Louisiana (/luˌiːziˈænə/ (listen), /ˌluːzi-/ (listen)) is a state in the Deep South region of the South Central United States. It is the 31st most extensive and the 25th most populous of the 50 United States. Louisiana is bordered by the state of Texas to the west, Arkansas to the north, Mississippi to the east, and the Gulf of Mexico to the south. A large part of its eastern boundary is demarcated by the Mississippi River. Louisiana is the only U.S. state with political subdivisions termed parishes, which are equivalent to counties. The state's capital is Baton Rouge, and its largest city is New Orleans.
Much of the state's lands were formed from sediment washed down the Mississippi River, leaving enormous deltas and vast areas of coastal marsh and swamp. These contain a rich southern biota; typical examples include birds such as ibis and egrets. There are also many species of tree frogs, and fish such as sturgeon and paddlefish. In more elevated areas, fire is a natural process in the landscape, and has produced extensive areas of longleaf pine forest and wet savannas. These support an exceptionally large number of plant species, including many species of terrestrial orchids and carnivorous plants. Louisiana has more Native American tribes than any other southern state, including four that are federally recognized, ten that are state recognized, and four that have not received recognition.
Some Louisiana urban environments have a multicultural, multilingual heritage, being so strongly influenced by a mixture of 18th-century French, Haitian, Spanish, Native American, and African cultures that they are considered to be exceptional in the US. Before the American purchase of the territory in 1803, the present-day State of Louisiana had been both a French colony and for a brief period a Spanish one. In addition, colonists imported numerous African people as slaves in the 18th century. Many came from peoples of the same region of West Africa, thus concentrating their culture. In the post-Civil War environment, Anglo-Americans increased the pressure for Anglicization, and in 1921, English was for a time made the sole language of instruction in Louisiana schools before a policy of multilingualism was revived in 1974. There has never been an official language in Louisiana, and the state constitution enumerates "the right of the people to preserve, foster, and promote their respective historic, linguistic, and cultural origins."
Louisiana was named after Louis XIV, King of France from 1643 to 1715. When René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle claimed the territory drained by the Mississippi River for France, he named it La Louisiane. The suffix -ana (or -ane) is a Latin suffix that can refer to "information relating to a particular individual, subject, or place." Thus, roughly, Louis + ana carries the idea of "related to Louis." Once part of the French Colonial Empire, the Louisiana Territory stretched from present-day Mobile Bay to just north of the present-day Canada–United States border, including a small part of what is now the Canadian provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan.
The Gulf of Mexico did not exist 250 million years ago when there was but one supercontinent, Pangea. As Pangea split apart, the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico opened. Louisiana slowly developed, over millions of years, from water into land, and from north to south. The oldest rocks are exposed in the north, in areas such as the Kisatchie National Forest. The oldest rocks date back to the early Cenozoic Era, some 60 million years ago. The history of the formation of these rocks can be found in D. Spearing's Roadside Geology of Louisiana.
The youngest parts of the state were formed during the last 12,000 years as successive deltas of the Mississippi River: the Maringouin, Teche, St. Bernard, Lafourche, the modern Mississippi, and now the Atchafalaya. The sediments were carried from north to south by the Mississippi River.
In between the Tertiary rocks of the north, and the relatively new sediments along the coast, is a vast belt known as the Pleistocene Terraces. Their age and distribution can be largely related to the rise and fall of sea levels during past ice ages. In general, the northern terraces have had sufficient time for rivers to cut deep channels, while the newer terraces tend to be much flatter.
Salt domes are also found in Louisiana. Their origin can be traced back to the early Gulf of Mexico, when the shallow ocean had high rates of evaporation. There are several hundred salt domes in the state; one of the most familiar is Avery Island. Salt domes are important not only as a source of salt; they also serve as underground traps for oil and gas.
The state may properly be divided into two parts, the uplands of the north, and the alluvial along the coast.
The alluvial region includes low swamp lands, coastal marshlands and beaches, and barrier islands that cover about 20,000 square miles (52,000 km2). This area lies principally along the Gulf of Mexico and the Mississippi River, which traverses the state from north to south for a distance of about 600 mi (970 km)) and empties into the Gulf of Mexico; the Red River; the Ouachita River and its branches; and other minor streams (some of which are called bayous).
The breadth of the alluvial region along the Mississippi is from 10 to 60 miles (15 to 100 km), and along the other rivers, the alluvial region averages about 10 miles (15 km) across. The Mississippi River flows along a ridge formed by its own natural deposits (known as a levee), from which the lands decline toward a river beyond at an average fall of six feet per mile (3 m/km). The alluvial lands along other streams present similar features.
The higher and contiguous hill lands of the north and northwestern part of the state have an area of more than 25,000 square miles (65,000 km2). They consist of prairie and woodlands. The elevations above sea level range from 10 feet (3 m) at the coast and swamp lands to 50 and 60 feet (15–18 m) at the prairie and alluvial lands. In the uplands and hills, the elevations rise to Driskill Mountain, the highest point in the state at only 535 feet (163 m) above sea level. From years 1932 to 2010 the state lost 1,800 sq. miles due to rises in sea level and erosion. The Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) spends around $1 billion per year to help shore up and protect Louisiana shoreline and land in both federal and state funding.
Besides the waterways already named, there are the Sabine, forming the western boundary; and the Pearl, the eastern boundary; the Calcasieu, the Mermentau, the Vermilion, Bayou Teche, the Atchafalaya, the Boeuf, Bayou Lafourche, the Courtableau River, Bayou D'Arbonne, the Macon River, the Tensas, Amite River, the Tchefuncte, the Tickfaw, the Natalbany River, and a number of other smaller streams, constituting a natural system of navigable waterways, aggregating over 4,000 miles (6,400 km) long.
The state also has political jurisdiction over the approximately 3-mile (4.8 km)-wide portion of subsea land of the inner continental shelf in the Gulf of Mexico. Through a peculiarity of the political geography of the United States, this is substantially less than the 9-mile (14 km)-wide jurisdiction of nearby states Texas and Florida, which, like Louisiana, have extensive Gulf coastlines.
The southern coast of Louisiana in the United States is among the fastest-disappearing areas in the world. This has largely resulted from human mismanagement of the coast (see Wetlands of Louisiana). At one time, the land was added to when spring floods from the Mississippi River added sediment and stimulated marsh growth; the land is now shrinking. There are multiple causes.
Artificial levees block spring flood water that would bring fresh water and sediment to marshes. Swamps have been extensively logged, leaving canals and ditches that allow saline water to move inland. Canals dug for the oil and gas industry also allow storms to move sea water inland, where it damages swamps and marshes. Rising sea waters have exacerbated the problem. Some researchers estimate that the state is losing a land mass equivalent to 30 football fields every day. There are many proposals to save coastal areas by reducing human damage, including restoring natural floods from the Mississippi. Without such restoration, coastal communities will continue to disappear. And as the communities disappear, more and more people are leaving the region. Since the coastal wetlands support an economically important coastal fishery, the loss of wetlands is adversely affecting this industry.
