuggle aid to the rebels, transporting military equipment and supplies up the Mississippi River. Bernardo de Gálvez y Madrid, Count of Gálvez launched the southern campaign against the British from the city in 1779.[13] New Orleans remained under Spanish control until 1801, when it reverted to French control. Nearly all of the surviving 18th century architecture of the Vieux Carré (French Quarter) dates from this Spanish period. (The most notable exception being the Old Ursuline Convent.)[14] Napoleon sold the territory to the United States in the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. Thereafter, the city grew rapidly with influxes of Americans, French, Creoles, Irish, Germans and Africans. Major commodity crops of sugar and cotton were cultivated with slave labor on large plantations outside the city.

File:Battle of New Orleans.jpg

The Haitian Revolution of 1804 in what was then the French colony of St. Domingue established the second republic in the Western Hemisphere and the first led by blacks. Haitian refugees, both white and free people of color (affranchis or gens de couleur libres), arrived in New Orleans, often bringing slaves with them. While Governor Claiborne and other officials wanted to keep out more free black men, French Creoles wanted to increase the French-speaking population. As more refugees were allowed in Louisiana, Haitian émigrés who had gone to Cuba also arrived. Nearly 90 percent of the new immigrants settled in New Orleans. The 1809 migration brought 2,731 whites; 3,102 free persons of African descent; and 3,226 enslaved refugees to the city, doubling its French-speaking population.[15] Many of these white francophones were deported by officials in Cuba in response to Bonapartist schemes in Spain.[16]

During the last campaign of the War of 1812, the British sent a force of 11,000 soldiers in an attempt to capture New Orleans. Despite great challenges, the young Andrew Jackson successfully cobbled together a motley crew of local militia, free blacks, US Army regulars, Kentucky riflemen, and local privateers to decisively defeat the British troops, led by Sir Edward Pakenham, in the Battle of New Orleans on January 8, 1815. The armies were unaware that the Treaty of Ghent had already ended the war on December 24, 1814.

As a principal port, New Orleans played a major role during the antebellum era in the Atlantic slave trade. Its port handled huge quantities of commodities for export from the interior and imported goods from other countries, which were warehoused and then transferred in New Orleans to smaller vessels and distributed the length and breadth of the vast Mississippi River watershed. The river in front of the city was filled with steamboats, flatboats, and sailing ships. Despite its dealings with the slave trade, New Orleans at the same time had the largest and most prosperous community of free persons of color in the nation, who were often educated and middle-class property owners.[2][17]

Dwarfing in population the other cities in the antebellum South, New Orleans had, consequently, the largest slave market. Two-thirds of the more than one million slaves brought to the Deep South arrived via the forced migration of the internal slave trade. The money generated by sales of slaves in the Upper South has been estimated at fifteen percent of the value of the staple crop economy. The slaves represented half a billion dollars in property, and an ancillary economy grew up around the trade in slavesTemplate:Mdash for transportation, housing and clothing, fees, etc., estimated at 13.5 percent of the price per person. All of this amounted to tens of billions of dollars (2005 dollars adjusted for inflation!) during the antebellum period, with New Orleans as a prime beneficiary.[18]


According to historian Paul Lachance, “the addition of white immigrants to the white creole population enabled French-speakers to remain a majority of the white population until almost 1830. If a substantial proportion of free persons of color and slaves had not also spoken French, however, the Gallic community would have become a minority of the total population as early as 1820.”[19] Large numbers of German and Irish immigrants began arriving at this time. The population of the city doubled in the 1830s and by 1840 New Orleans had become the wealthiest and third-most populous city in the nation.[20]

The Union captured New Orleans early in the American Civil War, sparing the city the destruction suffered by many other cities of the American South.[21]

In the 1850s white Francophones remained an intact and vibrant community, maintaining instruction in French in two of the city's four school districts.[22] As the Creole elite feared, however, this changed with the Civil War; in 1862 French instruction in schools was abolished by Union general Ben Butler, and teaching of the language was forbidden in schools in 1868.[22] By the end of the 19th century French usage in the city had faded significantly,[23] although as late as 1945 one still encountered elderly Creole women who spoke no English.[24]

