Episode 150: Addition



Orleans has an abundance it's layers. For thousands of years, people have called that little patch of dry land on the delta at the end of the Mississippi River home who lived there though seems to have been a revolving door of diverse cultures. As far back as one hundred BC, a native American group known to archaeologists as the Marksville culture occupied the land there complete with permanent structures and agriculture. About nine hundred years later it was the Mississippi culture that took over. Thanks to the temperate climates. These people spent a good amount of their lives. Outdoors were they excelled at fishing and hunting. They held on for quite a while to watching the silt from the Great River. Slowly. The land they inhabited year-by-year, but it wasn't until the sixteen ninety s when Europeans first arrived that they experienced major change, which might be one of the bigger legacies of European colonialism more than anything else they brought change and it was rarely good. When the French arrived they set up all sorts of businesses that would be expected trading goods hunting for furs and exploring the larger area around the river delta. Some of the settlers local native communities while others branched out and built their own. One of those was Fort Saint John Although it was hardly a blank slate the fort was literally created by repurposing and ancient Marksville structure. Those early years of colonialism tend to be pretty confusing looking back from our spot today there seemed to be a constant switching of powers and it can be difficult to keep it all straight. Some colonies were a lot more straightforward like Massachusetts or Virginia, but New Orleans officially founded in seventeen eighteen has been more tumultuous than most. For the first seven decades, it was in French control. Then in seventeen, sixty three, it changed hands to the Spanish who held onto it for nearly forty years. Then after a brief return to the French, the city was sold along with a huge portion of the southern part of North America to the United States in what is now known as the Louisiana purchase ever since it's been one of the greatest American cities. But all of those overlapping cultures have given. New. Orleans. Its own flavor and texture take the word Creole for instance, it started out as a term used by the French to distinguish between those born in the colony versus those born back in France when the Spanish took over in seventeen sixty three they treated at the same just with citizens who weren't born in Spain. Over time though it took a more racial connotation denoting someone who shared European and black descent mostly from the Caribbean and it's a word that seems to embody that shared space mentality the community growing up in old New Orleans was multicultural with diverse collection of origin stories but all focused on new lives there in one specific place. The city would go on to become a cultural hotbed of music and food all fueled by that mixture of cultures and yes, it was a prominent center for the slave trade in the south, which is a scar that will never go away but it was also home to free people of Color who emigrated to the city. Intentionally, it was one of the few places in early America where it was impossible to look out in a crowd and visually identify slaves by the color of their skin. I guess my point is that New Orleans was and is a complex city racially speaking it was home to black soldiers who fought on both sides of the civil war, and it was one of the rare places in America where slaves were allowed to maintain large chunks of the cultures they left behind when they were captured and sold into slavery there. Is that chapter of history painful unforgivable mess absolutely. But that mess looked very different in New Orleans compared to other places at the same time and a powerful example of those differences can be seen in the story of one man Louis Congo who arrived on the scene around seventeen twenty four. Louis Congo wasn't his real name. Mind you. It was the name he was given as a slave when he was brought to new. Orleans. Years earlier Louis for Louisiana and Congo for his country of birth. He worked for many years as a slave under an oppressive system but something changed in seventeen, twenty four and an altered his life forever. In September of Seventeen, twenty, two, a hurricane flat, and most of New Orleans to the ground when the people there brush themselves off and began to rebuild they did. So with an eye toward improvement, the new city would be laid out in a grid. New laws were put in place the guy that's growth and a new role was created to act as incentive. Public Executioner I don't know how or even why. But the man they hired to fill that position was Louis Congo. In fact, he was freed from slavery and given the new job as a paid position. Every punishment he doled out, earned him a fee on top of a salary of food and wine along with a gift of land to call his own. In fact, for over ten years, he was the only person in the entire community who is legally allowed to hang convicted criminals regardless of their race or place of birth was tasked with non-deadly punishments like amputation branding and whipping sure the job earn him almost constant. Abuse that was different from executioners who did the same work back in Europe all throughout the Middle Ages. Sadly Louis Congo was a rare bright spot in an otherwise bleak and tragic survey of the city. Sometimes, the pain and suffering was brought on by natural disaster such as the great fire of seventeen, eighty eight that reduced eighty percent of the city to Ash. While other times, it was all a product of human nature. What's clear though is that suffering was part of life for a very long time. Those dark marks have managed to stick around long after the people who caused them have faded away. And there's no better place to see the remnants of that tragic past an inside the walls of one of the most historic buildings in the city. But be warned. Because while you're free to check in and make yourself at home. The only residents who seem happy to be there. Are the shadows. mentioned the city of New Orleans to just about anyone and you're likely to conjure up images of Bourbon Street. It is too many the crown jewel of the French quarter, a name that hides a little known detail. Most of the buildings in that area are actually Spanish by design. It. All goes back to the great new orleans fire of seventeen eighty eight that I mentioned earlier. Yes. Early New Orleans was a product of French colonialism. But when that blaze destroyed eighty percent of the city, it was under Spanish control. So the rebirth that took place in the aftermath followed their

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