Louisiana has a humid subtropical climate (Köppen climate classification Cfa). It has long, hot, humid summers and short, mild winters. The subtropical characteristics of the state are due to its low latitude, low lying topography, and the influence of the Gulf of Mexico, which at its farthest point is no more than 200 mi (320 km) away.
Rain is frequent throughout the year, although from April to September is slightly wetter than the rest of the year, which is the state's wet season. There is a dip in precipitation in October. In summer, thunderstorms build during the heat of the day, and bring intense but brief, tropical downpours. In winter, rainfall is more frontal and less intense.
Summers in southern Louisiana have high temperatures from June through September averaging 90 °F (32 °C) or more, and overnight lows averaging above 70 °F (22 °C). At times, temperatures in the 90s F, combined with dew points in the upper 70s F, create sensible temperatures over 120 °F. The humid, thick, jungle-like heat in southern Louisiana is a famous subject of countless stories and movies.
Temperatures are generally warm in the winter in the southern part of the state, with highs around New Orleans, Baton Rouge, the rest of south Louisiana, and the Gulf of Mexico averaging 66 °F (19 °C). The northern part of the state is mildly cool in the winter, with highs averaging 59 °F (15 °C). The overnight lows in the winter average well above freezing throughout the state, with 46 °F (8 °C) the average near the Gulf and an average low of 37 °F (3 °C) in the winter in the northern part of the state.
On occasion, cold fronts from low pressure centers to the north, reach Louisiana in winter. Low temperatures near 20 °F (−8 °C) occur on occasion in the northern part of the state, but almost never do so in the southern part of the state. Snow is rare near the Gulf of Mexico, although residents in the northern parts of the state might receive dusting of snow a few times each decade. Louisiana's highest recorded temperature is 114 °F (46 °C) in Plain Dealing on August 10, 1936, while the coldest recorded temperature is −16 °F (−27 °C) at Minden on February 13, 1899.
Louisiana is often affected by tropical cyclones and is very vulnerable to strikes by major hurricanes, particularly the lowlands around and in the New Orleans area. The unique geography of the region, with the many bayous, marshes and inlets, can result in water damage across a wide area from major hurricanes. The area is also prone to frequent thunderstorms, especially in the summer.
The entire state averages over 60 days of thunderstorms a year, more than any other state except Florida. Louisiana averages 27 tornadoes annually. The entire state is vulnerable to a tornado strike, with the extreme southern portion of the state slightly less so than the rest of the state. Tornadoes are more common from January to March in the southern part of the state, and from February through March in the northern part of the state.
- August 28–29, 2012, Isaac (Category 1 at landfall) hits southeast Louisiana 7 years after Katrina (2005).
- September 1, 2008, Gustav (Category 2 at landfall) made landfall along the coast near Cocodrie in southeastern Louisiana. As late as August 31 it had been projected by the National Hurricane Center that the hurricane would remain at Category 3 or above on September 1, but in the event the center of Gustav made landfall as a strong Category 2 hurricane (1 mph below Category 3), and dropped to Category 1 soon after. As a result of NHC's forecasts, a massive evacuation of New Orleans took place after many residents having failed to leave for Katrina in 2005. A significant number of deaths were caused by or attributed to Gustav. Around 1.5 million people were without power in Louisiana on September 1.
- September 24, 2005, Rita (Category 3 at landfall) struck southwestern Louisiana, flooding many parishes and cities along the coast, including Cameron Parish, Lake Charles, and other towns. The storm's winds weakened the damaged levees in New Orleans and caused renewed flooding in parts of the city.
- August 29, 2005, Katrina (Category 3 at landfall) struck and devastated southeastern Louisiana, where it breached and undermined levees in New Orleans, causing 80% of the city to flood. Most people had been evacuated, but the majority of the population became homeless. The city was virtually closed until October. It is estimated that more than two million people in the Gulf region were displaced by the hurricane, and that more than 1,500 fatalities resulted in Louisiana alone. A public outcry criticized governments at the local, state, and federal levels, for lack of preparation and slowness of response. Louisiana residents relocated across the country for temporary housing, and many have not returned.
- October 3, 2002, Lili (Category 1 at landfall)
- August 25, 1992, Andrew (Category 3 at landfall) struck south-central Louisiana. It killed four people; knocked out power to nearly 150,000 citizens; and destroyed crops worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
- August 17, 1969, Camille (Category 5) caused a 23.4 ft (7.1 m) storm surge and killed 250 people. Although Camille officially made landfall in Mississippi and the worst damage occurred there, it also had effects in Louisiana, destroying thousands of residences in Plaquemines Parish. New Orleans remained dry, with the exception of mild rain-generated flooding in the most low-lying areas.
- September 9, 1965, Betsy (Category 4 at landfall) came ashore near Grand Isle, causing massive destruction as the first hurricane in history to cause one billion dollars in damage (over ten billion in inflation-adjusted US$). The storm hit New Orleans and flooded nearly 35% of the city (including the Lower 9th Ward, Gentilly, and parts of Mid-City), as well as most of St. Bernard and Plaquemines parishes. The death toll in the state was 76.
- June 25, 1957, Audrey (Category 3) devastated southwest Louisiana, destroying or severely damaging 60–80 percent of the homes and businesses from Cameron to Grand Chenier. 40,000 people were left homeless and more than 300 people in the state died.
- August 15–17, 1915: A hurricane made landfall just west of Galveston. Gales howled throughout Cameron and Vermilion Parishes and as far east as Mobile. It produced storm surge of 11 feet at Cameron (called Leesburg at the time), 10 feet at Grand Cheniere, and 9.5 feet at Marsh Island; Grand Isle reported water 6 feet deep across the city. The lightkeeper at the Sabine Pass lighthouse had to turn the lens by hand, as vibrations caused by the wave action put the clockwork out of order. At Sabine Bank, 17 miles offshore the Mouth of the Sabine, damage was noted. Damage estimates for Louisiana and Texas totaled around $50 million. Over 300 people drowned below Montegut – four can be identified as white, none of the others have been identified and are assumed to be Indians. The Indian settlement was about 10 miles below Montegut, called by the Indians – Taire-bonne – is now in swamp and can only be reached by boat. This hurricane caused the survivors to move to higher ground.
Publicly owned land
Owing to its location and geology, the state has high biological diversity. Some vital areas, such as southwestern prairie, have experienced a loss in excess of 98 percent. The pine flatwoods are also at great risk, mostly from fire suppression and urban sprawl. There is not yet a properly organized system of natural areas to represent and protect Louisiana's biological diversity. Such a system would consist of a protected system of core areas linked by biological corridors, such as Florida is planning.
