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The N.O.: A Breakdown of New Orleans

new orleans ghetto

The Short New Orleans Ghetto Story

The “Big Easy” or the “Crescent City”, the New Orleans ghetto and urban community cannot be compared to any other city in the country with the N.O.. being largely known for its creole culture, Cajun food, and a lifestyle that is rarely seen.

Deep within the urban communities of the once New Orleans ghetto, since gentrification is slowly taken over, there is much history, from places like Storyville, once known as the city’s old red-light district, to the Backatown section to the legendary 3rd Ward or to the well famed historic district of Treme, just to name a few.

Long before the city’s African American population dominated New Orleans’ landscape, segregation held a grip on the city’s urban communities, but not until desegregation of the early 1960s did the New Orleans black population become the majority.

Generations later, long after all of the African American areas became well established, the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina widely affected New Orleans, causing a change in many of the city’s communities.

New Orleans Ghetto Story: Downtown

Downtown New Orleans was once the home of the old St. Bernard, Iberville, Lafitte, Desire, and Florida housing projects, together with the areas of residential homes within the neighborhoods of 6th Ward, 7th Ward, 8th Ward, and the 9th Ward, divided between Lower 9 and the Upper 9.

As stated above, originally most of the New Orleans’ neighborhoods, preferably the housing projects, were segregated with them being strictly constructed for either white families or black families.

The all-white housing projects eventually became predominantly as white flight left many New Orleans neighborhoods vacant and able for blacks to reside in them. 

Within the housing projects, following the movement of white flight out of the projects many would begin to decline with being plagued with problems, which would eventually lead to the beginning of the demolishing of the New Orleans housing projects by the late 1990s.

Today, the housing projects are a memory with the new developments of Columbia Parc (St. Bernard of the 7th Ward), Faubourg Lafitte (Lafitte of the 6th Ward), The Estates (Desire of the 9th Ward), Florida (Florida of the 9th Ward), and soon to be Iberville.

An important fact about Downtown New Orleans is the history of African Americans like Pontchartrain Park being one of the country’s all-black suburbs.  But the main focus should be the neighborhood of Treme, which was a once very successful and thriving black community with entertainment and black owned businesses that lasted until the 1960s with the construction of Interstate 10 destroying most of the area, leaving only the Lafitte housing projects.

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New Orleans Ghetto Story: Uptown

Maybe New Orleans’ most famous and known neighborhood, the 3rd Ward was one of the first areas that African Americans lived in the Uptown section of New Orleans, a community that was the former home of Hip Hop artists like Master P, Soulja Slim and Juvenile.

At one point the 3rd Ward was home to the majority of the city’s housing projects, especially after New Orleans began to demolish and closed many of its older housing project communities. The 3rd Ward once consisted of  the BW Cooper, known as the Calliope, Melpomeme, officially called Guste Homes, and the Magnolia (CJ Peete), which were all built between the 1940s and the 1960s.

With the rebuilding of many of New Orleans communities, the Magnolia became the new Harmony Oaks community, the Calliope is becoming the Marrero Commons, and the area of the old Melpomeme project is also being redeveloped.

Outside of the housing projects of Uptown New Orleans’ 3rd Ward, there are neighborhoods like Mid-City, Josephine Street, Parkway, 3NG (Third and Galvez), and other blocks throughout the area of the 3rd Ward.

While most of the projects in the Uptown section of New Orleans are located in the 3rd Ward, the 10th Ward once consisted of the old St. Thomas development.  Demolished during the mid-1990s, this housing complex was once segregated with only white families once allowed to have units in St. Thomas, but by the late 1960s many left the area as the 10th Ward became part of the city’s urban communities.

Neighboring the once St. Thomas neighborhood and the 10th Ward, are two communities that sit between Magazine Street and Tchoupitoulas Street, the 11th Ward and the 12th Ward, while the 12th Ward expands to Claiborne Avenue with General Taylor and Amelia Street being the main blocks.

A neighborhood that was hit hard with flooding during the storm was the 13th Ward, known to some as VL for Valence Street.  The 13th Ward, with its close and neighboring location to some of New Orleans’ upper scale communities, is experiencing much revitalization.

From Lil Wayne to No Limit Records’ Fiend, the 17th Ward has long been put on the map in New Orleans’ popular culture as this very large neighborhood is broken down into communities like Pigeon Town, Hollygrove, Gert Town and N**** Town. 

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New Orleans Ghetto Story: NO East

New Orleans East was one of the last sections within the city limits of New Orleans to be built as white flight from the older neighborhoods of New Orleans’ Uptown and Downtown led people to move into the newer homes and apartment complexes of the Eastern New Orleans community.

One key factor that helped New Orleans East to grow was the building of Interstate 10, which helped transportation from the isolated area of Eastern New Orleans to downtown and other business areas of New Orleans.

New Orleans East was once a mostly middle-class white community until African-Americans gained most of the power in the local government, during the late 1970s, which helped families to leave the city and relocate into other parishes (counties), making New Orleans East to become predominantly black by the 1990s.^

Today, New Orleans East is one of the city’s most active neighborhoods as the community of low income apartment complexes and subdivisions might be viewed different from Uptown and Downtown, but with gentrification in the inner city of New Orleans the community is becoming what Uptown and Downtown used to be.

New Orleans Ghetto Story: West Bank

Like Eastern New Orleans, the West Bank and Jefferson Parrish became a community during the middle part of the 1900s, as people were leaving the urban neighborhoods of the city of New Orleans.

But as people again relocated, the community of Jefferson Parrish started to change when many black families moved into the West Bank neighborhoods, outside of the already small black communities that had already been around for generations, like the Algeris community .

After Hurricane Katrina, the black population of the West Bank surged and became even larger as many were displaced from their original communities of Orleans Parrish.

While the 15th Ward and the Fischer Projects and Christopher Homes held the reputation of the West Bank, other areas have also been reputable like Kennedy Heights, Terrytown, Bridge City/Westwego, sections of Marrero and Harvey,  as well Gretna’s Jones Town, Out In The Green, and McDonoghville. 

Gentrification, with people buying houses in the heart of the city of New Orleans and fixing them up and marking them at a price where it is unaffordable to most of the original residents, is helping the black population of the West Bank and New Orleans East to expand and further grow even more.

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Check out more of the communities in Louisiana.

*Note: All information is provided through people of the community, outside sources, and research.  Some information might not be current and/or 100% accurate.

^Campanella, Richard. “Addressing New Orleans East’s core problem“. Nola.com. 10 Dec. 2013. /  Ruffin, Maurice. “New Orleans East“. New Orleans.me. 

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