AHA Today

Blue City, Red State: A Historian’s Reflections on a City’s Politics

Vanessa Varin | Jan 10, 2013

Historian Alecia P. Long offers her viewpoint on New Orleans city politics in relation to Louisiana state politics. The following post can also be found in the annual meeting supplement, both online and handed out during the meeting.

New Orleans is a defiantly blue city in an otherwise overwhelmingly red state. Many of its residents see themselves as constantly besieged by Herculean efforts to control New Orleans’s politics and change its culture, and they strive to remain an island of political liberalism and social and cultural laissez-faire, even as parishes dominated by more conservative "values voters" surround the city on all sides. A "live and let live" ethos has survived continued efforts by state legislators intent on regulating and restricting the city’s legendary joie de vivre. New Orleanians have a long and robust history of refusing to bend to the desires of those who would try to determine their fate or interfere with their pursuit of the good life as they define it. As a progressive New Orleanian— and, by default, a gambler—my bet is that the city’s legendary ethos will outlast what many residents see as powerful legislative assaults on the civil rights and personal freedoms of so many of our citizens.

New Orleans has been shaped by and has benefitted from a healthy disrespect for authority and a stubborn streak of self-interest for its entire existence. The city’s very location is evidence of how a few colonists, led by Jean Baptiste Le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville, outmaneuvered the designs of the French colonial authorities. Despite repeated directives and strong Parisian preferences for sites further upriver, Bienville simply ignored them and began building the city at its current location. Read more…

This post first appeared on AHA Today.

Tags: AHA Today 2013 Annual Meeting


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