Archaeology and New Orleans

Just attended the very excellent morning event at the Monteleone Hotel for the Making New Orleans Home: A Tricentennial Symposium.

This free set of events is happening today at the Monteleone, tomorrow at Xavier, and Sunday at UNO.
This morning’s talk, by Shannon Lee Dawdy, professor of anthropology at University of Chicago and D. Ryan Gray at University of New Orleans, was focused on the archaeological evidence found at a few sites in the French Quarter over the last 20 years, as well as  those professors using the tricentennial spotlight to state the clear political need to getting New Orleans a designation as World Heritage Site or at least an ordinance established on excavating properly before a new development is begun. (Professor Dowdy’s comment about how dire this situation was before Katrina was illustrated by her estimation of having only “5 cubic meters” of excavated of Colonial-era material available before Katrina.)
The two speakers were both known to me previously; Dowdy through her brilliant book, Revisiting the Devil’s Empire: French Colonial New Orleans – which is one of my top books on New Orleans history – and Gray through his digs, especially the one around the corner at 810 Royal, the details of which can be found here.
Dowdy’s focus has been on what she terms the “rogue colonialism” of the period from 1699-1769, and especially the years before the “administrative abandonment” of New Orleans by the French Crown in the 1730s. That abandonment was a result of the failure of Law’s Company of the West (more popularly known as The Mississippi Company) which ended in the economic failure known as The Mississippi Bubble.
(Of course, the French Crown retained control of the colony until the 1760s, but did little with it and so it was not until the Spanish rule that the infrastructure expanded along with the population.)

Professor Dowdy’s theory is that during the earlier Colonial period shipping and trade were actually more robust than official accounts of the time offer because so much of what was happening was technically illegal (as it was meant to be managed exclusively by Law and later by or through the Crown.) Even during and after the Bubble, locals amassed wealth which was indicated by findings on these digs analyzed as goods procured via smuggling routes, particularly with Cuba, Mexico and the Carribean islands. With her 2004-2005 dig at the Rising Sun Hotel on the Conti block between Chartres and Decatur, the 2009 St. Anthony’s Garden dig at the back of St. Louis Cathedral and the 2011 dig at the old Ursuline Convent, many of the artifacts date from the 1750s and include Mexican pottery, Spanish coins, gilded glass long before Spanish control. Her St. Anthony’s Garden dig gave material evidence to the idea of the Native American settlement, with huts that predate the 1726 gridlines of New Orleans as do a significant number of artifacts found at the Convent site.
The dig at the back of the Cathedral (Dowdy confesses this was her favorite New Orleans dig) indicates a robust market operating there from the 1740s to 1788, including extensive evidence of camping which suggests that many people came to town to sell or barter there.

After Dowdy presented, Professor Gray used the old St. Peter Cemetery as an excellent example of the lack of protection around our buried history. That cemetery was between Rampart and Burgundy and Toulouse and St. Peter and operated between 1725 and 1789 as a Catholic cemetery for both enslaved and free citizens. After it was no longer used, the ownership of the cemetery was tangled between the Cabildo and the Church so when the Cabildo sold off parcels of it, the Church refused to move the bodies.
Since then, it has been up to private developers and lot owners in that area to undertake an archaeological dig, as happened during the building of the Maison Dupuy in the 1970s, during condo development in the 1980s and most famously, during a potential swimming pool addition by homeowner Vincent Marcello who contacted UNO which resulted in the removal of 15 bodies to a vault in St. Louis #1.

The best comment of the morning was from Professor Gray summing up the current problem: “For a city that cares so much about its history, very few protections are in place to preserve the material past.”


Making New Orleans Home: A Tricentennial Symposium

The Historic New Orleans Collection will join the City of New Orleans 2018 Commission’s Cultural and Historical Committee to present “Making New Orleans Home: A Tricentennial Symposium,” Thursday, March 8, through Sunday, March 11, 2018.

