What It Means to Be American
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Explore : New Orleans

Identities

The Voodoo Priestess Whose Celebrity Foretold America’s Future

Marie Laveau, the Self-Invented New Orleans Prophetess, Blurred the Sacred and Profane While Presiding Over a Multiracial Following 

By Adrian Shirk
November 28, 2018

Any tourist who rolls into New Orleans’s French Quarter eventually finds themselves standing before a Bourbon Street botanica called Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo. It’s a small shop, and the front window is cluttered with the materials of a spirit altar: candy, bones, saint figurines, jewelry, sugar skulls, and a small porcelain statuette of the woman in blue herself, wearing her signature orange tignon: Marie Laveau.

Wander inside the shop, and you’ll find every surface packed with totems, oils, potions, pendants, …

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Identities

The Notorious, Mixed-Race New Orleans Madam Who Turned Her Identity Into a Brand

By Repackaging the Myths of the Tragic Octoroon and the Self-Made Woman, Lulu White Crafted a Persona That Haunts Beyoncé's "Formation"

By Emily Epstein Landau
October 1, 2018

In 2016, music and pop-culture idol Beyoncé released the album Lemonade to rapturous reviews. As a historian of New Orleans, I was especially intrigued by the video for one of the songs on the album, “Formation.” The video includes iconic images of the city: Katrina flood waters and post-flood graffiti; “second-lines”; marching bands; crawfish eating; and even a dancing “Mardi Gras Indian.” As we move through various neighborhoods, we visit a church service, a St. Charles Avenue mansion, and, in …

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Encounters

An L.A. Woman Embraces Her Ancestral New Orleans Home

How Family Reunions Revealed That My Grandparents’ Stories Are My Own

By Lynell George
July 27, 2017

Zigzagging through the crush of rush-hour commuters at L.A.’s Union Station, I’m hoping to make up for lost time. Suddenly, out of the edges of my vision, a man crosses in front of me, planting himself directly in my path. In a broad-brimmed Panama hat, cream-colored slacks and shoes to match, he’s a vision of not just another place, but another era.

“Where you from?” he asks.

I hold him in my gaze just long enough to assess the question:  …

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Identities

New Orleans Is My Second Language

We Lived in Los Angeles, But My Mother’s Songs, Stories, Cooking—and Most of All the Way She Spoke—Made Louisiana Feel Like Home

New Orleans Is My Second Language

By Lynell George
September 22, 2014

For a time, most likely between the ages of 5 and 8, I floated around with a secret: a dogged yet utterly erroneous notion that my family spoke a second language—on my mother’s side at least.

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