Louisiana, state in the southern United States, on the Gulf of Mexico and the Mississippi River.
Louisiana is richly endowed with such nonrenewable minerals as oil, natural gas, sulfur, and salt. In addition to mining, the state has flourishing agricultural, lumbering, and fishing industries. These activities provide the basis for much of the manufacturing in Louisiana. Baton Rouge is the capital of Louisiana. The state’s three principal cities are New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and Shreveport.
A succession of Native American cultures occupied the area of Louisiana beginning as long as 12,000 years ago. Many were local societies sustained by hunting and gathering or subsistence agriculture, but others, such as the Poverty Point Culture centered along Bayou Macon in northeastern Louisiana, had regional influence and trading networks.
The French were the original European colonizers of Louisiana, beginning in the early 18th century. After a period of Spanish control it reverted to France. During this colonial period other European and African cultures were introduced into the area. Most of Louisiana was bought by the United States in 1803 as part of the Louisiana Purchase; the rest came as a result of the West Florida Rebellion of 1810. Louisiana entered the Union on April 30, 1812, as the 18th state.
Initially, in the colonial period, the locality was known as Louisiane. This name was given by the French explorer René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, who journeyed down the Mississippi River in 1682 and claimed a vast area for France, naming it for the French king, Louis XIV. The Spanish version of the name was Luisiana. From these forms evolved the present name of Louisiana. The most popular nickname for Louisiana is the Pelican State, after the native coastal bird. Other nicknames are the Creole State, after the descendants of early French and Spanish settlers, and the Bayou State, for the many lush, slow-moving waterways found in the state.
Louisiana, which ranks 31st in size among the states, covers 134,265 sq km (51,840 sq mi), including 10,759 sq km (4,154 sq mi) of inland water and 5,012 sq km (1,935 sq mi) of coastal water over which it has jurisdiction. It has a maximum length, from north to south, of 440 km (275 mi) and a maximum width of 480 km (300 mi). Elevations range from 2 m (8 ft) below sea level, at New Orleans, to 163 m (535 ft) above sea level, at Driskill Mountain, in northwestern Louisiana. It has an average elevation of only 30 m (100 ft) and, along with Florida and Delaware, is one of the three lowest states.
Louisiana lies wholly within the gulf portion of the Coastal Plain, which is one of the principal natural regions, or physiographic provinces, of the United States. The Gulf Coastal Plain can be divided into three subregions, or sections, all of which lie partly within Louisiana. They are, from east to west, the East Gulf Coastal Plain, the Mississippi Alluvial Plain, and the West Gulf Coastal Plain.
The Mississippi Alluvial Plain in Louisiana extends from the Louisiana-Arkansas border in the north to the Gulf of Mexico in the south and parallels the main channel of the Mississippi River. In Louisiana the region is commonly referred to as “the Delta,” a term that, in local usage, is not confined to the delta at the mouth of the Mississippi River. Largely a low-lying and swampy area, the Mississippi Alluvial Plain has an average width of about 80 km (about 50 mi) and slopes gently southward from 35 m (115 ft) on the Louisiana-Arkansas border to sea level at South Pass, one of the delta’s chief channels at the mouth of the Mississippi River. Near New Orleans, parts of the plain lie below sea level.
Along the banks of the Mississippi and other rivers are natural levees, which have been built up from river silts deposited by floods. The levees rise as much as 4.5 m (15 ft) above the general level of the surrounding plain, although most are about 2 to 3 m (about 6 to 10 ft) high. The levees, some of which are very wide, include some of the state’s best farmland. Because of the protection from flooding afforded by their greater elevation, the levees are also used for transportation purposes. Many levees have been further heightened for flood control purposes. In the Mississippi Alluvial Plain away from the levees are vast poorly-drained areas, generally called backswamps. However, when drained and cultivated, as in the northeast, the backswamps are productive farmlands.
The West Gulf Coastal Plain, west of the Mississippi Alluvial Plain, occupies the western half of Louisiana. Hilly regions, often with steep bluffs 90 m (300 ft) high, mark the transitional zone between this region and the Mississippi Alluvial Plain. The northern and north central areas of this region are primarily areas of rolling hill country, much of it still heavily forested. The most prominent features of the hill country include Driskill Mountain and the Kisatchie Hills. Farther south are extensive areas of prairie, or grassland, which lie mainly along the southeastern bank of the middle course of the Calcasieu River. In the southern part of the West Gulf Coastal Plain, marshlands rim the coast and extend inland as much as 30 km (20 mi). They are generally separated from the Gulf by low sandy ridges called cheniers.
The East Gulf Coastal Plain, a small area east of the Mississippi, is similar to its counterpart in western Louisiana. Steep bluffs as much as 90 m (300 ft) above sea level occur in the Tunica Hills of West Feliciana Parish. The rest of the region is lower in elevation with numerous steep bluffs, clear springs, pine forests, and deep ravines.
|B||Rivers and Lakes|
All the rivers of Louisiana flow into the Gulf of Mexico or into other rivers that do so. The principal rivers that lie in or partly in Louisiana are the Mississippi, Red, Ouachita, Sabine, Pearl, Atchafalaya, and Calcasieu rivers.
The Mississippi River, one of the greatest rivers in the world, meanders sluggishly in a southerly and then southeasterly direction through Louisiana. For much of its length, south of the Louisiana-Arkansas state line, the river forms Louisiana’s boundary with Mississippi. However, the lowermost reaches of the river lie entirely within Louisiana.
The principal tributary of the Mississippi in Louisiana is the Red River, which flows diagonally across the West Gulf Coastal Plain. A few miles west of the Mississippi the Red River divides into the Atchafalaya River, which flows southward to the Gulf of Mexico, and the Old River, which joins the Mississippi via a flood control structure. The Ouachita River, the lower section of which is known as the Black River, is the chief tributary of the Red River. The lower Sabine River forms much of the Texas-Louisiana state line. The Pearl River (and the East Pearl River after the river divides) form the Louisiana-Mississippi state line at the eastern tip of Louisiana. The Calcasieu River is the chief river within the southwestern part of the state. Numerous shallow streams, many of which are called bayous, thread the low-lying sections of the Mississippi Alluvial Plain and the southern sections of the East and West Gulf Coastal plains. In Louisiana the terms “river” and “bayou” have, over the years, been used almost interchangeably in naming the state’s rivers and streams.
Lakes are numerous in low-lying Louisiana. The largest lake is Lake Pontchartrain, a brackish lake covering 1,619 sq km (625 sq mi). Other large brackish lakes (those containing a mixture of seawater and freshwater) in the south are Salvador, Sabine, Calcasieu, Grand, White, Maurepas, and Caillou lakes. The principal freshwater lakes are on the Red River and its tributaries. In addition, small oxbow lakes are numerous in the Mississippi Alluvial Plain. Oxbow lakes are formed when a river cuts through the neck of one of its loops, or meanders, thus establishing a shorter course and leaving the former loop as a lake separate from the river. Louisiana also has some artificially created reservoirs.
Louisiana’s long and irregular coastline extends along the Gulf of Mexico from the Pearl River on the east to the Sabine River on the west. It has an overall length of 639 km (397 mi). Including all bays, inlets, and promontories, it has a total length of 12,430 km (7,721 mi), behind only Alaska and Florida in length of marine shore. In both eastern and western Louisiana, marshy wetlands make up most of the coast. Also along the coast and extending offshore and inland are underground salt domes which, when they create rises along the marshy coast, are termed islands. Offshore sand barriers are also known as islands, such as the Chandeleur Islands.
The Mississippi River has over thousands of years created numerous deltas besides the current “bird foot” delta—the triangular deposit of sand and soil at the mouth of the Mississippi River that resembles a bird’s foot. These previous deltas and other parts of the coastline are eroding inland as they have been deprived of the huge quantities of mud and silt previously deposited by the river. Due to this coastal erosion, Louisiana has lost 4,920 sq km (1,900 sq mi) of land since the 1930s. From 1978 to 2000 Louisiana lost about 1,700 sq km (about 660 sq mi) of coastal land, at an average rate of 77 sq km (30 sq mi) per year. Major coastal restoration efforts were launched in the mid-1990s. Even with these efforts taken into account, the state is projected to lose about 1,330 sq km (about 510 sq mi) of coastal land by 2050. The loss of coastal wetlands makes the Louisiana coast more susceptible to erosion and other damage from tropical storms. As a consequence, storms increasingly contribute to the erosion and flooding of coastal areas. For example, in August 2005 Hurricane Katrina virtually washed away the Chandeleur Islands, a narrow string of sandy barriers about 110 km (about 70 mi) east of New Orleans.
The climate of all the major regions of Louisiana is characterized by short mild winters and long, hot, and generally humid summers.
Average January temperatures range from less than 8°C (46°F) in northwestern Louisiana to more than 13°C (55°F) in the southeastern delta country. Temperatures in the -20°s C (below 0°F) have been recorded, but prolonged periods of cold weather are extremely rare.