Comprising individual lectures and panel discussions, the four-day symposium will be held at locations throughout the city, including Tulane University, the Hotel Monteleone, Xavier University, and the University of New Orleans. Additional evening events will take place at The Historic New Orleans Collection and the New Orleans Jazz Museum at the Old US Mint.


Thursday, March 8, 2018
Tulane University, McAlister Auditorium, McAlister Drive and Freret Street

6:30 p.m. Welcome address
Michael Fitts, president, Tulane University
Symposium address

Priscilla Lawrence and Sybil Haydel Morial, co-chairs, Cultural and Historical Committee,
City of New Orleans Tricentennial


Emily Clark, chair, Symposium Program Committee, and Clement Chambers Benenson Professor in American Colonial History, Tulane University

Keynote address
Cokie Roberts, NPR and ABC News political commentator

Friday, March 9, 2018
Conference sessions: Monteleone Hotel, Queen Anne Ballroom, 214 Royal Street
Block party: 500 block of Royal Street

8:45–9 a.m. Introductory remarks
Priscilla Lawrence and Sybil Haydel Morial
9–9:40 a.m. Balbancha: How American Indians Kept New Orleans in their Homeland
Daniel H. Usner, Holland N. McTyeire Professor of History, Vanderbilt University
9:40–10 a.m. Break
10–10:45 a.m.


Revisiting the Devil’s Empire: French Colonial New Orleans
Shannon Lee Dawdy, professor of anthropology, University of Chicago

Traces of Endangered Pasts: New Orleans Archaeology at the Tricentennial
D. Ryan Gray, Richard Wallin Boebel Endowed Professor in Anthropology, University of New Orleans

10:45–11 a.m. Break
11–11:40 a.m. Self Expression and Enslaved People
Sophie White, associate professor of American studies, University of Notre Dame
11:40 a.m.–1:15 p.m. Lunch (on your own)
1:15–1:30 p.m. Afternoon welcome
Daniel Hammer, deputy director, The Historic New Orleans Collection
1:30–2:10 p.m.


Making New Orleans Home at the Table
Jessica Harris, culinary historian and professor, Queens College, CUNY (retired)
2:10–2:30 p.m. Break
2:30–3:15 p.m. The Transatlantic Slave Trade: A Shared History
David Fleming, director, National Museums Liverpool (UK)
3:15–3:30 p.m. Break
3:30–4:15 p.m.


New Orleans and the Slave Trade
Walter Johnson, Winthrop Professor of History, professor of African and African American studies, and director of the Charles Warren Center, Harvard University
interviewed by Lawrence N. Powell, professor emeritus of history, Tulane University
5–7:30 p.m. Block party, 500 block of Royal Street
Featuring performances by Leroy Jones’ Original Hurricane Brass Band and the Dukes of Dixieland

Refreshments will be available for purchase.

Viewing of New Orleans, the Founding Era, an exhibition at The Historic New Orleans Collection

Saturday, March 10, 2018
Conference sessions: Xavier University, McCaffrey Ballroom, University Center (3rd floor), 1 Drexel Drive
Evening program: New Orleans Jazz Museum, 400 Esplanade Avenue
Food and drinks available for purchase at both venues.

8:45–9 a.m. Welcoming remarks
C. Reynold Verret, president, Xavier University
9–9:45 a.m. Featured address
The Great Migration
Isabel Wilkerson, author, The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration
9:45–10:15 a.m. Break
10:15–11 a.m. Panel discussion: Religion

  • Voodoo and the Racial Politics of Identity in New Orleans
    Kodi Roberts, assistant professor of history, Louisiana State Univeristy
  • The Politics of Prayer: Free Women of Color and the Pursuit of Freedom in Antebellum Louisiana
    Noël Voltz, assistant professor of history, University of Utah
  • From Code Noir to Respectability: Jews and Judaism in New Orleans
    Hasia DinerPaul and Sylvia Steinberg Professor of American Jewish History and professor of Hebrew, New York University
11–11:45 a.m. Panel discussion: “Creating Home: 300 Years of Builders and Architects in New Orleans”

