New Orleans on Parade
Tourism and the Transformation of the Crescent City
Publication Year: 2013
New Orleans on Parade tells the story of the Big Easy in the twentieth century. In this urban biography, J. Mark Souther explores the Crescent City's architecture, music, food and alcohol, folklore and spiritualism, Mardi Gras festivities, and illicit sex commerce in revealing how New Orleans became a city that parades itself to visitors and residents alike.
Stagnant between the Civil War and World War II -- a period of great expansion nationally -- New Orleans unintentionally preserved its distinctive physical appearance and culture. Though business, civic, and government leaders tried to pursue conventional modernization in the 1940s, competition from other Sunbelt cities as well as a national economic shift from production to consumption gradually led them to seize on tourism as the growth engine for future prosperity, giving rise to a veritable gumbo of sensory attractions. A trend in historic preservation and the influence of outsiders helped fan this newfound identity, and the city's residents learned to embrace rather than disdain their past.
A growing reliance on the tourist trade fundamentally affected social relations in New Orleans. African Americans were cast as actors who shaped the culture that made tourism possible while at the same time they were exploited by the local power structure. As black leaders' influence increased, the white elite attempted to keep its traditions -- including racial inequality -- intact, and race and class issues often lay at the heart of controversies over progress. Once the most tolerant diverse city in the South and the nation, New Orleans came to lag behind the rest of the country in pursuing racial equity.
Souther traces the ascendancy of tourism in New Orleans through the final decades of the twentieth century and beyond, examining the 1984 World's Fair, the collapse of Louisiana's oil industry in the eighties, and the devastating blow dealt by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Narrated in a lively style and resting on a bedrock of research, New Orleans on Parade is a landmark book that allows readers to fully understand the image-making of the Big Easy.
Published by: Louisiana State University Press
Series: Making the Modern South
About the Series, Frontispiece, Title Page, Copyright, Dedication
PREFACE TO THE PAPERBACK EDITION
New Orleans on Parade was in press when Hurricane Katrina struck the Crescent City. About a thousand miles away, along the south shore of Lake Erie, I struggled in a hastily composed postscript to make sense of the epic devastation on the south shore of Lake Pontchartrain. Lacking a crystal ball and hampered by two years’...
The publication of New Orleans on Parade not only represents the culmination of a book project but also reflects professional and personal relationships that sharpened my research and writing and sustained me in the process. I would like to thank Making the Modern South series editor David Goldfield, who in many ways...
In the first decade of the twenty-first century, the “Big Easy” ranks among the most popular tourist destinations in the United States. Although its population has dwindled to just over 450,000, dropping it to thirty-eighth among the nation’s cities, an estimated 11 million tourists visit New Orleans every year, often filling...
1. A “New” New Orleans?
One sultry evening in 1953, Mario Bermudez escorted several Latin American visitors on a stroll down Bourbon Street, New Orleans’s famous nightlife strip. The group paused beside a black iron gaslight standard at the corner of Bienville Street beneath a backlit sign that beckoned tourists to the weathered “Historical Old Absinthe...
2. Preservation and Profit in the French Quarter
“New Orleanians have not saved the French Quarter . . . It’s the out-of-towners who did it.” At least that was how Mary Morrison remembered it. In 1939 she and her husband Jacob, an attorney and half-brother of future New Orleans mayor Chep Morrison, moved from Mississippi to a nineteenth-century cottage on Governor...
3. Into the Big League
On the mild winter night of January 10, 1965, the Sugar Bowl stood empty, awaiting a torrent of fans for the American Football League (AFL) All-Star game, an exhibition that forty-year-old businessman David F. Dixon had lured to New Orleans to benefit the Police Foundation. More importantly, the city sought to reinforce its...
4. Making “The Birthplace of Jazz”
Heading southward through pine forests and worn-out cotton fields aboard the Southerner in 1942, Sterling Brown, an African American schoolteacher traveling in search of New Orleans jazz, envisioned jazzmen Kid Rena and “Big Eye” Louis Nelson DeLisle holding court in some musty dive on Basin Street. A black...
5. Selling “The Greatest Free Show on Earth”
On the eve of the 1967 Mardi Gras celebration that plunged the Crescent City into another fit of pre-Lenten revelry, a feature written by New Orleans States-Item columnist Charles L. “Pie” Dufour appeared in Southern Living, the South’s leading travel-oriented publication. Dufour described the crowds that filled the streets...
6. “Creole Disneyland”
On October 30, 1971, New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) motorcycles led a procession of horse-drawn carriages, hoopskirted southern belles, and a Dixieland brass band departing from the statue of New Orleans’s founder Jean Baptiste Le-Moyne, Sieur de Bienville. One of the carriages conveyed Marcel Robidas, mayor...
7. A City on Parade
In 1986 Sidney J. Barthelemy, an Afro-Creole and soon to be New Orleans’s second black mayor, began corresponding with the development division of Walt Disney. “As I sit here virtually on the eve of my inauguration as this great city’s next Mayor,” he wrote, “I cannot help but think of what awesome responsibilities I face...
In an interview by Times-Picayune journalist Chris Rose in 2001, New York film and literary critic Rex Reed reminisced about his forays into decadent New Orleans as a youth growing up in 1950s Texas and Louisiana. Reed described the city’s French Quarter as “Sodom and Gomorrah at my back door.” He remembered...
As this book goes to press, New Orleans is a city forever altered, a city with an uncertain future. On the morning of August 29, 2005, Katrina bore down on the Big Easy as a powerful Category 3 hurricane. Long accustomed to hurricanes, those New Orleanians who could flee by car or plane did so, as did most tourists. On the...