July averages are in the upper 20°s C (lower 80°s F) throughout the state. Daytime highs are rarely more than 35°C (95°F), but the constantly high relative humidity causes some discomfort. In the coastal areas the high temperatures and relative humidity are tempered by cool breezes that blow inshore from the Gulf. Nighttime lows are generally in the mid-20°s C (higher 70°s F) during much of the summer.
Total annual precipitation, mostly in the form of rain, ranges from about 1,100 mm (about 48 in) in northwestern Louisiana to more than 1,500 mm (60 in) in the southeast. Snow, ice and hail are rare in Louisiana. Thunderstorms are frequent in July, which is the wettest month, and tropical storms and hurricanes sometimes strike the coast, usually between July and September. Droughts are seldom severe. Ice storms are an infrequent but dangerous event.
Throughout most of Louisiana the growing season, or period from the last major frost in spring to the first major frost in fall, is more than 210 days. In most of the state it varies in length from 210 up to 260 days, but along the lower Mississippi as many as 350 days may be frost free. In some decades there have been entire winters during which damaging frosts have not occurred in farming areas in the southernmost sections of the state.
Alluvial soils, deposited by floodwaters over thousands of years, cover the Red River valley, Mississippi Alluvial Plain, and other stream valleys. Although erosion has been slight on this level land, the use of improper agricultural methods has resulted in the depletion of organic matter in the soils and consequently in a loss of natural fertility. However, with the use of fertilizers and proper farming methods, these soils have again become productive. Cotton, sugarcane, and other crops are raised on these alluvial soils, and crop yields are generally high.
Red and yellow podzolic soils predominate in the upland sections of Louisiana. These soils are not inherently fertile, being low in organic matter, but are easily worked and highly productive when fertilized. However, the rolling topography of these upland sections makes these soils susceptible to erosion.
In southwestern Louisiana prairie soils are underlain by a nearly impervious clay layer that contains water above it, making the region well suited to irrigated rice cultivation. In a belt of coastal marshland soils along the Gulf in southern Louisiana the prohibitive cost of draining the waterlogged land makes agriculture almost impossible.
Forest land occupies 50 percent of the total land area of Louisiana. Trees once covered nearly all of Louisiana, but since the late 18th, and especially in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, large areas have been cleared for agriculture and other uses. Much of the forest land is covered by second-growth or third-growth timber.
Stands of shortleaf and loblolly pines and upland hardwoods are found in the hilly northwest and southeast. Many of the 150 species of trees native to Louisiana are found in the hardwood forests located principally in the Red River valley and along the higher sections of the Mississippi River delta. They include species of oaks, gums, and ashes. Among the abundant spring wild flowers that are associated with the hardwood forests are the yellow jasmine, wild azalea, silver bell, dogwood, and redbud. The blossom of the magnolia tree is the state flower.
On poorly drained land along the rivers in the southern part of the state are found the bald cypress, which is the state tree, as well as live oak, gum, sycamore, cottonwood, and willow. Spanish moss hangs from the evergreen live oak and the bald cypress. Sedge, marsh grass, and rushes cover most of the coastal areas, and many flowering swamp plants bloom throughout the year.
On the higher, sandy lands of southern Louisiana, forests of longleaf and slash pines are common. These pinewoods have the greatest abundance of wild flowers in the state, including deer grass, ground orchids, phloxes, asters, Saint-John’s-worts, wild peas, and star grass. Tall grasses with trees along stream courses characterize the prairies of southwest Louisiana.
The southern marshes and swamps of Louisiana are the home of a wide variety of animals. White-tailed deer are abundant throughout the state. A few black bears remain in the more remote parts of the swamps; muskrat, mink, and raccoon are also found there. Among the scarce small mammals are the wildcat, gray fox, beaver, otter, and weasel. Common small mammals include the opossum, cottontail, marsh rabbit, and gray squirrel.
Louisiana is the southern terminus of the Central and Mississippi Flyways. More than one-half of the species of birds in North America are resident in the state or spend a portion of their migration there. Species of migratory wildfowl are the most abundant. They include several species of ducks and geese that spend the winter on the tidal marshes along the Gulf Coast. The most common of the state’s water birds include the laughing gull, royal tern, and black skimmer. The state bird, the brown pelican, is on the federal endangered species list. Birds found in the marshes include the marsh wren, seaside sparrow, redwinged blackbird, Wilson snipe, woodcock, and species of sandpipers. Birds such as blue heron, snowy egret, and American egret are protected in wildlife preserves.
The upland sections of the state are inhabited by blue jays, brown thrashers, mockingbirds, wood thrushes, yellow-shafted flickers, red cockaded woodpeckers, catbirds, whippoorwills, scarlet tanagers, Baltimore orioles, pine warblers, brown-headed nuthatches, and numerous other birds. In addition to ducks and geese, the principal game birds of the state are the wild turkey, bobwhite, and mourning dove.
Alligators are common in the Louisiana swamps. Other reptiles in the state include turtles, lizards, and both poisonous and nonpoisonous snakes. The poisonous snakes found in Louisiana are the coral snake, western pygmy rattler, canebrake rattler, copperhead, and water moccasin.
Among the great variety of fish in the waters off the coast are tarpon, pompano, flounder, red snapper, menhaden, redfish, drum, Spanish mackerel, king mackerel, sheepshead, goliath grouper, bluefish, and jack. In addition, there are sharks, giant rays, and various kinds of shellfish in the offshore waters.
The main freshwater game fish are the largemouth black bass, white crappie, black crappie, barfish, and sunfish. Among the catfish are the blue cat, yellow cat, and paddlefish, or spoonbill cat. The paddlefish, related to the sturgeon, is valued for its roe, which is used to make a form of caviar.
The major conservation activities in Louisiana are centered on flood control and prevention, reforestation, and the preservation of wildlife resources. The federal agencies active in the field of conservation in the state are the Forest Service, the United States Army Corps of Engineers, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the Fish and Wildlife Service. State agencies involved in conservation include the wildlife and fisheries commission, the department of conservation, and the forestry commission.
Floods on the Mississippi River and its tributaries have periodically caused extensive damage in Louisiana and other states. To control flooding, an extensive system has been created along the Mississippi, in Louisiana and especially in states farther upstream, to keep the river within its banks during periods of high water. The artificially created levees must continually be strengthened and increased in height because the silt carried by the river that once spread over the land during time of flood is now continuously settling on the bottom of the river and building up the riverbed. In many areas the riverbed has been so built up by these silt deposits that it is now several feet higher than the surrounding land.
Soil erosion is a problem in Louisiana only in the hilly northwest, but continuous cotton cultivation has resulted in a general reduction in soil fertility throughout the state. Where serious soil erosion has occurred, the land has been taken out of cultivation and converted to pastureland or forest land. In less severely eroded areas, contour plowing, strip-cropping, and other soil conservation practices are used to help reduce runoff. To restore soil fertility, crop rotation has replaced continuous cotton cropping.
It is estimated that almost 2 million hectares (5 million acres) of land in Louisiana was reforested from the mid-1940s to the mid-1990s. Most of the new trees have been planted on privately owned commercial forest lands. In addition, some areas of public land have also been reforested. Numerous species of wildlife are now on the United States endangered or threatened list. These include the state bird, the brown pelican, as well as red-cockaded woodpecker, American alligator, bald eagle, and various turtles.
In 2006 the state had 11 hazardous waste sites on a national priority list for cleanup due to their severity or proximity to people. Progress was being made in efforts to reduce pollution; in the period 1995–2000 the amount of toxic chemicals discharged into the environment was reduced by 15 percent.
Plantation agriculture flourished in Louisiana in the 18th century. Planters first experimented with indigo and tobacco, but these were soon replaced by cotton in the north and sugarcane in the subtropical south. In the late 19th century a lumber industry boom occurred, while the discovery of petroleum and natural gas in the early 20th century added other dimensions to the economy. In the second half of the 20th century industry expanded rapidly, fueled in part by the development of offshore oil fields. Louisiana remains an important agricultural state, but manufacturing, mining, tourism, and commerce now dominate the economy.
In terms of employment, services and wholesale and retail trade are the leading economic activities in Louisiana. However, as a source of income, manufacturing and mining, particularly the extraction of petroleum and natural gas, is most important. The income generated by industries is slightly more than the value of the minerals extracted in the state. Less than one-fourth as many people work on Louisiana’s farms as work in its industries, and the income from farming is much less than the value of mineral production or the income generated by industries and other economic activities. However, agriculture provides essential raw materials for industries, as do mining, fishing, and lumbering.
Louisiana had a work force of 1,990,000 in 2006. The largest share of them, 38 percent, were employed in the services sector, doing such jobs as working in hospitals or restaurants. Another 20 percent worked in wholesale or retail trade; 19 percent in federal, state, or local government, including those in the military; 8 percent in manufacturing; 7 percent in construction; 20 percent in transportation or public utilities; 15 percent in finance, insurance, or real estate; 2 percent in farming (including agricultural services), fishing, or forestry; and 3 percent in mining. In 2005, 6 percent of Louisiana’s workers were members of a labor union.
