Guide

8 Notable Black History Landmarks in NOLA

by Andrea Swindall

posted on January 17, 2019

Eating po’ boys, listening to jazz music, and stuffing your face with beignets from Cafe Du Monde are all must-dos when visiting New Orleans. But don’t stop there: the city also boasts a fascinating culture and history, and whether you’re here for a short trip or you’re a local, it’s well worth your time to take some of it in. For those interested in learning more about New Orleans’ black history, here are some spots to consider.

Willie Mae's Scotch House

You’ll be hard-pressed to find better fried chicken in New Orleans — or really, the world — than at the James-Beard-Award-winning Willie Mae’s Scotch House. (Be sure to try the mac and cheese as well.) Do note that rain or shine, there will most likely be a lengthy wait to be seated.

Checkout: Fried chicken, butter beans with rice, red beans and rice, fried okra, smothered veal

Louis Armstrong Park

Louis Armstrong Park is situated on the outskirts of the French Quarter in Treme, the oldest black neighborhood, where many of the city’s most popular jazz musicians were born. Treme is also where many of the landmarks on this list are located. Wander around to see sculptures, duck ponds, and gardens throughout the open space. Within Louis Armstrong Park lies a landmark in its own right, Congo Square, a former hangout spot where slaves gathered on their days off to socialize, celebrate, sell homemade items, and enjoy music from their homelands.

Backstreet Cultural Museum

Backstreet Cultural Museum is home to some gorgeous artifacts including indigenous Mardi Gras costumes, historical exhibits, and other items related to the local African-American community. Stop in to learn about Mardi Gras traditions, jazz funerals, Skull and Bone gangs, and more.

Checkout: Mardi Gras Indians exhibit, Jazz funerals exhibits, Film collection, Skull and Bone Gangs exhibit, Baby Doll exhibit

Dooky Chase Restaurant

Also in the Treme neighborhood is Dooky Chase’s Restaurant, which has been around since 1941. Helmed by the legendary restaurateur, Leah Chase, this famed cultural landmark is as well known for its excellent Creole food as it is for its significance in the civil rights movement. It’s also not uncommon to spot a celeb here; Barack Obama, Quincy Jones, Beyoncé, Hank Aaron, and many other notable guests have frequented this landmark.

Checkout: Gumbo, pickled okra, mac and cheese, red beans and rice, jambalaya

Studio Be

Opened by visual artist and muralist Brandan “Bmike” Odums, this space is home to powerful street art that tells the story of both New Orleans and African American traditions. His pieces touch on many current social issues the black community faces, including racism and police brutality. Bmike’s work and talent is also showcased on many walls throughout the city.

Cafe Rose Nicaud

If you need to take a break from fried, heavy Cajun food, pop into Cafe Rose Nicaud for some healthy eats. Not only is the food rich in flavor, but the location is also rich in history. In 1800, this establishment was operated by Rose Nicaud, the first coffee vendor in the city. Nicaud, a slave, was able to save a portion of the money made from the stand to eventually buy her freedom. This entrepreneurial spirit was mimicked by many other women of color who also began to sell coffee to support their families.

Checkout: Alligator sausage, jerk chicken tacos, kale chicken wrap, housemade organic granola, coffee

Candlelight Lounge

While historically, Treme was a hub of live music, post-Hurricane-Katrina, it’s a different story. One notable exception: the Candlelight Lounge, where drinks remain affordable, the vibe of this no-frills dive bar has remained more or less unchanged, and beloved performers including Treme Brass Band, Andrew Brothers Brass Band, and Corey Henry and Friends take the stage.

Checkout: Free seafood nights, Friday fish fry, DJVee, brass band performances, baked spaghetti

St Augustine's Catholic Church

Founded in 1841, St Augustine is a must-stop location for anyone on a quest for black historical landmarks. After all, this is the nation’s oldest African-American Catholic church. Attend their 10am mass on Sundays, where free and enslaved black people, and many civil rights activists have also worshipped over the years.

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