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Race and Place in a New Orleans Neighborhood

Michael E. Crutcher Jr.

Publication Year: 2010

Across Rampart Street from the French Quarter, the Faubourg Tremé neighborhood is arguably the most important location for African American culture in New Orleans. Closely associated with traditional jazz and “second line” parading, Tremé is now the setting for an eponymous television series created by David Simon (best known for his work on The Wire).
Michael Crutcher argues that Tremé’s story is essentially spatial—a story of how neighborhood boundaries are drawn and take on meaning and of how places within neighborhoods are made and unmade by people and politics. Tremé has long been sealed off from more prominent parts of the city, originally by the fortified walls that gave Rampart Street its name, and so has become a refuge for less powerful New Orleanians. This notion of Tremé as a safe haven—the flipside of its reputation as a “neglected” place—has been essential to its role as a cultural incubator, Crutcher argues, from the antebellum slave dances in Congo Square to jazz pickup sessions at Joe’s Cozy Corner.
Tremé takes up a wide range of issues in urban life, including highway construction, gentrification, and the role of public architecture in sustaining collective memory. Equally sensitive both to black-white relations and to differences within the African American community, it is a vivid evocation of one of America’s most distinctive places.

Published by: University of Georgia Press

Series: Geographies of Justice and Social Transformation


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pp. vii-xii

In the summer of 1992, prior to my senior year at the University of Kentucky, I found myself in Baton Rouge on the campus of Louisiana State University. I was participating in a program, sponsored by the Association of American Geographers, designed to encourage "talented minority and disadvantaged students" to pursue graduate degrees in geography. As in most academic disciplines, ...

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pp. xiii-xiv

Writing this book has been a long journey that began here in Lexington Kentucky and took me to Louisiana, only to find me back in Lexington. Along the way, I was helped by more people than I can ever thank. Most important have been members of my family, who have been completely supportive of my academic career if not always sure what all it entailed outside of teaching. ...

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pp. 1-9

It was a dark day in New Orleans's Tremé neighborhood, perhaps the darkest since the Claiborne Avenue oak trees were felled nearly forty years earlier to make way for Interstate Highway 10. On 18 January 2004, "Papa" Joe Glasper, owner of a Tremé neighborhood bar, Joe's Cozy Corner, confronted street vendor Richard Gullette and demanded that Gullette stop selling beer outside ...

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CHAPTER 1. Creating Black Tremé

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pp. 10-19

Stepping out of New Orleans's lower French Quarter, one crosses Rampart Street and enters the Faubourg Tremé.1 The quick crossing into Faubourg Tremé may be thought of as simply leaving one neighborhood for another—tourist for residential, affluent for poor, white for black, safe for dangerous, dangerous for deadly. In fact, one crosses several boundaries and enters many landscapes. ...

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CHAPTER 2. Afro-Creole Tremé

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pp. 20-36

In 1809, the New Orleans newspaper La Gazette ran a short one-column-wide article announcing the arrival of a shipload of destitute Cuban immigrants to the port of New Orleans.1 The article was little more than a nineteenth-century press release. It provided no context for the immigrants' arrival and in no way speculated on the impact on or future importance of the migrants ...

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CHAPTER 3. The Clearance for High Culture

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pp. 37-49

In 1919, New Orleans's French Opera House burned to the ground. The Bourbon Street venue had recently emerged from several years of financial hardship brought on by World War I. The fire ended one of Creole New Orleans's most proud and long-standing institutions. From the late eighteenth century onward, New Orleanians of all classes had enjoyed the opera. Creoles of color, ...

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CHAPTER 4. Killing Claiborne's Avenue

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pp. 50-65

During the 1960s, construction of the interstate highway system resulted in roadways that spanned the American landscape and cut through major cities. In many of these cities, planners took advantage of African Americans' marginal status to run highways through their neighborhoods, wiping out residential areas as well as business districts.1 Among the casualties was New Orleans's ...

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CHAPTER 5. A Park for Louis

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pp. 66-81

On 6 July 1971, renowned musician Louis Armstrong passed away in his modest Queens, New York, home, as a consequence of a massive heart attack suffered in his sleep. Born in New Orleans at the dawn of the twentieth century, Armstrong matured hand in hand with jazz music. When jazz migrated north from New Orleans, Armstrong followed, and he is arguably the most important ...

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CHAPTER 6. National Park Savior

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pp. 82-95

One night in 1998, I walked into the Tremé Community Center at 900 North Villere for the first time. The building looked older than its twenty years. I had yet to uncover the center's history or the explanation for its substandard construction. I was visiting the center to attend a community meeting organized by the National Park Service (NPS) at which officials would announce ...

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CHAPTER 7. Saving Black Tremé

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pp. 96-113

On 23 November 2003, I found myself at a second-line parade in Downtown New Orleans. This is not the Downtown referred to in previous chapters—the Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Wards—but the Ninth Ward, which is way Downtown. It was the first Ninth Ward second-line parade in which I had participated during the half dozen years I had followed the tradition.1 On that Sunday ...

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Epilogue. Post-Katrina Tremé

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pp. 114-126

As I do every year, I spent much of the summer of 2005 in New Orleans. Summer in the city is not necessarily pleasant, since the heat and humidity stifle much of what is good about being there. My visit, however, was quite productive, as I collected information and conducted interviews to round out the story of Tremé. I also attended a city council meeting convened explicitly ...


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pp. 127-138


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pp. 139-156


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pp. 157-166

E-ISBN-13: 9780820337609
E-ISBN-10: 0820337609
Print-ISBN-13: 9780820335940
Print-ISBN-10: 0820335940

Page Count: 204
Illustrations: 8 b&w photos, 1 map
Publication Year: 2010

Series Title: Geographies of Justice and Social Transformation
Series Editor Byline: Nik Heynen, Deborah Cowen, and Melissa W. Wright, Series Editors See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 682614078
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Treme

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • African Americans -- Race identity -- Louisiana -- New Orleans.
  • African Americans -- Louisiana -- New Orleans -- Social conditions.
  • Urban policy -- Louisiana -- New Orleans.
  • Community life -- Louisiana -- New Orleans.
  • Community development -- Louisiana -- New Orleans.
  • African American neighborhoods -- Louisiana -- New Orleans.
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