Louisiana contains a number of areas which, to varying degrees, prevent people from using them. In addition to National Park Service areas and a United States National Forest, Louisiana operates a system of state parks, state historic sites, one state preservation area, one state forest, and many Wildlife Management Areas.
One of Louisiana's largest government-owned areas is Kisatchie National Forest. It is some 600,000 acres in area, more than half of which is flatwoods vegetation, which supports many rare plant and animal species. These include the Louisiana pine snake and red-cockaded woodpecker. The system of government-owned cypress swamps around Lake Pontchartrain is another large area, with southern wetland species including egrets, alligators, and sturgeon. At least 12 core areas would be needed to build a "protected areas system" for the state; these would range from southwestern prairies, to the Pearl River Floodplain in the east, to the Mississippi River alluvial swamps in the north.
Historic or scenic areas managed, protected, or otherwise recognized by the National Park Service include:
- Atchafalaya National Heritage Area in Ascension Parish;
- Cane River National Heritage Area near Natchitoches;
- Cane River Creole National Historical Park near Natchitoches;
- Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve, headquartered in New Orleans, with units in St. Bernard Parish, Barataria (Crown Point), and Acadiana (Lafayette);
- Poverty Point National Monument at Delhi, Louisiana; and
- Saline Bayou, a designated National Wild and Scenic River near Winn Parish in northern Louisiana.
- Kisatchie National Forest is Louisiana's only national forest. It includes 600,000 acres in central and north Louisiana with large areas of flatwoods and longleaf pine forest.
Louisiana operates a system of 22 state parks, 17 state historic sites and one state preservation area.
Louisiana has 955,973 acres, in four ecoregions under the wildlife management of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. The Nature Conservancy also owns and manages a set of natural areas.
The Louisiana Natural and Scenic Rivers System provides a degree of protection for 51 rivers, streams and bayous in the state. It is administered by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.
The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development is the state government organization in charge of maintaining public transportation, roadways, bridges, canals, select levees, floodplain management, port facilities, commercial vehicles, and aviation which includes 69 airports.
The Intracoastal Waterway is an important means of transporting commercial goods such as petroleum and petroleum products, agricultural produce, building materials and manufactured goods.
In 2011, Louisiana ranked among the five deadliest states for debris/litter-caused vehicle accidents per total number of registered vehicles and population size. Figures derived from the NTSHA show at least 25 persons in Louisiana were killed per year in motor vehicle collisions with non-fixed objects, including debris, dumped litter, animals and their carcasses.
Louisiana was inhabited by Native Americans for many millennia before the arrival of Europeans in the 16th century. During the Middle Archaic period, Louisiana was the site of the earliest mound complex in North America and one of the earliest dated, complex constructions in the Americas, the Watson Brake site near present-day Monroe. An 11-mound complex, it was built about 5400 BP (3500 BC). The Middle Archaic sites of Caney and Frenchman's Bend have also been securely dated to 5600–5000 BP (3700–3100 BC), demonstrating that seasonal hunter-gatherers organized to build complex earthwork constructions in present-day northern Louisiana. These discoveries overturned previous assumptions in archaeology that such complex mounds were built only by cultures of more settled peoples who were dependent on maize cultivation. The Hedgepeth Site in Lincoln Parish is more recent, dated to 5200–4500 BP (3300–2600 BC).
Nearly 2,000 years later, Poverty Point was built; it is the largest and best-known Late Archaic site in the state. The city of modern-day Epps developed near it. The Poverty Point culture may have reached its peak around 1500 BC, making it the first complex culture, and possibly the first tribal culture in North America. It lasted until approximately 700 BC.
The Poverty Point culture was followed by the Tchefuncte and Lake Cormorant cultures of the Tchula period, local manifestations of Early Woodland period. The Tchefuncte culture were the first people in the area of Louisiana to make large amounts of pottery. These cultures lasted until AD 200. The Middle Woodland period started in Louisiana with the Marksville culture in the southern and eastern part of the state, reaching across the Mississippi River to the east around Natchez and the Fourche Maline culture in the northwestern part of the state. The Marksville culture was named after the Marksville Prehistoric Indian Site in Avoyelles Parish.
These cultures were contemporaneous with the Hopewell cultures of present-day Ohio and Illinois, and participated in the Hopewell Exchange Network. Trade with peoples to the southwest brought the bow and arrow. The first burial mounds were built at this time. Political power began to be consolidated, as the first platform mounds at ritual centers were constructed for the developing hereditary political and religious leadership.
By 400 the Late Woodland period had begun with the Baytown culture, Troyville culture, and Coastal Troyville during the Baytown Period and were succeeded by the Coles Creek cultures. Where the Baytown peoples built dispersed settlements, the Troyville people instead continued building major earthwork centers. Population increased dramatically and there is strong evidence of a growing cultural and political complexity. Many Coles Creek sites were erected over earlier Woodland period mortuary mounds. Scholars have speculated that emerging elites were symbolically and physically appropriating dead ancestors to emphasize and project their own authority.
The Mississippian period in Louisiana was when the Plaquemine and the Caddoan Mississippian cultures developed, and the peoples adopted extensive maize agriculture, cultivating different strains of the plant by saving seeds, selecting for certain characteristics, etc. The Plaquemine culture in the lower Mississippi River Valley in western Mississippi and eastern Louisiana began in 1200 and continued to about 1600. Examples in Louisiana include the Medora Site, the archaeological type site for the culture in West Baton Rouge Parish whose characteristics helped define the culture, the Atchafalaya Basin Mounds in St Mary Parish, the Fitzhugh Mounds in Madison Parish, the Scott Place Mounds in Union Parish, and the Sims Site in St Charles Parish.
Plaquemine culture was contemporaneous with the Middle Mississippian culture that is represented by its largest settlement, the Cahokia site in Illinois east of St. Louis, Missouri. At its peak Cahokia is estimated to have had a population of more than 20,000. The Plaquemine culture is considered ancestral to the historic Natchez and Taensa peoples, whose descendants encountered Europeans in the colonial era.
By 1000 in the northwestern part of the state, the Fourche Maline culture had evolved into the Caddoan Mississippian culture. The Caddoan Mississippians occupied a large territory, including what is now eastern Oklahoma, western Arkansas, northeast Texas, and northwest Louisiana. Archaeological evidence has demonstrated that the cultural continuity is unbroken from prehistory to the present. The Caddo and related Caddo-language speakers in prehistoric times and at first European contact were the direct ancestors of the modern Caddo Nation of Oklahoma of today. Significant Caddoan Mississippian archaeological sites in Louisiana include Belcher Mound Site in Caddo Parish and Gahagan Mounds Site in Red River Parish.