  • Ann M. Masson, architectural historian, Tulane School of Architecture
  • Tara Dudley, lecturer, School of Architecture, The University of Texas at Austin
  • Jonn Ethan Hankins, executive director, New Orleans Master Crafts Guild
11:45–2 p.m. Lunch (on your own)
Book signing with Isabel Wilkerson
2–2:40 p.m. New Orleans in the American Revolution
Kathleen Duval, Bowman and Gordon Gray Distinguished Professor of History, University of North Carolina
2:40–3 p.m. Break
3–3:45 p.m. Panel discussion: Haiti and New Orleans

  • Exiles from Saint-Dominque: Caribbeanizing New Orleans
    Nathalie Dessens, professor of American history, Université Toulouse
  • The Refugee Predicament: From Saint-Domingue to Cuba to New Orleans, 1803–1809
    Rebecca J. ScottCharles Gibson Distinguished University Professor of History, professor of law, University of Michigan
3:45–4 p.m. Break
4–4:45 p.m. Panel discussion: New Orleans Music: Past, Present, and Future

  • Home Is Where the Heart Is
    Bruce Boyd Raeburn, head of special collections and director emeritus, Hogan Jazz Archive, Howard-Tilton Memorial Library, Tulane University
  • Building and Rebuilding the “Land of Dreams” with Music
    Nick Spitzer, producer, American Routes, and professor of anthropology, Tulane University
  • The New Orleans Second Line Tradition: Musical and Cultural Implications
    Dr. Michael White, Keller Endowed Chair in the Humanities, Xavier University
4:45 p.m. Invitation to evening event
Greg Lambousy, director, New Orleans Jazz Museum
6:30–10 p.m. Minting NOLA Music at the Jazz Museum


Sunday, March 11, 2018
University of New Orleans, Senator Ted Hickey Ballroom and Gallery Lounge, University Center, 2000 Lakeshore Drive. Parking will be complimentary in all university parking lots, including the University Center lot. Food and drinks available for purchase.

10:30–10:45 a.m. Welcoming remarks
Matt Tarr, Vice President for Research and Economic Development

Introductory remarks
Mary Niall Mitchell, Ethel and Herman L. Midlo Chair in New Orleans Studies, Joseph Tregle Professor in Early American History, University of New Orleans

10:45–11:30 a.m. Panel discussion: Immigrants

  • Faith, Hope, and Charity: Irish Communities in New Orleans
    Laura D. Kelley, adjunct professor of history and program director, Tulane Summer in Dublin program, Tulane University
  • Immigration in Nineteenth-Century New Orleans
    Justin A. Nystrom, director, Center for the Study of New Orleans, Loyola University, New Orleans
  • Three Centuries and Counting: Germans at Home in New Orleans from the Start
    Daniel Hammer, deputy director, The Historic New Orleans Collection
11:30–12:15 p.m. An Ethnic Geography of New Orleans: Residential Settlement Patterns across Three Centuries
Richard Campanella, geographer, Tulane School of Architecture
12:15–2:15 p.m. Lunch (on your own)
1–2:15 p.m “Congo Square” and “Storyville”
University of Louisiana at Lafayette Wind Ensemble
conducted by William J. Hochkeppeldirector of bands, University of Louisiana at Lafayette
works composed by James SylerUniversity of Texas at San Antonio
commentary by Freddi Evansauthor, independent scholar, and arts educator
2:15–3:15 p.m. Civil Rights roundtable

  • Sybil Haydel Morial, author and former associate vice president for external affairs, Xavier University
  • Alexander P. Tureaud Jr.educator, author, public speaker, and artist
  • Raphael Cassimere Jr., professor emeritus of history, University of New Orleans
  • Doratha “Dodie” Smith-Simmons, civil rights activist, New Orleans Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), NAACP Youth Council

moderated by Lawrence N. Powell, professor emeritus of history, Tulane University

3:15–4 p.m. Whither New Orleans? The Future of A Great American City
Leslie M. Harris, professor of history and African American studies, Northwestern University
4 p.m. Closing remarks