During Reconstruction New Orleans was within the Fifth Military District of the United States. Louisiana was readmitted to the Union in 1868, and its Constitution of 1868 granted universal manhood suffrage. Due to the state's large African American population, many blacks held public office. In 1872, then-lieutenant governor P.B.S. Pinchback succeeded Henry Clay Warmouth as governor of Louisiana, becoming the first non-white governor of a U.S. state, and the last African American to lead a U.S. state until Douglas Wilder's election in Virginia, 117 years later. In New Orleans, Reconstruction was marked by the horrible Mechanics Institute race riot (1866) but also by the successful operation of a fully racially-integrated public school system. Meanwhile, the city's economy struggled to right itself after practically grinding to a halt upon the declaration of war in 1861, the nationwide Panic of 1873 conspiring to severely retard economic recovery.

Reconstruction ended in Louisiana in 1877, and white southern Democrats, the so-called Redeemers, succeeded in stripping power from the Republican Party and gradually circumscribing the only recently acquired civil rights of African Americans. In New Orleans, the public schools were resegregated and remained so until 1960.

New Orleans' large community of well-educated, often French-speaking free persons of color (gens de couleur libres), who had not been enslaved prior to the Civil War, sought to fight back against the incipient forces of Jim Crow. As part of their ongoing campaign, they recruited one of their own, Homer Plessy, to test whether Louisiana's newly enacted Separate Car Act was constitutional. Plessy duly boarded a commuter train departing New Orleans for Covington, Louisiana, sat in the car reserved for whites only and was arrested. The case spawned by this incident, Plessy v. Ferguson, was heard by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1896. The court, in finding that "separate but equal" accommodations were constitutional, strengthened by effectively consecrating the already-underway Jim Crow movement. The ruling was a key development in the nadir of race relations reached during this period.

20th centuryEdit


New Orleans reached its most consequential position as an economic and population center in relation to other American cities in the decades prior to 1860; as late as that year it was the nation's fifth-largest city and by far the largest in the American South.[25] Though New Orleans continued to grow in size, from the mid-19th century onwards, first the emerging industrial and railroad hubs of the Midwest overtook the city in population, then the rapidly growing metropolises of the Pacific Coast in the decades before and after the turn of the 20th century, then other Sun Belt cities in the South and West in the post–World War II period surpassed New Orleans in population.[25] Consequently, New Orleans has periodically mounted attempts to regain its economic vigor and pre-eminence over the past 150 years, with varying degrees of success.

By the mid-20th century, New Orleanians were observing with concern that the city was even ceding its traditional ranking as the leading urban area in the South. By 1950, Houston, Dallas and Atlanta had surpassed New Orleans in size, and 1960 witnessed Miami's eclipse of New Orleans, even as New Orleans' population was recorded as reaching its historic peak by the 1960 Census.[25] Like most older American cities in this period, New Orleans' center city commenced losing inhabitants, though the New Orleans metropolitan area continued expanding in population – just never as rapidly as its metropolitan peers in the Sun Belt. While the port remained one of the largest in the nation, automation and containerization resulted in significant job losses. The city's relative fall in stature meant that its former role as banker and financial services provider to the South was inexorably supplanted by competing companies in its now-larger peer cities. New Orleans' economy was always more of a trade-based, commercial entrepot than manufacturing powerhouse, but the city's smallish manufacturing sector also shrank in the post–World War II period. Despite some economic development successes under the administrations of DeLesseps "Chep" Morrison (1946–1961) and Vic Schiro (1961–1970), metropolitan New Orleans' growth rate consistently lagged behind the more vigorous Sun Belt cities.


During the later years of Morrison's administration, and for the entirety of Schiro's, the city struggled to digest the ramifications of the legal enfranchisement of its sizable African-American population. New Orleans was very much at the center of the Civil Rights struggle. The SCLC was founded in the city, lunch counter sit-ins were held in Canal Street stores, and a very prominent and ugly series of confrontations occurred when the city attempted school desegregation, in 1960. That episode witnessed the first occasion of a black child attending an all-white elementary school in the South, when six year-old Ruby Bridges integrated William Frantz Elementary School in the city's Ninth Ward. The Civil Rights movement's success in realizing the desegregation of public facilities and schools, and the enfranchisement of the black voter, constituted the most significant event in New Orleans' 20th century history.[26] Though legal equality was established by the end of the 1960s, a yawning gap in income levels and educational attainment persisted between the city's white and black communities.[27] The effects of this gap were amplified by accelerating white flight, as the city's population grew poorer and blacker. New Orleans' political leadership, from 1980 onwards firmly in the hands of its African-American majority, struggled to narrow this gap by creating conditions conducive to the economic uplift of the black community.