Many current place names in Louisiana, including Atchafalaya, Natchitouches (now spelled Natchitoches), Caddo, Houma, Tangipahoa, and Avoyel (as Avoyelles), are transliterations of those used in various Native American languages.
The first European explorers to visit Louisiana came in 1528 when a Spanish expedition led by Pánfilo de Narváez located the mouth of the Mississippi River. In 1542, Hernando de Soto's expedition skirted to the north and west of the state (encountering Caddo and Tunica groups) and then followed the Mississippi River down to the Gulf of Mexico in 1543. Spanish interest in Louisiana faded away for a century and a half.
In the late 17th century, French and French Canadian expeditions, which included sovereign, religious and commercial aims, established a foothold on the Mississippi River and Gulf Coast. With its first settlements, France laid claim to a vast region of North America and set out to establish a commercial empire and French nation stretching from the Gulf of Mexico to Canada.
In 1682, the French explorer Robert Cavelier de La Salle named the region Louisiana to honor King Louis XIV of France. The first permanent settlement, Fort Maurepas (at what is now Ocean Springs, Mississippi, near Biloxi), was founded in 1699 by Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville, a French military officer from Canada. By then the French had also built a small fort at the mouth of the Mississippi at a settlement they named La Balise (or La Balize), "seamark" in French. By 1721 they built a 62-foot (19 m) wooden lighthouse-type structure here to guide ships on the river.
A royal ordinance of 1722—following the Crown's transfer of the Illinois Country's governance from Canada to Louisiana—may have featured the broadest definition of Louisiana: all land claimed by France south of the Great Lakes between the Rocky Mountains and the Alleghenies. A generation later, trade conflicts between Canada and Louisiana led to a more defined boundary between the French colonies; in 1745, Louisiana governor general Vaudreuil set the northern and eastern bounds of his domain as the Wabash valley up to the mouth of the Vermilion River (near present-day Danville, Illinois); from there, northwest to le Rocher on the Illinois River, and from there west to the mouth of the Rock River (at present day Rock Island, Illinois). Thus, Vincennes and Peoria were the limit of Louisiana's reach; the outposts at Ouiatenon (on the upper Wabash near present-day Lafayette, Indiana), Chicago, Fort Miamis (near present-day Fort Wayne, Indiana), and Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, operated as dependencies of Canada.
The settlement of Natchitoches (along the Red River in present-day northwest Louisiana) was established in 1714 by Louis Juchereau de St. Denis, making it the oldest permanent European settlement in the modern state of Louisiana. The French settlement had two purposes: to establish trade with the Spanish in Texas via the Old San Antonio Road, and to deter Spanish advances into Louisiana. The settlement soon became a flourishing river port and crossroads, giving rise to vast cotton kingdoms along the river that were worked by imported African slaves. Over time, planters developed large plantations and built fine homes in a growing town. This became a pattern repeated in New Orleans and other places, although the commodity crop in the south was primarily sugar cane.
Louisiana's French settlements contributed to further exploration and outposts, concentrated along the banks of the Mississippi and its major tributaries, from Louisiana to as far north as the region called the Illinois Country, around present-day St. Louis, Missouri. The latter was settled by French colonists from Illinois.
Initially, Mobile and then Biloxi served as the capital of La Louisiane. Recognizing the importance of the Mississippi River to trade and military interests, and wanting to protect the capital from severe coastal storms, France developed New Orleans from 1722 as the seat of civilian and military authority south of the Great Lakes. From then until the United States acquired the territory in the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, France and Spain jockeyed for control of New Orleans and the lands west of the Mississippi.
In the 1720s, German immigrants settled along the Mississippi River, in a region referred to as the German Coast.
France ceded most of its territory to the east of the Mississippi to Great Britain in 1763, in the aftermath of Britain's victory in the Seven Years' War (generally referred to in North America as the French and Indian War). The rest of Louisiana, including the area around New Orleans and the parishes around Lake Pontchartrain, had become a colony of Spain by the Treaty of Fontainebleau (1762). The transfer of power on either side of the river would be delayed until later in the decade.
In 1765, during Spanish rule, several thousand French-speaking refugees from the region of Acadia (now Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island, Canada) made their way to Louisiana after having been expelled from their homelands by the British during the French and Indian War. They settled chiefly in the southwestern Louisiana region now called Acadiana. The Spanish, eager to gain more Catholic settlers, welcomed the Acadian refugees, the ancestors of Louisiana's Cajuns.
Spanish Canary Islanders, called Isleños, emigrated from the Canary Islands of Spain to Louisiana under the Spanish crown between 1778 and 1783.
Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville brought the first two African slaves to Louisiana in 1708, transporting them from a French colony in the West Indies. In 1709, French financier Antoine Crozat obtained a monopoly of commerce in La Louisiane, which extended from the Gulf of Mexico to what is now Illinois. "That concession allowed him to bring in a cargo of blacks from Africa every year," the British historian Hugh Thomas wrote. Physical conditions, including disease, were so harsh there was high mortality among both the colonists and the slaves, resulting in continuing demand and importation of slaves.
Starting in 1719, traders began to import slaves in higher numbers; two French ships, the Du Maine and the Aurore, arrived in New Orleans carrying more than 500 black slaves coming from Africa. Previous slaves in Louisiana had been transported from French colonies in the West Indies. By the end of 1721, New Orleans counted 1,256 inhabitants, of whom about half were slaves.
In 1724, the French government issued a law called the Code Noir ("Black Code" in English) which "regulate[d] the interaction of whites [blancs] and blacks [noirs] in its colony of Louisiana (which was much larger than the current state of Louisiana). The law consisted of 57 articles, which regulated religion in the colony, outlawed "interracial" marriages (those between people of different skin color, the varying shades of which were also defined by law), restricted manumission, outlined legal punishment of slaves for various offenses, and defined some obligations of owners to their slaves. The main intent of the French government was to assert control over the slave system of agriculture in Louisiana and to impose restrictions on slaveowners there. In practice, the Code Noir was exceedingly difficult to enforce from afar. Some priests continued to perform interracial marriage ceremonies, for example, and some slaveholders continued to manumit slaves without permission while others punished slaves brutally.
Article II of the Code Noir of 1724 required owners to provide their slaves with religious education in the state religion, Roman Catholicism. Sunday was to be a day of rest for slaves. On days off, slaves were expected to feed and take care of themselves. During the 1740s economic crisis in the colony, owners had trouble feeding their slaves and themselves. Giving them time off also effectively gave more power to slaves, who started cultivating their own gardens and crafting items for sale as their own property. They began to participate in the economic development of the colony while at the same time increasing independence and self-subsistence.
Article VI of the Code Noir forbade mixed marriages, forbade but did little to protect slave women from rape by their owners, overseers or other slaves. On balance, the Code benefitted the owners but had more protections and flexibility than did the institution of slavery in the southern Thirteen Colonies.