Farmland occupies 3.2 million hectares (7.8 million acres), or 30 percent of the total area of Louisiana. Crops are raised on 65 percent of all farmland in the state. Most of the remaining farmland is used for pasture.
Crops accounted for 61 percent of farm income in Louisiana in 2004. Cotton, sugarcane, soybeans, rice, and corn are the most important crops and were the top agricultural products overall in 1996, according to cash value. Soybeans for a time was the leading crop harvested but its production has recently declined. Livestock and livestock products accounted for 39 percent of all farm income in 2004. Poultry, broilers (young chickens used for meat), and eggs are the most economically important livestock.
There were 26,800 farms in the state in 2005, averaging 118 hectares (291 acres) in size. The largest farms are the highly mechanized farms located in the Mississippi Alluvial Plain and in the sugar- and rice-producing areas of the West Gulf Coastal Plain.
The five leading crops are cotton, sugarcane, soybeans, rice, and corn. In 1997 Louisiana ranked sixth in the United States in production of cotton, second in sugarcane (behind Florida), and third in the production of rice (behind Arkansas and California). Cotton is grown primarily on the fertile bottomlands of the Mississippi and Red river valleys, and sugarcane chiefly on the bottomlands of the Mississippi Alluvial Plain south of Baton Rouge and west of New Orleans. The raising of soybeans, used mostly as livestock feed, increased rapidly from the early 1960s to become the most important crop in the 1970s and early 1980s but has since declined. Rice is grown on the prairie sections east of Lake Charles, in the West Gulf Coastal Plain. Another important crop is corn, which is used both for human consumption and as animal feed.
Mechanization and other advances in technology have dramatically changed agriculture since the 1940s, leading to larger farms with fewer laborers. Improved species and new crops have also affected this sector of the economy. Government farm programs dating from the 1930s add to the list of influences affecting the acreage planted and value of crops produced in the state.
In 1997 Louisiana ranked second in the production of sweet potatoes, behind North Carolina. Specialty crops grown in the state include pecans, strawberries, peaches, peppers, perique tobacco, and tung nuts.
|A2||Livestock and Livestock Products|
Poultry, cattle, and calf production are the leading livestock components in agriculture. Poultry farming is concentrated in north central Louisiana. The production of broilers and eggs accounts for most of the income of poultry farmers. Cattle are raised throughout the state. Grasses grow well in all months, and, as a result, cattle can be grazed year-round on pastures of Bermuda grass, clover, and lespedeza. Large areas of worn-out cotton land have been replanted and restored to production as pastures. Dairy farming is the leading source of farm income in the areas surrounding the urban centers of southeastern Louisiana. Hogs are also raised.
Louisiana has rich coastal and inland fishing waters. The value of the catch in 2004 was $275 million–greater than that of any other state except Alaska. Shrimp is the most valuable catch, contributing more than two-fifths of the income from fishing in 1997. Menhaden, a fish used for livestock feed and fertilizer, accounted for more than four-fifths of the catch by weight, but ranked second in value. Oysters, blue crabs, and tuna are also important aquatic resources. Crayfish and catfish are raised inland in pisciculture, or fish farming, operations.
Louisiana is one of the leading lumber-producing states. The majority of Louisiana’s forests are privately owned. That, plus environmental concerns that reduced lumbering in the Pacific Northwest, led to an increase in the production of forest products in the early 1990s. Softwoods accounted for more than 90 percent of the amount of timber cut each year in the early 1990s. The most important softwood trees are the longleaf, shortleaf, loblolly, and slash pines. They are used principally for lumber and plywood and in the manufacture of wood pulp and paper. Hardwoods, used mainly for lumber and other wood products and for fuel wood, include oak, gum, cottonwood, willow, ash, and cypress. Spanish moss is gathered in the southern forests and, after being cured, is sold for use as packing material.
Due to the exploitation of its immense fossil fuel resources, Louisiana ranks second among the states in the value of mineral production, behind only Texas. It ranks second in the production of natural gas and fourth in the production of crude petroleum. Oil is produced in nearly all parts of the state, but the Gulf Coast and northwestern Louisiana are the principal producing areas. Much of the oil is produced from offshore wells in the shallow waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
Natural gas, which accounts for four-fifths of the value of the state’s mineral output, is produced primarily in areas along the Gulf Coast and in northern Louisiana. Natural gas is processed to produce natural-gas liquids, such as natural gasoline and liquefied petroleum gases.
The leading nonfuel mineral mined in Louisiana is salt. The state also produces significant quantities of sulphur from a mine located in the Gulf of Mexico.
The production of chemicals is the leading manufacturing activity in Louisiana. It accounts for two-fifths of the income generated by manufacturing in the state. The chemical industry, which is associated in part with oil-refining activities, is based largely on the state’s output of crude oil, natural gas, salt, sulfur, and other minerals. A wide range of petrochemicals and other basic chemicals is produced. The principal centers of the chemical industry and oil-refining industry are along the Mississippi River from Baton Rouge downriver toward New Orleans and in the Lake Charles area.
Other major industrial activities include petroleum refining, the processing of food products, the production of paper products, and the manufacture of transportation equipment. Among the great variety of other goods made are fabricated metals, electrical equipment, primary metals, and lumber and wood products. New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Shreveport, and Lake Charles are the state’s principal industrial centers.
Louisiana’s electric power comes primarily from plants powered by fossil fuels, mostly coal and natural gas. Some 79 percent of its electricity is generated in these thermal plants, while 17 percent comes from two nuclear power plants constructed during the 1980s in Taft and Saint Francisville. The sluggish rivers of the state offer little potential for future hydroelectric development. Most of the state’s power is produced by private power utilities and by industrial establishments that maintain their own generating plants.
The rivers of Louisiana were the chief transportation routes of the early settlers. Early in the 19th century, New Orleans became the main receiving port for farm products shipped down the Mississippi from the Ohio and upper Mississippi valleys. Railroads were developed later in the 19th century. During the first half of the 20th century, highways and air routes were extended throughout much of the state. New Orleans remains the principal transportation center in the state.
The highways and roads that cross Louisiana total 98,088 km (60,949 mi), including 1,453 km (903 mi) of the federal interstate highway system. The principal east-to-west freeway routes are Interstates 10 and 12, along the southern edge of the state, and Interstate 20, connecting the northern cities. Providing north-south transportation are Interstate 55, out of New Orleans, and Interstate 49, connecting Lafayette and Shreveport.
There were 4,781 km (2,971 mi) of railroad tracks in Louisiana in 2004. Railroads provide freight service to and from many urban centers. New Orleans, Shreveport, and Alexandria are among the chief freight centers, and New Orleans is also the major railroad passenger terminus.
Louisiana had 10 airports in 2007, most of which are small private fields. Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport is the state’s principal airport.
|G4||Waterways and Ports|
The Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet, which extends for 108 km (67 mi) from New Orleans to the Gulf, enables oceangoing ships to bypass the lowermost reaches of the Mississippi River delta. Above New Orleans a channel 13.7 m (45 ft) deep is maintained in the Mississippi River as far upstream as Baton Rouge. From Baton Rouge to the Louisiana-Arkansas state line there is a navigation channel 2.7 m (9 ft) deep. Barges and other rivercraft also utilize the Red and Ouachita rivers in Louisiana.
The gulf section of the Intracoastal Waterway, which passes through New Orleans, extends the width of the state, from the mouth of the East Pearl River in the east to the Sabine River in the west. Almost the entire length of the waterway in Louisiana lies inland, rather than just offshore, as in most other Gulf States.
Louisiana has three major deepwater ports. The Port of South Louisiana, in New Orleans, was the nation’s leading port in weight of cargo handled annually in the mid-1990s. Baton Rouge is a major inland port on the Mississippi. Lake Charles is connected with the Gulf of Mexico by a deepwater ship channel. In 1981 the nation’s first “superport” for oil tankers was completed 31 km (19 mi) off the coast of Louisiana. It is capable of berthing tankers too large to dock in any other U.S. port.
New Orleans is the state’s leading trade center. Wholesale and retail establishments in the city serve most of southeastern Louisiana, as well as much of southern Mississippi. Shreveport is also a major trade center, serving much of northern Louisiana and part of eastern Texas. Other cities in Louisiana that serve as trade centers include Baton Rouge, Monroe, Lafayette, Alexandria, and Lake Charles.
|IV||THE PEOPLE OF LOUISIANA|
According to the 2000 national census, Louisiana ranked 22nd among the states, with a total population of 4,468,976. This figure represented an increase of 5.9 percent over the 1990 census figure of 4,219,973.