New Orleans became increasingly dependent on tourism as an economic mainstay, arguably fatally so by the administrations of Sidney Barthelemy (1986–1994) and Marc Morial (1994–2002). Unimpressive levels of educational attainment, high rates of household poverty and rising crime became increasingly problematic in the later decades of the century,[27] with the negative effects of these socioeconomic conditions newly amplified as the United States economy increasingly rested upon a post-industrial, knowledge-based paradigm where brains were far more important than brawn.


The turn of the 20th century witnessed one of the earlier episodes in the ongoing series of energetic recommitments to jump-starting economic growth on the part of New Orleans' government and business leaders. The most portentous development during this period was a drainage plan devised by engineer and inventor A. Baldwin Wood and designed to break the surrounding swamp's stranglehold on the city's geographic expansion. Until then, urban development in New Orleans was largely limited to higher ground along the natural river levees and bayous. Wood's pump system allowed the city to drain huge tracts of swamp and marshland and expand into low-lying areas. Over the 20th century, rapid subsidence, both natural and human-induced, left these newly populated areas several feet below sea level.[28][29]

New Orleans was vulnerable to flooding even before the city's footprint departed from the natural high ground near the Mississippi River. In the late 20th century, however, scientists and New Orleans residents gradually became aware of the city's increased vulnerability. In 1965, Hurricane Betsy killed dozens of residents, even though the majority of the city remained dry. The rain-induced flood of May 8, 1995 demonstrated the weakness of the pumping system. After that event, measures were undertaken to dramatically upgrade pumping capacity. By the 1980s and 90s, it was worrisomely clear that extensive, rapid and ongoing erosion of the marshlands and swamp surrounding New Orleans especially that related to the Mississippi River – Gulf Outlet Canal had left the city far more exposed to hurricane-induced catastrophic storm surges than it had ever before been in its history.

21st centuryEdit

Hurricane KatrinaEdit

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File:Navy flooded New Orleans 20050901 trim.jpg

New Orleans was catastrophically impacted by what the University of California Berkeley's Dr. Raymond B. Seed called “the worst engineering disaster in the world since Chernobyl” when the Federal levee system failed catastrophically during Hurricane Katrina in 2005.[30] By the time the hurricane approached the city at the end of August 2005, most residents had evacuated. As the hurricane passed through the Gulf Coast region, the city's federal flood protection system failed, resulting in the worst civil engineering disaster in American history.[31] Floodwalls and levees constructed by the United States Army Corps of Engineers failed below design specifications and 80% of the city flooded. Tens of thousands of residents who had remained in the city were rescued or otherwise made their way to shelters of last resort at the Louisiana Superdome or the New Orleans Morial Convention Center. Over 1,500 people died in Louisiana and some are still unaccounted for.[32] Hurricane Katrina called for the first mandatory evacuation in the city's history, the second of which came 3 years later with Hurricane Gustav.

Hurricane RitaEdit

Main article: Hurricane Rita

The city was declared off-limits to residents while efforts to clean up after Hurricane Katrina began. The approach of Hurricane Rita in September 2005 caused repopulation efforts to be postponed,[33] and the Lower Ninth Ward was reflooded by Rita's storm surge.