The Louisiana Black Code of 1806 made the cruel punishment of slaves a crime, but owners and overseers were seldom prosecuted for such acts.
Fugitive slaves, called maroons, could easily hide in the backcountry of the bayous and survive in small settlements. The word "maroon" comes from the French "marron," meaning "feral" or "fugitive."
In the late 18th century, the last Spanish governor of the Louisiana territory wrote:
When the United States purchased Louisiana in 1803, it was soon accepted that enslaved Africans could be brought to Louisiana as easily as they were brought to neighboring Mississippi, though it violated U.S. law to do so. Despite demands by United States Rep. James Hillhouse and by the pamphleteer Thomas Paine to enforce existing federal law against slavery in the newly acquired territory, slavery prevailed because it was the source of great profits and the lowest-cost labor.
At the start of the 19th century, Louisiana was a small producer of sugar with a relatively small number of slaves, compared to Saint-Domingue and the West Indies. It soon thereafter became a major sugar producer as new settlers arrived to develop plantations. William C. C. Claiborne, Louisiana's first United States governor, said that African slave labor was needed because white laborers "cannot be had in this unhealthy climate." Hugh Thomas wrote that Claiborne was unable to enforce the abolition of the African slave trade, which the US and Great Britain adopted in 1808. The United States continued to protect the domestic slave trade, including the coastwise trade – the transport of slaves by ship along the Atlantic Coast and to New Orleans and other Gulf ports.
By 1840, New Orleans had the biggest slave market in the United States, which contributed greatly to the economy of the city and of the state. New Orleans had become one of the wealthiest cities, and the third largest city, in the nation. The ban on the African slave trade and importation of slaves had increased demand in the domestic market. During the decades after the American Revolutionary War, more than one million enslaved African Americans underwent forced migration from the Upper South to the Deep South, two thirds of them in the slave trade. Others were transported by their owners as slaveholders moved west for new lands.
With changing agriculture in the Upper South as planters shifted from tobacco to less labor-intensive mixed agriculture, planters had excess laborers. Many sold slaves to traders to take to the Deep South. Slaves were driven by traders overland from the Upper South or transported to New Orleans and other coastal markets by ship in the coastwise slave trade. After sales in New Orleans, steamboats operating on the Mississippi transported slaves upstream to markets or plantation destinations at Natchez and Memphis.
As the Deep South was developed for cotton and sugar in the first half of the nineteenth century, demand for slaves increased. This resulted in a massive forced migration (through the slave trade) of more than one million African Americans from the Upper South to the Deep South. Many traders brought slaves to New Orleans for domestic sale, and by 1840, New Orleans had the largest slave market in the country, was the third-largest city, and was one of the wealthiest cities.
Spanish occupation of Louisiana lasted from 1769 to 1800. Beginning in the 1790s, waves of immigration took place from Saint-Domingue, following a slave rebellion that started in 1791. Over the next decade, thousands of migrants landed in Louisiana from the island, including ethnic Europeans, free people of color, and African slaves, some of the latter brought in by each free group. They greatly increased the French-speaking population in New Orleans and Louisiana, as well as the number of Africans, and the slaves reinforced African culture in the city. The process of gaining independence in Saint-Domingue was complex, but uprisings continued. In 1803, France pulled out its surviving troops from the island, having suffered the loss of two-thirds sent to the island two years before, mostly to yellow fever. In 1804, Haiti, the second republic in the western hemisphere, proclaimed its independence, achieved by slave leaders.
When the United States won its independence from Great Britain in 1783, one of its major concerns was having a European power on its western boundary, and the need for unrestricted access to the Mississippi River. As American settlers pushed west, they found that the Appalachian Mountains provided a barrier to shipping goods eastward. The easiest way to ship produce was to use a flatboat to float it down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers to the port of New Orleans, where goods could be put on ocean-going vessels. The problem with this route was that the Spanish owned both sides of the Mississippi below Natchez.
Napoleon's ambitions in Louisiana involved the creation of a new empire centered on the Caribbean sugar trade. By the terms of the Treaty of Amiens of 1802, Great Britain returned ownership of the islands of Martinique and Guadaloupe to the French. Napoleon looked upon Louisiana as a depot for these sugar islands, and as a buffer to U.S. settlement. In October 1801 he sent a large military force to take back Saint-Domingue, then under control of Toussaint Louverture after a slave rebellion.
When the army led by Napoleon's brother-in-law Leclerc was defeated, Napoleon decided to sell Louisiana.
Thomas Jefferson, third president of the United States, was disturbed by Napoleon's plans to re-establish French colonies in America. With the possession of New Orleans, Napoleon could close the Mississippi to U.S. commerce at any time. Jefferson authorized Robert R. Livingston, U.S. Minister to France, to negotiate for the purchase of the City of New Orleans, portions of the east bank of the Mississippi, and free navigation of the river for U.S. commerce. Livingston was authorized to pay up to $2 million.
An official transfer of Louisiana to French ownership had not yet taken place, and Napoleon's deal with the Spanish was a poorly kept secret on the frontier. On October 18, 1802, however, Juan Ventura Morales, Acting Intendant of Louisiana, made public the intention of Spain to revoke the right of deposit at New Orleans for all cargo from the United States. The closure of this vital port to the United States caused anger and consternation. Commerce in the west was virtually blockaded. Historians believe that the revocation of the right of deposit was prompted by abuses by the Americans, particularly smuggling, and not by French intrigues as was believed at the time. President Jefferson ignored public pressure for war with France, and appointed James Monroe a special envoy to Napoleon, to assist in obtaining New Orleans for the United States. Jefferson also raised the authorized expenditure to $10 million.
However, on April 11, 1803, French Foreign Minister Talleyrand surprised Livingston by asking how much the United States was prepared to pay for the entirety of Louisiana, not just New Orleans and the surrounding area (as Livingston's instructions covered). Monroe agreed with Livingston that Napoleon might withdraw this offer at any time (leaving them with no ability to obtain the desired New Orleans area), and that approval from President Jefferson might take months, so Livingston and Monroe decided to open negotiations immediately. By April 30, they closed a deal for the purchase of the entire Louisiana territory of 828,000 square miles (2,100,000 km2) for 60 million Francs (approximately $15 million).
Part of this sum, $3.5 million, was used to forgive debts owed by France to the United States. The payment was made in United States bonds, which Napoleon sold at face value to the Dutch firm of Hope and Company, and the British banking house of Baring, at a discount of 87½ per each $100 unit. As a result, France received only $8,831,250 in cash for Louisiana. English banker Alexander Baring conferred with Marbois in Paris, shuttled to the United States to pick up the bonds, took them to Britain, and returned to France with the money – which Napoleon used to wage war against Baring's own country.