Urban areas are home to 73 percent of Louisiana’s population. The state has an average population density of 38 persons per sq km (98 per sq mi). In much of rural northern and western Louisiana there are fewer than 12 persons per sq km (30 per sq mi), and in Cameron Parish, on the Gulf Coast, there are 3 persons per sq km (7 per sq mi).
In 2000 whites made up 63.9 percent of the population and blacks 32.5 percent. In parts of eastern Louisiana blacks constitute a majority of the population. Additional ethnic groups in the state were Asians, who were 1.2 percent of the people, Native Americans, 0.6 percent, and those of mixed heritage or not reporting race, 1.8 percent. Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders numbered 1,240. Hispanics, who may be of any race, were 2.4 percent of the population.
A unique element of the state’s population is a group of people known as Creoles. Creole people are the American-born descendants of European settlers who came to the colony beginning in the 18th century. By the 19th century Creoles were generally considered of two types: white Creoles and Creoles of color (also known as Afro-Creoles). White Creoles were of French, Spanish, and sometimes German heritage, while Creoles of color were of mixed European and African ancestry. Today, the Creole population in Louisiana is most often characterized as a group of mixed-race, French-speaking, and Roman Catholic people. A unique Creole language, derived from French, also emerged from this population, although it is no longer commonly spoken by Creoles in Louisiana today.
The French-speaking people of Acadia, most of which is now part of the Canadian province of Nova Scotia, were ousted from their homes by the British in 1755. Some of them relocated to Louisiana beginning in the 1760s. Their descendants, called Cajuns (a word derived from Acadians), live mostly in the southwestern part of the state. The Creoles and the Cajuns, who have partly merged, retain much of their original culture, including the French language and the Roman Catholic religion.
The three largest cities in the state are New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and Shreveport. One of the principal cities of the South, New Orleans is the chief commercial and transportation center and port of Louisiana and one of the two leading industrial centers in the state. Its population in 2005 was 454,863. After the storm surge from Hurricane Katrina breached some of the city’s levees in August 2005, city officials called for a mass evacuation of the city. The storm destroyed much of the city’s housing. In late 2006 only about 187,000 people lived within the city limits. New Orleans is the hub of a metropolitan area that covers eight parishes and held 1 million inhabitants in 2006. It included the city Metairie, which with a population of 149,428 (1996) was one of the largest in the state.
Baton Rouge, with a 2005 population of 222,064, serves as the state capital of Louisiana. It is also one of the state’s two leading industrial centers, with emphasis on oil refining and the manufacture of chemicals and chemical products. The Baton Rouge metropolitan area had 766,514 inhabitants in 2006.
Shreveport, with a population of 198,874, is the leading commercial center in northwestern Louisiana. It is also an industrial center where oil refining is a major activity. The Shreveport metropolitan area had a population of 386,778 in 2006. Across the Red River is Bossier City, growing as a service center and also home to Barksdale Air Force Base.
Lafayette, with a 2005 population of 112,030, is primarily a commercial center in south central Louisiana. Lake Charles, with a population of 70,555, is the leading commercial center in southwestern Louisiana. Monroe, with a population of 51,914, is the commercial center for the important cotton-growing area in northern Louisiana. Alexandria, with a population of 45,693, is also a commercial center for central Louisiana.
Nearly one-half of Louisiana’s religious adherents are members of the Roman Catholic church. Catholicism is strongest in southern Louisiana, while Protestantism, particularly the Baptist and Methodist faiths, predominates in the more rural north.
|V||EDUCATION AND CULTURAL INSTITUTIONS|
The first school in the Louisiana region was founded in 1725 in New Orleans by a Roman Catholic priest. Subsequently a number of private and parochial schools were established. In the 1770s Spaniards tried to create a public school system but failed. The first free public school system, supported jointly by city and state, was established at New Orleans in 1841, and a statewide public school system was established in the later 1840s.
Until the 1960s black and white school children were segregated for the most part. In 1960 token integration was enforced in two New Orleans public primary schools. Roman Catholic schools were desegregated in 1962. By 1970, all school districts were under court order to desegregate, and compliance was generally effective. Currently some schools continue to remain generally one-race, a result of district or neighborhood demographics.
School attendance in Louisiana is compulsory for all children from 7 to 18 years of age. Some 18 percent of the children attend parochial and other private schools; non-public school enrollment is particularly high in the New Orleans area.
In the 2002–2003 school year Louisiana spent $7,638 on each student’s education, compared to a national average of $9,299. There were 16.6 students for every teacher (the national average was 15.9). Of those older than 25 years of age in the state in 2006, 79.4 percent had a high school diploma, compared to the national average of 84.1 percent.
The College of Orleans, the first institution of higher learning in Louisiana, lasted little more than a decade after opening in 1811 in New Orleans. Centenary College of Louisiana opened in 1825 in Jackson as the College of Louisiana; it was purchased by the Methodist Church in 1840 and was moved to Shreveport in 1907. Louisiana’s largest institution of higher education is the Louisiana State University and Agricultural and Mechanical College, which was opened in 1860 at Alexandria as the Louisiana State Seminary of Learning. Moved to Baton Rouge in 1869, it became Louisiana State University in 1870 and in 1877 was united with Louisiana State Agricultural and Mechanical College. It now has branch campuses at Alexandria, Eunice, and Shreveport. Noted private universities include Tulane University, in New Orleans, and Loyola University-New Orleans, the latter a Roman Catholic institution. In 2004–2005 Louisiana had 59 public and 31 private institutions of higher education.
There are 65 tax-supported public library systems in Louisiana, circulating an average of 4 books per resident each year. Bookmobiles are used to provide or supplement library service in rural areas of the state. The State Library of Louisiana in Baton Rouge provides information and books to the entire state. Other major libraries are located on all the college campuses throughout the state. Archives and manuscript collections are found at the state level and at many colleges and universities.
Fine art collections are located in the major cities of Louisiana. A number of scientific, historical, and art museums are located on the campuses of the state universities and Tulane University. Exhibits devoted to state and regional history are housed in the Louisiana State Museum and in the Louisiana Historical Association’s Confederate Museum, both of which are in New Orleans, and in the Louisiana State Exhibit Museum, at Shreveport. Also in New Orleans is the Louisiana Nature Center. The Marksville State Historic Site, at Marksville, includes a noted archaeological museum. There are arboretums in Ville Platte and Baton Rouge. Hundreds of museums, large and small, are found around the state.
There were 19 daily newspapers published in Louisiana in 2002. The region’s first newspaper was the French-language Moniteur de la Louisiane (“Louisiana Monitor”), founded in 1794 in New Orleans. The oldest paper in the state and the daily with the largest circulation is the New Orleans Times-Picayune, which dates from 1837. Other major Louisiana dailies include the Baton Rouge Advocate and the Shreveport Times.
The first commercial radio station in Louisiana, WWL, in New Orleans, was licensed in 1922. The first television station in the state was WDSU-TV, in New Orleans, which began broadcasting in 1948. In 2002 there were 63 AM and 101 FM radio stations and 32 television stations in the state.
Louisiana’s rich musical heritage includes a strong European tradition of classical music and a wealth of Creole, Cajun, and black folk music. New Orleans has traditionally been a center of musical culture of many sorts. Around the turn of the 20th century, New Orleans became the center of the development of jazz and for several years was the focus of jazz music in the United States. Created largely by black musicians, this new form of music had its origins in the blues, spirituals, Creole songs, and French dances that were common to Louisiana. New Orleans bands and musicians carried jazz to other parts of the country and soon achieved both national and international fame. Of the many jazz styles that have developed since the early days of jazz, two have remained closely associated with New Orleans: Dixieland and the New Orleans style.
|VI||RECREATION AND PLACES OF INTEREST|
Louisiana’s parks and other recreational facilities attract hundreds of thousands of tourists to the state every year. A large number of the parks lie along water, and water sports are among the most popular forms of outdoor recreation in Louisiana. There is excellent fishing in Louisiana’s many freshwater streams and lakes and along the Gulf of Mexico. Wooded areas and coastal marshes offer fine opportunities to observe wildlife. Among the many interesting places to visit are the numerous units of the state park system. Privately owned sites open to the public include many of Louisiana’s beautiful mansions from what is called the antebellum period before the Civil War (1861-1865). The state’s chief tourist center, New Orleans, offers visitors many attractions of historic interest, as well as the atmosphere of a cosmopolitan city.
|A||National Forest and National Parks|
Kisatchie National Forest, the only national forest in Louisiana, covers 243,000 hectares (601,000 acres) in the north central part of the state. It has facilities for camping and a lake for swimming, fishing, and boating.
Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve was established to preserve the rich natural resources and culture of Louisiana’s delta region. The park consists of four separate units: Acadian, which interprets the Acadian and Native American cultures of the area; the Barataria Preserve, near Marrero, which focuses on the natural and cultural history of the swamp and marshlands of the region; the Chalmette, near New Orleans, site of the 1815 Battle of New Orleans; and the New Orleans unit, which tells of the history of the city. The Cane River Creole National Historical Park and Heritage Area, authorized in 1994, preserves buildings and landscapes associated with the development of Creole culture. New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park, also authorized in 1994, educates visitors about jazz music as it evolved in New Orleans. Poverty Point National Monument, in northeast Louisiana, contains some of the largest Native American earthworks found on the continent, consisting of concentric ridges which may have been dwelling foundations surrounding a large central plaza. Arranged around the ridges are four ceremonial and burial mounds. Also in Louisiana is a portion of the Vicksburg National Military Park, site of the siege in 1863 that gave Union forces control of the Mississippi River during the Civil War (see Vicksburg, Campaign of).
Alexander State Forest, the only state forest, is in central Louisiana. It contains almost every variety of tree found in Louisiana.
The system has nearly 30 units designated as state parks, preservation areas, or commemorative areas. Most of them have facilities for camping, boating, swimming, and fishing. Chicot State Park, the largest, is an area of rolling woodlands in central Louisiana. The beautiful Fontainebleau State Park extends along the northern shore of Lake Pontchartrain. Sam Houston Jones State Park is located in southwestern Louisiana, north of Lake Charles. Chemin-a-Haut State Park lies in northeastern Louisiana on Bayou Bartholomew. Lake Bistineau State Park is situated on the western shore of Lake Bistineau, which lies southeast of Shreveport. Lake Bruin State Park, in the eastern part of the state, lies on an oxbow lake that was formed by a cutoff of the Mississippi River.
Most of the state commemorative areas preserve places of historic significance. They include Marksville State Commemorative Area, in central Louisiana, which is the site of a prehistoric Native American village and an archaeological museum. Longfellow-Evangeline, in south central Louisiana, commemorates the heroine of the famous narrative poem Evangeline (1847), by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. In the park is a museum devoted to Acadian life. Fort Pike near New Orleans preserves the ruins of a historic fort constructed after the War of 1812 to defend approaches to the city. The Audubon memorial, in the south central part of the state, is the site of the plantation home once occupied by the famous wildlife painter John James Audubon. Mansfield State Commemorative Area south of Shreveport was the site of a Civil War battle. Near Natchitoches is Los Adaes, a one-time capital of Texas.
|D||Other Places to Visit|
Many of the state’s most popular tourist attractions are located in New Orleans. In Louisiana there are many beautiful antebellum mansions. Among those open to visitors are Rosedown, at Saint Francisville; Shadows-on-the-Teche, at New Iberia; and Oakland, Beau Fort, and Cherokee, all near Natchitoches. Scenic places of interest include Avery Island, on the Gulf Coast, where there are subtropical gardens and a bird sanctuary. Sites on the National Register of Historic Places lie scattered in rural and urban settings around the state.
The Mardi Gras carnival held in New Orleans is one of the best-known annual events in the country. The carnival traditionally begins on Twelfth Night and culminates on Mardi Gras, or Shrove Tuesday, which precedes the first day of Lent. At New Orleans there is also a collegiate football game played in the Sugar Bowl during the New Year’s holiday, and a Jazz and Heritage festival, celebrating the unique culture of Louisiana, in May.
Shreveport is home to the Independence Bowl football game and many other events. There is a Peach Festival at Ruston in June. During the late summer, the shrimp fleets are blessed at a number of places on the coast. In the fall, the International Rice Festival is held at Crowley and the Louisiana Sugar Cane Festival at New Iberia. The Louisiana State Fair takes place at Shreveport in October. The character of the state’s small towns can be seen in their many community festivals, such as the Corney Creek Porkfest in Bernice, in October, the Louisiana Catfish Festival in Des Allemands, in July, and the Mandeville Seafood Festival, in July.
Louisiana’s present constitution, the state’s 11th, was adopted in 1974. Previous state constitutions were adopted in 1812, 1845, 1852, 1861, 1864, 1868, 1879, 1898, 1913, and 1921. A proposed amendment to the constitution must initially be approved by a two-thirds majority vote of the elected membership in each house of the state legislature. To be adopted, it must then be approved by a simple majority of the electorate voting on it. Amendments also may be proposed at a constitutional convention; these too are subject to approval by a majority of voters.
The chief executive of Louisiana, the governor, is elected to a four-year term and may not serve more than two successive terms. The governor appoints some of the state’s major administrative officials, sometimes subject to the approval of the state senate, and has the power to veto legislation and items in appropriations bills. However, the state legislature can override a veto by a two-thirds majority vote of the elected membership in each house. The governor is also empowered to call special sessions of the legislature. The other elected state officials include the lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general, treasurer, superintendent of education, and the commissioners of agriculture, insurance, and elections. All of these officials are elected to four-year terms.
The state legislature consists of a 39-member Senate and a 105-member House of Representatives. Both senators and representatives serve four-year terms of office. The legislature meets annually in odd numbered years in a general session and in even numbered years for fiscal matters only. The general session convenes the last Monday in March for up to 60 legislative days, the fiscal session the last Monday in April for up to 30 legislative days. Special sessions of the legislature may also be called either by the governor or by petition of a majority of the elected members of each house of the legislature.
The Supreme Court, the state’s highest court, has seven justices, each elected from a different district to a ten-year term. The justice with seniority presides over the court as chief justice. The next highest courts are the courts of appeals. Judges are elected to ten-year terms. The Supreme Court has original as well as appellate jurisdiction. The major trial courts in Louisiana are the district courts. District court judges are elected to six-year terms. Minor courts in Louisiana include justice-of-the-peace courts, mayor’s courts, juvenile courts, and family courts. Orleans Parish has civil and criminal district courts and city, municipal, traffic, and juvenile courts. Louisiana’s legal system is based on the French Code Napoléon, but it has been gradually changed to conform to the system practiced in other states.
Louisiana is divided into 64 parishes. Parishes, first established by the Spanish in the 18th century as divisions for religious administration, correspond to counties in other states. Most parishes are administered by police juries, of 5 to 16 members, elected to four-year terms of office. The rest generally use a commission form of government, sometimes merging metropolitan and parish government in a single body. Most Louisiana municipalities have the mayor and city council form of government.
The voters of Louisiana elect seven members of the U.S. House of Representatives and two members of the U.S. Senate. In presidential elections the state casts nine electoral votes.
Louisiana had a sizable prehistoric population. Many ceremonial mounds still stand throughout the state as reminders of the Hopewell culture (about ad 1-800) and the Mississippian culture (about ad 800-1500), both popularly called Mound Builders, whose people lived in highly organized farming communities. Archaeologists believe that some mounds located at a site called Watson Brake near Monroe in northeast Louisiana were built more than 5,000 years ago and may be the oldest known remnants of human construction in North America.
In the age of European exploration, beginning in the 16th century, the region was inhabited by peoples of three Native American language groups: the Caddoan, Muskogean, and Tunican. Caddoan peoples included the Caddo, Natchitoches, Yatasi, and Adai. They lived in the northwestern part of the present state. The Muskogean peoples, who included the Houma, Choctaw, Acolapissa, and Taensa, lived in east central Louisiana on or near the Mississippi River. Most of the Tunicans, including the Chitimacha, Atakapa, and several smaller groups, lived along the Gulf Coast; the small Koroa group inhabited northeastern Louisiana. Eventually many of these peoples moved away, as did the Caddo in the 1830s, or were greatly reduced by war, disease, or intermarriage. As some groups disappeared, others migrated into Louisiana in waves occurring in the mid-1760s and mid-1790s. The Chitimacha, Houma, Tunica-Biloxi, Coushatta, and Choctaw still have communities in Louisiana.
|B||European Discovery and Settlement|
The first Europeans who entered the area were from Spain. Among them were the Hernando de Soto expedition (1539-1543) that explored large parts of the southern United States and came through Louisiana in 1542. The diseases brought by de Soto and his troops were devastating to the Native Americans, who lacked immunity to them. Their population dropped drastically in the years after the Spaniards’ departure.
For almost 150 years there was no further significant European activity in Louisiana. Then, in 1682, the French explorer René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, traveled down the Mississippi River to its mouth and claimed for France all the land drained by the river and its tributaries. La Salle named that vast region Louisiane (in English, Louisiana) in honor of the reigning French king, Louis XIV.
|C||The 18th Century|
The French built forts and settlements along the Gulf Coast and in the Mississippi Valley, including Biloxi (1699), Mobile (1702), and Natchitoches (1714), which was the first permanent white settlement in the area of the present state. Nouvelle-Orléans (New Orleans), another early French settlement, was established in 1718 to secure the lower Mississippi against France’s rival colonial powers, Spain and Great Britain. In 1722, New Orleans became the capital of Louisiana. By then the colony also included several settlements farther upstream along the Mississippi.
Louisiana struggled as a royal colony from 1699 to 1712. As a result of fighting between France and Great Britain during the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1714), the colonists were cut off from France for years at a time. In 1712 the financially beleaguered French monarchy gave control of Louisiana to wealthy French financier Antoine Crozat. The population remained quite small throughout his proprietorship.