Post-disaster recoveryEdit

Main article: Reconstruction of New Orleans

The Census Bureau in July 2006 estimated the population of New Orleans to be 223,000; a subsequent study estimated that 32,000 additional residents had moved to the city as of March 2007, bringing the estimated population to 255,000, approximately 56% of the pre-Katrina population level. Another estimate, based on data on utility usage from July 2007, estimated the population to be approximately 274,000 or 60% of the pre-Katrina population. These estimates are somewhat smaller than a third estimate, based on mail delivery records, from the Greater New Orleans Community Data Center in June 2007, which indicated that the city had regained approximately two-thirds of its pre-Katrina population.[34] In 2008, the Census Bureau revised upward its population estimate for the city, to 336,644.[35] Most recently, 2010 estimates show that neighborhoods that did not flood are near 100% of their pre-Katrina populations, and in some cases, exceed 100% of their pre-Katrina populations.[36]

Several major tourist events and other forms of revenue for the city have returned. Large conventions are being held again, such as those held by the American Library Association and American College of Cardiology.[37][38] College football events such as the Bayou Classic, New Orleans Bowl, and Sugar Bowl returned for the 2006–2007 season. The New Orleans Saints returned that season as well, following speculation of a move. The New Orleans Hornets returned to the city fully for the 2007–2008 season, having partially spent the 2006–2007 season in Oklahoma City. New Orleans successfully hosted the 2008 NBA All-Star Game and the 2008 BCS National Championship Game. The city hosted the first and second rounds of the 2007 NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament. New Orleans and Tulane University will be hosting the Final Four Championship in 2012.

Major annual events such as Mardi Gras and the Jazz & Heritage Festival were never displaced or cancelled. Also, an entirely new annual festival, "The Running of the Bulls New Orleans," was created in 2007.[39]


File:Landsat new orleans nfl.jpg

New Orleans is located at Template:Coord (29.964722, −90.070556)Template:GR on the banks of the Mississippi River, approximately Template:Convert upriver from the Gulf of Mexico. According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of Template:Convert, of which Template:Convert, or 51.55%, is land.[40]

The city is located in the Mississippi River Delta on the east and west banks of the Mississippi River and south of Lake Pontchartrain. The area along the river is characterized by ridges and hollows.

New Orleans was originally settled on the natural levees or high ground, along the Mississippi River. After the Flood Control Act of 1965, the United States Army Corps of Engineers built floodwalls and man-made levees around a much larger geographic footprint that included previous marshland and swamp. Whether or not this human interference has caused subsidence is a topic of debate. A study by an associate professor at Tulane University claims: Template:Cquote

On the other hand, a report by the American Society of Civil Engineers claims that "New Orleans is subsiding (sinking)":[41]Template:Cquote

File:New Orleans Levee System.svg

A recent study by Tulane and Xavier University notes that 51% of New Orleans is at or above sea level, with the more densely populated areas generally on higher ground. The average elevation of the city is currently between one and two feet (0.5 m) below sea level, with some portions of the city as high as Template:Convert at the base of the river levee in Uptown and others as low as Template:Convert below sea level in the farthest reaches of Eastern New Orleans.[42]

In 2005, storm surge from Hurricane Katrina caused catastrophic failure of the federally designed and built levees, flooding 80% of the city.[43][44] A report by the American Society of Civil Engineers says that "had the levees and floodwalls not failed and had the pump stations operated, nearly two-thirds of the deaths would not have occurred".[41]

New Orleans has always had to consider the risk of hurricanes, but the risks are dramatically greater today due to coastal erosion from human interference.[45] Since the beginning of the 20th century, it has been estimated that Louisiana has lost Template:Convert of coast (including many of its barrier islands), which once protected New Orleans against storm surge. Following Hurricane Katrina, the United States Army Corps of Engineers has instituted massive levee repair and hurricane protection measures to protect the city.

In 2006, Louisiana voters overwhelmingly adopted an amendment to the state's constitution to dedicate all revenues from off-shore drilling to restore Louisiana's eroding coast line.[46] Congress has allocated $7 billion to bolster New Orleans' flood protection.[47]

According to a study by the National Academy of Engineering and the National Research Council, Levees and floodwalls surrounding New Orleans—no matter how large or sturdy—cannot provide absolute protection against overtopping or failure in extreme events. Levees and floodwalls should be viewed as a way to reduce risks from hurricanes and storm surges, not as measures that completely eliminate risk. For structures in hazardous areas and residents who do not relocate, the committee recommended major floodproofing measures—such as elevating the first floor of buildings to at least the 100-year flood level.[48]

National protected areasEdit


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