When news of the purchase reached the United States, Jefferson was surprised. He had authorized the expenditure of $10 million for a port city, and instead received treaties committing the government to spend $15 million on a land package which would double the size of the country. Jefferson's political opponents in the Federalist Party argued the Louisiana purchase was a worthless desert, and that the Constitution did not provide for the acquisition of new land or negotiating treaties without the consent of the Senate. What really worried the opposition was the new states which would inevitably be carved from the Louisiana territory, strengthening Western and Southern interests in Congress, and further reducing the influence of New England Federalists in national affairs. President Jefferson was an enthusiastic supporter of westward expansion, and held firm in his support for the treaty. Despite Federalist objections, the U.S. Senate ratified the Louisiana treaty on October 20, 1803.
By statute enacted on October 31, 1803, President Thomas Jefferson was authorized to take possession of the territories ceded by France and provide for initial governance. A transfer ceremony was held in New Orleans on November 29, 1803. Since the Louisiana territory had never officially been turned over to the French, the Spanish took down their flag, and the French raised theirs. The following day, General James Wilkinson accepted possession of New Orleans for the United States. A similar ceremony was held in St. Louis on March 9, 1804, when a French tricolor was raised near the river, replacing the Spanish national flag. The following day, Captain Amos Stoddard of the First U.S. Artillery marched his troops into town and had the American flag run up the fort's flagpole. The Louisiana territory was officially transferred to the United States government, represented by Meriwether Lewis.
The Louisiana Territory, purchased for less than 3 cents an acre, doubled the size of the United States overnight, without a war or the loss of a single American life, and set a precedent for the purchase of territory. It opened the way for the eventual expansion of the United States across the continent to the Pacific.
Shortly after the United States took possession, the area was divided into two territories along the 33rd parallel north on March 26, 1804, thereby organizing the Territory of Orleans to the south and the District of Louisiana (subsequently formed as the Louisiana Territory) to the north.
Louisiana became the eighteenth U.S. state on April 30, 1812; the Territory of Orleans became the State of Louisiana and the Louisiana Territory was simultaneously renamed the Missouri Territory. An area known as the Florida Parishes was soon annexed into the state of Louisiana on April 14, 1812.
From 1824 to 1861, Louisiana moved from a political system based on personality and ethnicity to a distinct two-party system, with Democrats competing first against Whigs, then Know Nothings, and finally only other Democrats.
According to the 1860 census, 331,726 people were enslaved, nearly 47% of the state's total population of 708,002. The strong economic interest of elite whites in maintaining the slave society contributed to Louisiana's decision to secede from the Union in January 26, 1861. It followed other Southern states in seceding after the election of Abraham Lincoln as president of the United States. Louisiana's secession was announced on January 26, 1861, and it became part of the Confederate States of America.
The state was quickly defeated in the Civil War, a result of Union strategy to cut the Confederacy in two by seizing the Mississippi. Federal troops captured New Orleans on April 25, 1862. Because a large part of the population had Union sympathies (or compatible commercial interests), the federal government took the unusual step of designating the areas of Louisiana under federal control as a state within the Union, with its own elected representatives to the U.S. Congress.
Following the Civil War and emancipation of slaves, violence rose in the South as the war was carried on by insurgent private and paramilitary groups. Initially state legislatures were dominated by former Confederates, who passed Black Codes to regulate freedmen and generally refused to give the vote. They refused to extend voting rights to African Americans who had been free before the war and had sometimes obtained education and property (as in New Orleans.) Following the Memphis riots of 1866 and the New Orleans riot the same year, the Fourteenth Amendment was passed that provided suffrage and full citizenship for freedmen. Congress passed the Reconstruction Act, establishing military districts for those states where conditions were considered the worst, including Louisiana. It was grouped with Texas in what was administered as the Fifth Military District.
African Americans began to live as citizens with some measure of equality before the law. Both freedmen and people of color who had been free before the war began to make more advances in education, family stability and jobs. At the same time, there was tremendous social volatility in the aftermath of war, with many whites actively resisting defeat and the free labor market. White insurgents mobilized to enforce white supremacy, first in Ku Klux Klan chapters.
By 1877, when federal forces were withdrawn, white Democrats in Louisiana and other states had regained control of state legislatures, often by paramilitary groups such as the White League, which suppressed black voting through intimidation and violence. Following Mississippi's example in 1890, in 1898, the white Democratic, planter-dominated legislature passed a new constitution that effectively disenfranchised blacks and people of color, by raising barriers to voter registration, such as poll taxes, residency requirements and literacy tests. The effect was immediate and long lasting. In 1896, there were 130,334 black voters on the rolls and about the same number of white voters, in proportion to the state population, which was evenly divided.
The state population in 1900 was 47% African-American: a total of 652,013 citizens. Many in New Orleans were descendants of Creoles of color, the sizeable population of free people of color before the Civil War. By 1900, two years after the new constitution, only 5,320 black voters were registered in the state. Because of disfranchisement, by 1910 there were only 730 black voters (less than 0.5 percent of eligible African-American men), despite advances in education and literacy among blacks and people of color. Blacks were excluded from the political system and also unable to serve on juries. White Democrats had established one-party Democratic rule, which they maintained in the state for decades deep into the 20th century until after congressional passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act provided federal oversight and enforcement of the constitutional right to vote.
In the early decades of the 20th century, thousands of African Americans left Louisiana in the Great Migration north to industrial cities for jobs and education, and to escape Jim Crow society and lynchings. The boll weevil infestation and agricultural problems cost many sharecroppers and farmers their jobs. The mechanization of agriculture also reduced the need for laborers. Beginning in the 1940s, blacks went West to California for jobs in its expanding defense industries.
During some of the Great Depression, Louisiana was led by Governor Huey Long. He was elected to office on populist appeal. His public works projects provided thousands of jobs to people in need, and he supported education and increased suffrage for poor whites, but Long was criticized for his allegedly demogogic and autocratic style. He extended patronage control through every branch of Louisiana's state government. Especially controversial were his plans for wealth redistribution in the state. Long's rule ended abruptly when he was assassinated in the state capitol in 1935.
Mobilization for World War II created jobs in the state. But thousands of other workers, black and white alike, migrated to California for better jobs in its burgeoning defense industry. Many African Americans left the state in the Second Great Migration, from the 1940s through the 1960s to escape social oppression and seek better jobs. The mechanization of agriculture in the 1930s had sharply cut the need for laborers. They sought skilled jobs in the defense industry in California, better education for their children, and living in communities where they could vote.
On November 26, 1958, at Chennault Air Force Base, a USAF B-47 bomber with a nuclear weapon on board developed a fire while on the ground. The aircraft wreckage and the site of the accident were contaminated after a limited explosion of non-nuclear material.