In 1717 the slow-growing colony came under the control of the Compagnie d’Occident (Company of the West), headed by Scottish financier John Law. Law gained great influence at the French court through his establishment of what became the French national bank. Because the bank invested heavily in the Company of the West and because Louisiana was the company’s greatest asset, Law needed to develop the colony rapidly to maintain public confidence in the bank. He undertook a promotional campaign that brought in several thousand settlers. Many were German indentured workers who sold their services for a specified period, after which they gained their freedom. The settlers also included convicts who were forced to migrate to the colony. According to one company official, 7,020 Europeans went to the colony between October 1717 and May 1721. Because Law’s company had acquired the Compagnie du Senegal (Company of Senegal), which held the French monopoly on the slave trade, black slaves from Africa were brought to Louisiana in 1719. About 3,000 slaves arrived between 1720 and 1731.
Law’s promotional literature led immigrants to anticipate quick profits from mining and other endeavors that would require little effort and investment. However, the harsh world they found was dramatically different. Many people died because the overwhelmed colonial government could not meet their needs for food, clothing, and shelter. Most of the survivors stayed because they lacked the means to return to Europe. Although a few large plantations were established, most of the immigrants tilled small subsistence farms, sometimes with slave labor. These farmers engaged in small-scale production of tobacco and indigo for export.
Law’s promotional scheme, known as the Mississippi Bubble or Mississippi Scheme, fell apart in 1720 as word of the brutal colonial conditions reached France. The company survived, however, and continued to administer the colony until 1731. In that year, as a result of French warfare with the Natchez people who lived on the east bank of the Mississippi, Louisiana was returned to the French monarchy.
Louisiana remained a French colony until the early 1760s but was always a heavy economic burden. With the British conquest of the French colonies in Canada during the French and Indian War (1754-1763), Louisiana no longer had any strategic value to France. In 1762 France transferred the colony to Spain in the secret Treaty of Fontainebleau, to induce Spain to enter the war as a French ally. However, the following year the French and Spanish lost the war, and in the peace treaty Great Britain took nearly all of Louisiana east of the Mississippi. Spain kept the larger western part, along with the Ile d’Orléans (Isle of Orleans), the area around New Orleans. The Spanish part alone retained the name Louisiana.
The transfer to Spain surprised and angered the colony’s largely French population. The colonists’ disappointment turned to despair when the first Spanish governor, Antonio de Ulloa, who arrived at New Orleans in March 1766, attempted to impose a harsher rule on the colony. In late October 1768 insurgents arose and drove Ulloa from the colony. General Alejandro O’Reilly restored Spanish control in August 1769.
O’Reilly quickly established the Spanish government that would administer the colony for the next 34 years. Most of the population and local administrators, however, remained French. Although the Spanish tried to tip the balance by bringing in hundreds of Spanish colonists in 1779, most immigrants in the Spanish period were French-speaking refugees from political upheavals in France, Canada, and the West Indies. The two most important groups were the Acadians, about 3,000 of whom came from eastern Canada; and refugees from Saint-Domingue (present-day Haiti) fleeing that island’s black revolution (1791-1803). The Acadians, or Cajuns as they came to be known, settled in frontier areas west of New Orleans, becoming the dominant cultural group in rural south Louisiana.
Louisiana had some involvement in the American Revolution (1775-1783), in which the United States rebelled against Great Britain. Because Great Britain was Spain’s chief colonial rival in North America, the Spanish in New Orleans worked to undermine the British by supplying the United States with arms, ammunition, and provisions. In 1779 Spain formally declared war on Great Britain. Spanish forces, consisting of Louisiana militia, subsequently captured all of the major British settlements in West Florida, which included the Gulf Coast area between the Perdido and Mississippi rivers. Under the terms of the 1783 Treaty of Paris, which concluded the war, Great Britain ceded both East and West Florida to Spain.
Following the revolution, Louisiana finally began to attain a level of modest prosperity. In addition, New Orleans emerged as the commercial gateway to the North American interior. Just as Louisiana was beginning to achieve its economic potential, Spain gave it back to France by another secret treaty in 1800. Spain, however, retained West Florida. France, in turn, sold Louisiana to the United States in 1803. (see Louisiana Purchase.)
|D||The 19th Century|
The United States in 1804 split Louisiana into two parts: the District of Louisiana (renamed Territory of Louisiana in 1805), comprising land north of the 33rd parallel (the northern border of present-day Louisiana); and the Territory of Orleans, comprising land to the south. William C. C. Claiborne became governor of the Territory of Orleans. He faced the challenge of transplanting American democracy to a territory that had little experience with self-rule. In 1809 Claiborne also had to deal with a second wave of Saint-Domingue refugees. Ten thousand refugees arrived at New Orleans in a six-month period, doubling its population. This influx helped preserve for decades—and, to some extent, to the present day—the French character of New Orleans.
In 1810 American settlers in West Florida proclaimed their independence from Spain and requested annexation by the United States. Claiborne assumed control over that region as far east as the Pearl River.
On April 30, 1812, the Territory of Orleans entered the federal Union as the 18th state, the state of Louisiana. It included the annexed part of West Florida. Claiborne became the first state governor, and New Orleans continued as the capital.
Less than two months later the War of 1812 erupted between the United States and Britain. In 1814, near the end of the war, the British launched a campaign to capture strategic points along the lower Mississippi and the Gulf Coast. On January 8, 1815, a large British force stormed heavily defended New Orleans, but was thrown back by forces commanded by Major General Andrew Jackson. The decisive United States victory, though won after the signing of the peace treaty, preserved the boundaries of the young republic. Historical evidence indicates that Britain would not have ratified the treaty if it had won at New Orleans.
|D3||Agricultural and Commercial Development|
After the War of 1812, settlers from the United States migrated in a steady stream to Louisiana, mainly from other parts of the South. By 1820, with a population of 153,407, Louisiana was thoroughly settled by whites except for some northern and western areas. One region that remained largely unsettled was the upper Red River valley, where a huge logjam north of Natchitoches made the river unnavigable. In the 1830s the logjam, known as the Great Raft, was cleared. By 1840, when the population reached 352,411, settlement of northwestern Louisiana was well under way. By 1860 the population had grown to 708,002, about half of whom were black slaves.
Between 1815 and 1860 Louisiana’s most prosperous farmers cultivated cotton or sugarcane. Cotton, which was less labor intensive than sugarcane, was grown by many small farmers as well as by proprietors of large plantations with many slaves. By 1850 cotton was grown in most parts of the state, with concentrations in the Mississippi Valley, and, to a lesser degree, the Red, Ouachita, and Tensas river valleys. Sugar plantations predominated in the bayou country of southern Louisiana. Sugar was consistently more profitable than cotton before 1860, but the climate kept it from becoming a staple crop in the northern parts of the state. Rice, grown at first along the Mississippi and in the bayou country as food for slaves, became a major commercial crop in the late 19th century, following the introduction of steam technology and irrigation techniques into the prairie country of southwestern Louisiana by Midwestern immigrants.
|D4||Growth of New Orleans|
During this period, New Orleans developed into one of the nation’s leading commercial centers. Between 1830 and 1860 it was also the second leading American port of entry for immigrants. New Orleans was the major market for Louisiana and other Gulf Coast areas and also for vast portions of the rapidly developing Ohio and Mississippi river valleys. By 1820, with a population of 27,176, New Orleans surpassed Charleston, South Carolina, as the largest city in the South; by 1860 its population reached 168,675. This growth was in spite of frequent yellow fever epidemics that were especially lethal to the European immigrants, who were most responsible for the city’s rapid growth.
Between 1815 and 1840 the volume of the city’s commercial traffic swelled astoundingly from $20 million to $200 million as New Orleans moved into second place, after New York City, as the nation’s leading port. Enormous quantities of cotton, tobacco, grain, and meat came down the Ohio and Mississippi rivers by steamboat, while sugar, coffee, and numerous imported manufactured items were shipped upriver to pioneer settlers.
Beginning about 1835 the building of canals and railroads connecting the Midwest with the Northeast resulted in the diversion of much of the Midwest’s grain and meat produce to Northeastern cities. As a result, New Orleans came to rely increasingly on cotton and sugar as export commodities. Another indication of the city’s closer ties with the South was that the slave trade became increasingly important in the city’s commerce.
The growing political and economic power of New Orleans proved a liability because the remainder of the state pressured politicians to relocate the state capital. In 1849 the capital was moved to Baton Rouge.
|D5||The Civil War|
Slavery was one of the most divisive political issues in the Congress of the United States in the first half of the 19th century. Many Congress members from the Northern states pressed to end slavery, both because they considered it immoral and because white labor could not compete with unpaid black labor. Members from the Deep South (North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Florida) believed that slavery was essential to their agricultural system and that the North was trying to dominate the national economy. By the 1850s, Southerners saw their power slipping in Congress, the clamor for abolition of slavery was at a high pitch, and many in the South came to believe that secession from the Union was the only way to protect “Southern rights,” including the right to own slaves.
