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Treme: Race and Place in a New Orleans Neighborhood

Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 204
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    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.

    eISBN: 978-0-8203-3760-9
    Subjects: Population Studies, Sociology, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. Introduction
    (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 Glasper’s establishment and siphoning business away from the bar. After an initial confrontation that ended with Glasper accusing Gullette of physical assault, Glasper reentered his bar and then returned to the street armed with a .357 magnum handgun, with...

  6. CHAPTER ONE Creating Black Tremé
    (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. At first glance, the spectacle of Tremé differs not so greatly from that of the French Quarter. With the exception of those along Governor Nicholls Street, one of the city’s oldest, trees in Tremé are small and sparse. As a general...

  7. CHAPTER TWO Afro-Creole Tremé
    (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 to New Orleans. Today, the impetus for and ramifications of the migration are well known. In the 1790s, the free mulatto planter class in the colony of Saint-Domingue revolted; the colony’s former slaves followed, creating an independent Haiti....

  8. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  9. CHAPTER THREE The Clearance for High Culture
    (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, some of them classically trained musicians, professed a special affinity for the form.¹ In addition to its musical function, the opera was also a social institution reflecting the French community’s liberal conventions. Given its social and cultural importance, the...

  10. CHAPTER FOUR Killing Claiborne’s Avenue
    (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 North Claiborne Avenue, at one time the retail spine of Faubourg Tremé and the Seventh Ward. In addition to serving the commercial needs of the local community, Claiborne Avenue also served as a recreation and gathering space. This consideration of Claiborne Avenue is not...

  11. CHAPTER FIVE A Park for Louis
    (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 figure not only in jazz but in all of American music. According to jazz and cultural critic Stanley Crouch, “The extent of [Armstrong’s] influence across jazz, across American music and around the world has such continuing...

  12. CHAPTER SIX National Park Savior
    (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 that Armstrong Park had been chosen as the site for the visitor center of the recently created New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park. At the meeting, I expected to see park superintendent Rayford Harper and assistant...

  13. CHAPTER SEVEN Saving Black Tremé
    (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 afternoon, I was in the Ninth Ward because a week earlier I had received a route sheet advertising this parade, and what I saw piqued my curiosity.² The parade was celebrating the fifth anniversary of...

  14. Epilogue. Post-Katrina Tremé
    (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 to discuss the controversy surrounding the New Orleans Police Department’s disruption of an annual Mardi Gras Indian tradition that occurs every spring on the evening of St. Joseph’s Day. On that night, for...

  15. NOTES
    (pp. 127-138)
    (pp. 139-156)
  17. INDEX
    (pp. 157-166)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 167-167)