In the 1950s the state created new requirements for a citizenship test for voter registration. Despite opposition by the States Rights Party, downstate black voters had begun to increase their rate of registration, which also reflected the growth of their middle classes. In 1960 the state established the Louisiana State Sovereignty Commission, to investigate civil rights activists and maintain segregation.
Despite this, gradually black voter registration and turnout increased to 20% and more, and it was 32% by 1964, when the first national civil rights legislation of the era was passed. The percentage of black voters ranged widely in the state during these years, from 93.8% in Evangeline Parish to 1.7% in Tensas Parish, for instance, where there were white efforts to suppress the vote in the black-majority parish.
Violent attacks on civil rights activists in two mill towns were catalysts to the founding of the first two chapters of the Deacons for Defense and Justice in late 1964 and early 1965, in Jonesboro and Bogalusa, respectively. Made up of veterans of World War II and the Korean War, they were armed self-defense groups established to protect activists and their families. Continued violent white resistance in Bogalusa to blacks trying to use public facilities in 1965, following passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, caused the federal government to order local police to protect the activists. Other chapters were formed in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.
By 1960 the proportion of African Americans in Louisiana had dropped to 32%. The 1,039,207 black citizens were still suppressed by segregation and disfranchisement. African Americans continued to suffer disproportionate discriminatory application of the state's voter registration rules. Because of better opportunities elsewhere, from 1965 to 1970, blacks continued to migrate out of Louisiana, for a net loss of more than 37,000 people. Based on official census figures, the African-American population in 1970 stood at 1,085,109, a net gain of more than 46,000 people compared to 1960. During the latter period, some people began to migrate to cities of the New South for opportunities. Since that period, blacks entered the political system and began to be elected to office, as well as having other opportunities.
On May 21, 1919, the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, giving women full rights to vote, was passed at a national level, and was made the law throughout the United States on August 18, 1920. Louisiana finally ratified the amendment on June 11, 1970.
Due to its location on the Gulf Coast, Louisiana has regularly suffered the effects of tropical storms and damaging hurricanes. On August 29, 2005, New Orleans and many other low-lying parts of the state along the Gulf of Mexico were hit by the catastrophic Hurricane Katrina. It caused widespread damage due to breaching of levees and large-scale flooding of more than 80% of the city. Officials had issued warnings to evacuate the city and nearby areas, but tens of thousands of people, mostly African Americans, stayed behind, many of them stranded. Many people died and survivors suffered through the damage of the widespread floodwaters.
In August 2016, an unnamed storm dumped trillions of gallons of rain on southern Louisiana, including the cities of Denham Springs, Baton Rouge, Gonzales, St. Amant and Lafayette, causing catastrophic flooding. An estimated 110,000 homes were damaged and thousands of residents were displaced.
The United States Census Bureau estimates that the population of Louisiana was 4,659,978 on July 1, 2018, a 2.79% increase since the 2010 United States Census. The population density of the state is 104.9 people per square mile.
According to the 2010 United States Census, 5.4% of the population aged 5 and older spoke Spanish at home, up from 3.5% in 2000; and 4.5% spoke French (including Louisiana French and Louisiana Creole), down from 4.8% in 2000.
According to the US census estimates, the population of Louisiana in 2014 was:
- White Americans – 63.4% (59.3% non-Hispanic white, 4.1% White Hispanic)
- Black or African American – 32.5%
- Asian – 1.8%
- Multiracial American – 1.5%
- Native American – 0.8%
- Hispanic or Latino of any race – 4.8%
As of 2011, 49.0% of Louisiana's population younger than age 1 were minorities.
The largest denominations by number of adherents in 2010 were the Catholic Church with 1,200,900; Southern Baptist Convention with 709,650; and the United Methodist Church with 146,848. Non-denominational Evangelical Protestant congregations had 195,903 members.
As in other Southern states, the majority of Louisianians, particularly in the north of the state, belong to various Protestant denominations, with Protestants comprising 57% of the state's adult population. Protestants are concentrated in the northern and central parts of the state and in the northern tier of the Florida Parishes. Because of French and Spanish heritage, and their descendants the Creoles, and later Irish, Italian, Portuguese and German immigrants, southern Louisiana and the greater New Orleans area are predominantly Catholic.
Since Creoles were the first settlers, planters and leaders of the territory, they have traditionally been well represented in politics. For instance, most of the early governors were Creole Catholics. Because Catholics still constitute a significant fraction of Louisiana's population, they have continued to be influential in state politics. As of 2008 both Senators and the governor were Catholic. The high proportion and influence of the Catholic population makes Louisiana distinct among Southern states.
Jewish communities are established in the state's larger cities, notably New Orleans and Baton Rouge. The most significant of these is the Jewish community of the New Orleans area. In 2000, before the 2005 Hurricane Katrina, its population was about 12,000. Louisiana was among the southern states with a significant Jewish population before the 20th century; Virginia, South Carolina, and Georgia also had influential Jewish populations in some of their major cities from the 18th and 19th centuries. The earliest Jewish colonists were Sephardic Jews who immigrated with English colonists from London. Later in the 19th century, German Jews began to immigrate, followed by those from eastern Europe and the Russian Empire in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Prominent Jews in Louisiana's political leadership have included Whig (later Democrat) Judah P. Benjamin (1811–1884), who represented Louisiana in the U.S. Senate before the American Civil War and then became the Confederate secretary of state; Democrat-turned-Republican Michael Hahn who was elected as governor, serving 1864–1865 when Louisiana was occupied by the Union Army, and later elected in 1884 as a US congressman; Democrat Adolph Meyer (1842–1908), Confederate Army officer who represented the state in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1891 until his death in 1908; Republican secretary of state Jay Dardenne (1954–), and Republican (Democrat before 2011) attorney general Buddy Caldwell (1946–).
In 2014, Louisiana was ranked as one of the most small business friendly states, based on a study drawing upon data from over 12,000 small business owners.
The state's principal agricultural products include seafood (it is the biggest producer of crawfish in the world, supplying approximately 90%), cotton, soybeans, cattle, sugarcane, poultry and eggs, dairy products, and rice. Industry generates chemical products, petroleum and coal products, processed foods and transportation equipment, and paper products. Tourism is an important element in the economy, especially in the New Orleans area.
The Port of South Louisiana, located on the Mississippi River between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, is the largest volume shipping port in the Western Hemisphere and 4th largest in the world, as well as the largest bulk cargo port in the world.
New Orleans, Shreveport, and Baton Rouge are home to a thriving film industry. State financial incentives since 2002 and aggressive promotion have given Louisiana the nickname "Hollywood South". Because of its distinctive culture within the United States, only Alaska is Louisiana's rival in popularity as a setting for reality television programs. In late 2007 and early 2008, a 300,000-square-foot (28,000 m2) film studio was scheduled to open in Tremé, with state-of-the-art production facilities, and a film training institute. Tabasco sauce, which is marketed by one of the United States' biggest producers of hot sauce, the McIlhenny Company, originated on Avery Island.