Abraham Lincoln was elected president in 1860 as the candidate of the Republican Party, which opposed the spread of slavery. South Carolina had threatened to secede if the Republicans won, and in December 1860 it did so. Other Southern states began to follow, and war looked imminent. Louisiana withdrew from the Union on January 26, 1861, the sixth state to do so. Shortly thereafter the seceded states formed a confederacy, the Confederate States of America, and began mobilizing for war. The American Civil War began on April 12, 1861, when Confederate artillery bombarded a federal fort in Charleston harbor.
Louisiana was remote from most of the action in the war, which occurred to the north and east. The Confederates erected forts on the Mississippi below New Orleans to protect the city and keep the port open. One year later, in April 1862, a fleet of Union Navy ships under Captain David G. Farragut entered the mouth of the Mississippi. After bombarding the forts, Farragut slipped past them and occupied the city without a struggle on April 26. This was a costly loss to the Confederacy, for New Orleans was not only the South’s largest city, it had also been an important supply center.
Continuing upriver after taking New Orleans, Farragut’s forces captured Baton Rouge. The Confederate state government withdrew to Opelousas and later to Shreveport, where it remained for the duration of the war. Baton Rouge did not become the capital again until 1882.
The Union made New Orleans the capital of all federally held territory in Louisiana and placed it under martial law, enforced by the controversial Union Major General Benjamin F. Butler. Butler’s arbitrary rule provoked charges of corruption, earned him the nickname Beast Butler, and caused his dismissal as governor.
In August 1862 Confederate troops attempted to recapture Baton Rouge. Failing, they entrenched themselves at Port Hudson, 32 km (20 mi) upriver from Baton Rouge. Port Hudson fell to Union forces in July 1863, by which time it was the last Confederate stronghold on the Mississippi. However, western and northern Louisiana remained under Confederate control for the remainder of the war.
|D6||Reconstruction and Its Aftermath|
Under the terms of Lincoln’s Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction of December 1863, a civil government was established over the federally held parts of Louisiana in 1864. A new state constitution was drafted, abolishing slavery.
The civil government, which assumed statewide jurisdiction at the war’s end, came to be dominated by ex-Confederates. Blacks were denied the right to vote. In addition, numerous laws were passed, including the notorious Black Codes, that sharply restricted the rights and freedoms of Louisiana’s black population.
A bloody race riot in 1866 induced the federal government to impose political changes in Louisiana. In 1867 and 1868 Congress passed so-called Reconstruction Acts over President Andrew Johnson’s veto. The Reconstruction Acts restored federal military rule over ten ex-Confederate states, including Louisiana, and made readmission to the Union conditional on the adoption of state constitutions acceptable to Congress. Thus, in March 1868, a new constitution was drafted in New Orleans; it provided voting rights for adult males of all races, and guaranteed full civil rights to blacks. It also disfranchised (denied the vote to) many ex-Confederates. It was approved by the Louisiana voters, a majority of whom were black, and Louisiana was formally readmitted to the Union on June 25, 1868. Whites would have been a majority if they had registered but, perhaps because of apathy, racism, or official dissuasion, about one-half of eligible whites had stayed away from the voter registration offices in 1867 and 1868.
For about eight years following readmission, the majority of officeholders in the state were former slaves, pro-Union white Southerners, and white Northern immigrants, who banded together under the banner of the Republican Party. The latter two groups were labeled scalawags and carpetbaggers, respectively, by their enemies. Blacks who were prominent in this period included Blanche K. Bruce, the first black U.S. senator; P. B. S. Pinchback, the first black state governor; Joseph H. Rainey and Jefferson Long, U.S. congressmen; Oscar J. Dunn, lieutenant governor; and Antoine Dubuclet, state treasurer.
Many white Louisianians worked to undermine Republican rule by political and economic action, as well as by violence through organizations like the Ku Klux Klan (northern Louisiana), the Knights of the White Camellia (southern Louisiana), and the White League. These organizations engaged in such tactics as burning of homes and flogging or lynching of blacks considered dangerous. The White League was particularly vicious, assassinating Republican officials and driving black laborers from their homes. The league’s activities culminated in the bloody Battle of Liberty Place in New Orleans in 1874, where 3,500 league members took over the city hall, statehouse, and arsenal, and left only when federal troops arrived. As a consequence, a federal army of occupation remained in the state until the end of the Reconstruction period in 1877.
In the early 1870s the Republican domination of state politics became increasingly precarious. Many Republican supporters, particularly blacks, were intimidated into not voting. In addition, presidential and congressional pardons gave the vote back to many Louisiana ex-Confederates. In the election for governor in 1876, Stephen B. Packard, a Republican, opposed Francis R. T. Nicholls of the Democratic Party. Following the vote counting, both sides claimed victory. Louisiana’s electoral votes for president were also claimed by both sides. The Republican candidate, Rutherford B. Hayes, needed those votes and also those of two other Southern states, Florida and South Carolina, to win the presidency.
It is thought that the Republicans and the Southern Democrats struck a deal to settle the election. Whatever the agreement may have been, the Republicans did not challenge the seating of Nicholls as governor, and the Democrats did not challenge the awarding of the electoral votes to Hayes. Then, when Hayes took office in 1877, he called off the federal troops that had been on station in New Orleans. Reconstruction was over. Louisiana was under one-party rule by the Democrats, which did not end until Republican David C. Treen became governor in 1980. The party took various measures to consolidate its power, largely at the expense of the state’s black population. Eventually, a new state constitution in 1898 made most blacks ineligible to vote through a combination of poll taxes, literacy tests, and property qualifications.
|D7||Late 19th-Century Economic Developments|
The Freedmen’s Bureau, a federal agency, provided some help to former slaves from 1865 to 1869. Accomplishments of the bureau across the South included the establishment of a system of free public schools for blacks; the expenditure of about $20 million in various types of relief and assistance; and some improvement in the social, economic, and political status of Southern blacks.
Most freed blacks, lacking the means to become economically self-sufficient, were compelled to work the lands of others. At the conclusion of the Civil War, much of the land in Louisiana remained in the hands of the prewar owners. Many Louisiana farmers and planters, however, lost their properties during the decade following the conflict, as labor problems and economic depressions took their toll. Many Northerners, business leaders, and merchants bought these properties through public auctions. Reconstruction-era farmers of all backgrounds cultivated their lands by means of the sharecropping system. Under this system, landowners provided their tenants with equipment and advanced them credit for necessities. The sharecroppers, who were equally divided between whites and blacks by the end of the 19th century, worked the land for a percentage of the crop.
By the 1880s Louisiana’s production of cotton, rice, and sugar nearly equaled the record crops of the prewar period. However, during this decade and afterward, prices for farm products were consistently low. Often a farmer’s profit could not even cover debts to his bankers, local merchant, or landlord. In addition, lack of available capital and the need for ready cash perpetuated archaic, unproductive farming methods throughout the state. As a result, poverty was widespread among the state’s farming population, particularly among sharecroppers and small farmers.
Farmers in this period were suffering throughout the country. Besides the low prices of farm products, major causes of unrest were the growing indebtedness to merchants and banks and excessive freight rates imposed by the railroads. In the 1870s and 1880s American farmers under midwestern leadership formed self-help groups such as the Grange and Farmers’ Alliances. When these organizations decided that agricultural grievances had to be addressed with political action, the dominance of the Democrats in the South was threatened. This threat was complicated by the fact that the Democrats stood for white power, while the farmers’ groups were willing to attract black farmers to their cause. The movement nationwide was called populism and resulted in an important third political party, the People’s Party. In Louisiana the party reached its height in the elections of 1894 and 1896. Its candidate, John Pharr, lost the governorship race in 1896 through massive, blatant vote fraud and violent intimidation. Twenty-one lynchings occurred in Louisiana that year, one-fifth of the total for the entire nation. Demoralized, the populist movement lost its momentum in Louisiana by 1900.
|D9||Revival of New Orleans|
At New Orleans, river traffic, which had practically ceased during the Civil War, revived after the war, following the resumption of large-scale cotton production throughout the South. Prospects of increased foreign trade were enhanced by the completion in 1879 of a system of jetties that permanently deepened the channel at the mouth of the Mississippi River. The jetties made it easier for large oceangoing vessels to enter the mouth of the river. New Orleans further benefited from considerable railroad building that occurred in Louisiana, as well as outside the state.
