People of Louisiana

There is a rich diversity of peoples in Louisiana (See Ancestry under Louisiana Demographics). They include the original Indian inhabitants, plus the descendants of a variety of settlers, among whom were the French, Spanish, English, German, Acadians, West Indians, Africans, Irish and Italians and now include almost every nationality on earth.

The original French colonists were soon joined by the Spanish and Acadians, and later by French aristocrats fleeing slave revolts in the West Indies or the horrors of the French Revolution. As part of Louisiana's French legacy counties are called "parishes" and the Napoleonic Code (rather than Common Law) holds sway in the state's courtrooms.

Ironically, it was the Spanish who built many of the colonial structures that still stand in the "French Quarter" of New Orleans, and Spanish is still spoken in some communities, particularly in St. Bernard Parish below New Orleans. Hundreds of German families were recruited in 1719 by the Company of the West (which held the French royal charter for the development of Louisiana), and those sturdy pioneers settled upriver from New Orleans along a section of the Mississippi River that is still called the Cote des Allemands ("German Coast"). The parishes north of Lake Pontchartrain (the sixth largest lake in the U.S.) and east of the Mississippi River were once a part of British West Florida, occupied by English planters and military in the 1700s. Bernardo de Galvez, Louisiana's Spanish governor and an American ally in the Revolution, prevented the further development of a British stronghold in the Mississippi Valley by capturing British forts at Manchac and Baton Rouge in 1779. Some years later, in 1810, citizens of the "Florida Parishes" staged the West Florida Rebellion against Spanish authority in the region. They established the West Florida Republic, which enjoyed independence briefly before joining the American territory that had been acquired from France through the Louisiana Purchase of 1803.

Among the other nationalities that have settled in Louisiana are the Yugoslavians who made a success of oyster harvesting along the Gulf Coast and the Hungarians who became cultivators of strawberries and other crops in the Albany area. Free blacks amassed some of Louisiana's largest land holdings prior to the Civil War and blacks have major contributions to Jazz and Louisiana cuisine in particular. And many of Louisiana's annual festivals are celebrations of particular ethnic contributions to the "cultural gumbo" of this unique state.

< back