Further, the election of black mayors who presided over Mardi Gras ceremonies attracted more African-American spectators to St. Charles Avenue, formally an all-white preserve. Moreover, during the post-civil war era, several new krewes opened their membership to African Americans.[8] Zulu, which earlier  drew criticism for “Tomism” was taken over by middle class blacks, determined to “teach them how to put on a first class parade.”[9] It is now fully integrated by race and ethnicity and is readily accepted among the major clubs.

While Carnival celebrations are more racially integrated in New Orleans, there remains a class divide based more on education and income. The tradition remains viable and more inclusive, but ironically, many bemoan the changes that time has brought.

Dr. Raphael Cassimere Jr. is an historian and author who has written extensively on African Americans in Louisiana. He is a Professor-Emeritus at the University of New Orleans.

[1]Most New Orleanians referred to the French Quarter as “the Quarter,” or “the Quarters.”

[2]Marching organizations are called “krewes.”

[3]Most of the “misters” were white men. Many in the crowd begging for favors were blacks. This reinforced the legacy of separate and unequal.

[4]Flambeau torches were used to light parade routes before the onset of electric-powered lights. The carriers marched and danced and became  attractions of themselves, sometimes long after the flames had extinguished.

[5]In 1949, Zulus gained unprecedented attention when Louis Armstrong reigned as king.

[6] Zulu continued down Orleans Avenue to Dooky Chase Restaurant, where owner Dooky Jr’s band serenaded the “dignitaries.”

[7] Most French Quarter establishments were forced to desegregate as a result of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and a local ordinance passed by the city council in order to host the 1971 Super Bowl.

[8] The separate and unequal divide remained largely intact until 1992 when the city council passed an ordinance which forbade private organizations from discriminating on the basis of race, ethnicity, or religion. Initially, several clubs refused to comply and discontinued parading. However, all but one eventually complied.

[9] During the civil rights era many criticized Zulu for catering to whites and acting like “Uncle Toms.”