By the early 20th century, New Orleans had regained its position as one of the nation’s leading ports. The city’s commercial growth was further stimulated by the opening of the Panama Canal in 1914 and the consequent burgeoning of trade with Latin America.
|E||The 20th Century|
|E1||Development of Mineral Resources|
By 1900 Louisiana’s population was 1,381,625, of whom 287,104 lived in New Orleans. Outside New Orleans the population was overwhelmingly rural and agrarian. From 1900 to 1910 substantial oil deposits were discovered, and, in the next decade, sources of natural gas were uncovered in various parts of the state. The large-scale exploitation of oil and gas resources resulted in much industrial activity in northern Louisiana, particularly at Shreveport. In 1938 more major oil deposits were discovered in the tidelands off the coast. Large-scale exploitation of the offshore deposits, as well as of major coastal deposits, was begun shortly after World War II (1939-1945). The mining of sulfur and salt in southern Louisiana, which began in the 19th century, also stimulated economic growth.
|E2||Agrarian Unrest and Huey P. Long|
While the development of Louisiana’s mineral resources gave a new measure of strength to the economy, widespread poverty continued to prevail among the farm population. During World War I (1914-1918) a sharp rise in the price of cotton brought about some improvement in the farmers’ lives, but then their situation worsened as cotton prices declined sharply in the early 1920s. The farm recession lingered through the decade.
During the agricultural recession of the 1920s, Huey P. Long rapidly rose in Louisiana politics. In part, Long’s rise was made possible by the hard times and agrarian discontent. Long was known as “Kingfish” and possessed a blunt, freewheeling, even brutal manner that appealed to many poor white Louisianians, particularly in rural parishes. Championing the interests of small farmers and laborers against those of powerful corporations, particularly the Standard Oil Company, Long was elected governor in 1928. In 1930 he was elected U.S. senator from Louisiana, but he remained governor and did not take his Senate seat until 1932, when his choice for successor became governor. Long maintained almost dictatorial control over the state government until his assassination in 1935.
During Long’s political ascendancy, a vast program of public works was instituted in Louisiana, some with state funds, but most with federal assistance. These programs helped to alleviate the economic effects of the disastrous worldwide Great Depression of the 1930s. At the time of his death, however, Long was serving his own political ends by blocking badly needed federal relief and public works programs. After his death, considerable federal funds were spent to relieve the effects of the depression in Louisiana.
Long’s political machine—an organization to control public offices and patronage—continued under the leadership of his brother, Earl K. Long, and his son, Russell Long. From 1928 to 1960, the real contest for governor of Louisiana was fought in the primary elections between the Long and anti-Long factions of the Democratic Party. The flamboyant, populist, often corrupt Long faction candidates advocated continuous expansion of state services; they were opposed by reformers who stressed their personal integrity and fiscal conservatism.
|E3||World War II and the Postwar Decades|
During World War II the need for raw materials stimulated the development of Louisiana’s mineral resources. A prominent feature of that development was the establishment along the Gulf Coast, as well as in other parts of the state, of huge chemical and petrochemical plants. Increasing mineral production and expanded industrial activity characterized the postwar decades as well. Many farmers, displaced by the mechanization of agriculture or simply seeking better opportunities, took jobs in such rapidly expanding industrial centers as Baton Rouge and Lake Charles. By 1950 the state’s urban population exceeded its rural population. Some farmers, especially blacks, left the state to move to large Western and Northern cities, especially Chicago, Illinois, and Oakland, California. Thousands of poor Cajuns and blacks migrated to the Golden Triangle area of southeastern Texas, taking jobs in the refineries and shipyards of Beaumont, Orange, and Port Arthur.
Between 1898 and 1954 racial segregation was required by law in all Louisiana public schools. Following the 1954 decision of the Supreme Court of the United States in Brown v. Board of Education, declaring such segregation illegal, the state legislature passed a series of laws and resolutions designed to maintain segregation. When the federal courts declared these laws unconstitutional, integration began under court order in two New Orleans primary schools in the fall of 1960. Boycotts and rioting by whites that accompanied this initial integration received worldwide publicity. Desegregation of Roman Catholic schools was begun in 1962 on order of the archbishop of New Orleans, who excommunicated several vocal opponents of his integration order. The first desegregation of the state’s public high schools occurred in 1963, and schools outside the larger cities were first desegregated in 1964. The civil rights issue dominated Louisiana politics during most of the 1960s.
By 1971, however, the issue of equal rights for blacks seemed largely at rest. In the Democratic primary race for the governor’s seat, champions of the old white supremacy concept were overwhelmed by young candidates stressing racial harmony, an end to political corruption, and attention to Louisiana’s economic advancement. The general election between the Democratic winner, Edwin W. Edwards, and his surprisingly strong Republican opponent, David C. Treen, marked a return to the political styles and issues of the Long years, with Edwards as the flamboyant populist and Treen as the reformer. This was the posture of all elections for governor from 1971 to 1995. The 1971 election also marked a shift of political control from the predominantly rural and Protestant northern parishes to the more urban and Catholic southern section of Louisiana.
|E5||The Late 20th Century|
During the first two terms of Edwards (1972-1980), Louisiana had unprecedented economic prosperity as a result of the oil boom. Under Edwards’s leadership, the state focused its economic hopes on the oil industry, despite forecasts that the state’s oil reserves were declining and the industry’s future in the state was less than promising. State taxes were reduced as revenues from oil royalties and oil industry taxes became the government’s main source of income. For a brief period, state revenues exceeded expenditures. The Edwards administration used the surpluses to create the largest state bureaucracy per capita in the nation. Treen won the governorship in 1979 on a reform platform, but was unable to get the cooperation of the pro-Edwards legislature. In 1983 Edwards ran against Treen and was again elected governor. In 1985 he and several associates were indicted for fraud and racketeering in a hospital construction scandal. The first trial ended in a hung jury; at the second trial, in 1986, Edwards was acquitted.
The highly publicized Edwards trial coincided with the state’s worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Oil prices had begun a gradual decline in 1981, producing a ripple effect in the Louisiana economy. In December 1985 the world petroleum market virtually collapsed, as did the oil-based south Louisiana economy. In the 1987 primary, Edwards lost the nomination to Democratic Congressman Charles E. “Buddy” Roemer, who became governor in 1988.
Like the Treen administration before it, Roemer’s reform administration was unable to get its programs through the legislature. In October 1988 Roemer called for a special legislative session to enact a sweeping fiscal reform program. Although the state was burdened with a $1 billion debt and leading newspapers, television stations, and business interests supported the program, it met a resounding defeat. A watered-down version was also defeated by the legislature in March 1989.
The Edwards faction advocated state-sanctioned gambling as the route to economic recovery for Louisiana. The faction was opposed by proponents of economic diversification. The gambling advocates eventually won, despite widespread grass-roots opposition. This generated resentment among the voters. This resentment grew with a precipitous rise in state and local taxes, the continuing economic malaise, and the growing influence of special interest groups. Rumblings of a grass-roots political upheaval were first felt in the strong 1990 senatorial campaign of David Duke, a former Ku Klux Klan member, against Louisiana’s senior U.S. senator, J. Bennett Johnston. The voter rebellion gathered strength following Edwards’s defeat of Duke in the 1991 campaign for governor.
Edwards declined to run again in 1995. The rapid growth of the gambling industry, the perceived indifference of state politicians, and FBI allegations of corruption in the legislature led to the election in 1995 of Republican Mike Foster. Foster was an outspoken opponent of gambling and, as governor, worked to remove the pro-Edwards leadership in the legislature. In 1999 he was reelected by a large margin. The following year, a jury convicted former governor Edwards and four associates, including his son Stephen, of racketeering, extortion, and conspiracy charges in the awarding of casino licenses. Edwards appealed the convictions, but after his appeals failed he entered federal prison.
|E6||The Early 21st Century|
In 2003 Democrats regained the governor’s office with the runoff election of lieutenant governor Kathleen Blanco, the first woman to be elected governor of Louisiana. Foster was unable to run because of a Louisiana constitutional provision that prohibits more than two consecutive terms. Blanco’s election ended a string of Republican victories in the South in 2003, which included winning the statehouses in Kentucky and Mississippi.
In August 2005 Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, resulting in the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history. Plaquemines Parish, a narrow strip of delta southeast of New Orleans, bore the brunt of the storm in Louisiana. The hurricane’s Category 3 winds and storm surge nearly obliterated fishing and oil towns in the parish. The hurricane then turned east toward Mississippi, narrowly sparing New Orleans its full force. However, the city was subsequently flooded as its levees failed to withstand the storm surge.
The entire city had to be evacuated. Tens of thousands of inner-city residents, mostly black and poor, were stranded for nearly a week before being relocated. President George W. Bush ordered an investigation into rescue and emergency response efforts. Many state and local officials blamed the delayed response on the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Louisiana elected the first Indian-American governor in the South in its gubernatorial election in October 2007. Bobby Jindal, a Republican, became the first nonwhite to occupy the governor’s mansion since the Reconstruction era. He was born in Baton Rouge and is the son of immigrants from India. Jindal had been the Republican nominee for governor in 2003, but lost that election to Blanco. In 2004 he was elected to Congress, representing Louisiana’s first congressional district.
The history section of this article was contributed by Carl A. Brasseaux. The remainder of the article was contributed by John Michael Caldwell.