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Louisiana History, Language and Culture

History of Louisiana

Europeans first ventured into modern day Louisiana in 1528 while Spanish explorers surveyed the land of the Mississippi River. Around 15 years later, after Hernando de Soto had followed the river to the Gulf of Mexico the land remained vacant of colonial forces until the 17th century, when French expeditions claimed the land around the Mississippi and Gulf. They established the first settlement of Fort Maurepas in 1699.

The French began to establish settlements along the banks of the river, and Natchitoches and New Orleans became large river ports used to trade with the Spanish in nearby Texas. During the mid-1700s, thousands of slaves arrived in Louisiana to support the growing plantations in the region.

Louisiana fell under Spanish control after the Seven Years’ War in 1763, but was returned to the French under Napoleon in 1800. Then, when Napoleon sold the territory to the then United States, modern day Louisiana was split into the Territory of Orleans and the District of Louisiana. During this time, thousands came to America from Haiti after the revolution in 1804, creating a large Creole community in New Orleans and other parts of the region.

Louisiana was admitted to the United States in 1812. New Orleans became a popular international port because of its proximity to the Mississippi; cotton and sugar were the major exports and slavery became a huge industry in New Orleans, and Louisiana as a whole.

During the Civil war, Louisiana, like other southern states, seceded from the north to form the Confederate States of America. Louisiana, however, quickly fell to the Union forces and was placed under northern military supervision after slavery was abolished following the war in 1865.

The large African-American population in Louisiana suffered from gross inequality throughout the late 1800s and early 1900s; they had little representation, lack of funding for schools and public services, and due to disenfranchisement, had little representation in local or federal government.

Social inequality remained in Louisiana until the expansion of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 60s. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965 gave African-American residents equal opportunity, and for many, the first opportunity to vote freely.

In 2005, New Orleans was devastated by Hurricane Katrina, which flooded over 80% of the city and caused widespread evacuation across the state. The devastating storm, which took the lives of over 1,500 New Orleans residents, was a national tragedy and the city and state as a whole are slowly rebuilding after the destruction.

Louisiana Culture

Religion in Louisiana

An overwhelming majority of Louisiana residents identify as Christian, and the largest of that group being Roman Catholic. Protestant groups make up the rest, with Baptist and Methodist being larger denominations. Small groups of Jewish, Muslim, and Eastern religions exist as well.

Social Conventions in Louisiana

The Mardi Gras celebration in New Orleans is world renowned. Originally a French celebration, Mardi Gras occurs on Fat Tuesday (the day before Ash Wednesday) and huge parades occur throughout the city, and many on the famous Bourbon Street.

Creole culture is very widespread throughout Louisiana. Music and food are huge parts of Creole life; Blues and jazz are popular musical styles and Creole food (similar to Cajun) is widespread in the region, with dishes like gumbo (a Creole seafood stew) and jambalaya (sausage and seafood cooked with rice and stock) being popular.

Language in Louisiana

Louisiana does not have an official language, though the majority of residents speak English. French is also very prevalent in the region, and French Creole and Spanish Creole are still spoken in some areas.