Louisiana has three personal income tax brackets, ranging from 2% to 6%. The sales tax rate is 4%: a 3.97% Louisiana sales tax and a .03% Louisiana Tourism Promotion District sales tax. Political subdivisions also levy their own sales tax in addition to the state fees. The state also has a use tax, which includes 4% to be distributed by the Department of Revenue to local governments. Property taxes are assessed and collected at the local level. Louisiana is a subsidized state, receiving $1.44 from the federal government for every dollar paid in.
Tourism and culture are major players in Louisiana's economy, earning an estimated $5.2 billion per year. Louisiana also hosts many important cultural events, such as the World Cultural Economic Forum, which is held annually in the fall at the New Orleans Morial Convention Center.
As of July 2017, the state's unemployment rate was 5.3%.
Louisiana taxpayers receive more federal funding per dollar of federal taxes paid compared to the average state. Per dollar of federal tax collected in 2005, Louisiana citizens received approximately $1.78 in the way of federal spending. This ranks the state fourth highest nationally and represents a rise from 1995 when Louisiana received $1.35 per dollar of taxes in federal spending (ranked seventh nationally). Neighboring states and the amount of federal spending received per dollar of federal tax collected were: Texas ($0.94), Arkansas ($1.41), and Mississippi ($2.02). Federal spending in 2005 and subsequent years since has been exceptionally high due to the recovery from Hurricane Katrina. Tax Foundation.
Louisiana is rich in petroleum and natural gas. Petroleum and gas deposits are found in abundance both onshore and offshore in State-owned waters. In addition, vast petroleum and natural gas reserves are found offshore from Louisiana in the federally administered Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) in the Gulf of Mexico. According to the Energy Information Administration, the Gulf of Mexico OCS is the largest U.S. petroleum-producing region. Excluding the Gulf of Mexico OCS, Louisiana ranks fourth in petroleum production and is home to about 2 percent of total U.S. petroleum reserves.
Louisiana's natural gas reserves account for about 5 percent of the U.S. total. The recent discovery of the Haynesville Shale formation in parts of or all of Caddo, Bossier, Bienville, Sabine, De Soto, Red River, and Natchitoches parishes have made it the world's fourth largest gas field with some wells initially producing over 25 million cubic feet of gas daily.
Louisiana was the first site of petroleum drilling over water in the world, on Caddo Lake in the northwest corner of the state. The petroleum and gas industry, as well as its subsidiary industries such as transport and refining, have dominated Louisiana's economy since the 1940s. Beginning in 1950, Louisiana was sued several times by the U.S. Interior Department, in efforts by the federal government to strip Louisiana of its submerged land property rights. These control vast stores of reservoirs of petroleum and natural gas.
When petroleum and gas boomed in the 1970s, so did Louisiana's economy. The Louisiana economy as well as its politics of the last half-century cannot be understood without thoroughly accounting for the influence of the petroleum and gas industries. Since the 1980s, these industries' headquarters have consolidated in Houston, but many of the jobs that operate or provide logistical support to the U.S. Gulf of Mexico crude-oil-and-gas industry remained in Louisiana as of 2010.
Law and government
In 1849, the state moved the capital from New Orleans to Baton Rouge. Donaldsonville, Opelousas, and Shreveport have briefly served as the seat of Louisiana state government. The Louisiana State Capitol and the Louisiana Governor's Mansion are both located in Baton Rouge. The Louisiana Supreme Court, however, did not move to Baton Rouge but remains headquartered in New Orleans.
Louisiana and California (whose supreme court is seated in San Francisco) are the only two states whose high courts are not headquartered in the state capital.
The current Louisiana governor is Democrat John Bel Edwards. The current United States senators are Republicans John Neely Kennedy and Bill Cassidy. Louisiana has six congressional districts and is represented in the U.S. House of Representatives by five Republicans and one Democrat. Louisiana had eight votes in the Electoral College for the 2012 election. It lost one House seat due to stagnant population growth in the 2010 Census.
Most parishes have an elected government known as the Police Jury, dating from the colonial days. It is the legislative and executive government of the parish, and is elected by the voters. Its members are called Jurors, and together they elect a president as their chairman.
A more limited number of parishes operate under home rule charters, electing various forms of government. This include mayor–council, council–manager (in which the council hires a professional operating manager for the parish), and others.
The Louisiana political and legal structure has maintained several elements from the times of French and Spanish governance. One is the use of the term "parish" (from the French: paroisse) in place of "county" for administrative subdivision. Another is the legal system of civil law based on French, German, and Spanish legal codes and ultimately Roman law, as opposed to English common law.
Louisiana's civil law system is what the majority of nations in the world use, especially in Europe and its former colonies, excluding those that derive from the British Empire. However, it is incorrect to equate the Louisiana Civil Code with the Napoleonic Code. Although the Napoleonic Code and Louisiana law draw from common legal roots, the Napoleonic Code was never in force in Louisiana, as it was enacted in 1804, after the United States had purchased and annexed Louisiana in 1803.
While the Louisiana Civil Code of 1808 has been continuously revised and updated since its enactment, it is still considered the controlling authority in the state. Differences are found between Louisianan civil law and the common law found in the other U.S. states. While some of these differences have been bridged due to the strong influence of common law tradition, the civil law tradition is still deeply rooted in most aspects of Louisiana private law. Thus property, contractual, business entities structure, much of civil procedure, and family law, as well as some aspects of criminal law, are still based mostly on traditional Roman legal thinking.
In 1997, Louisiana became the first state to offer the option of a traditional marriage or a covenant marriage. In a covenant marriage, the couple waives their right to a "no-fault" divorce after six months of separation, which is available in a traditional marriage. To divorce under a covenant marriage, a couple must demonstrate cause. Marriages between ascendants and descendants, and marriages between collaterals within the fourth degree (i.e., siblings, aunt and nephew, uncle and niece, first cousins) are prohibited. Same-sex marriages were prohibited by statute, but the Supreme Court declared such bans unconstitutional in 2015, in its ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges. Same-sex marriages are now performed statewide. Louisiana is a community property state.
From 1898 to 1965, a period when Louisiana had effectively disfranchised most African Americans and many poor whites by provisions of a new constitution, this was essentially a one-party state dominated by white Democrats. Elites had control in the early 20th century, before populist Huey Long came to power as governor. In multiple acts of resistance, blacks left behind the segregation, violence and oppression of the state and moved out to seek better opportunities in northern and western industrial cities during the Great Migrations of 1910–1970, markedly reducing their proportion of population in Louisiana. The franchise for whites was expanded somewhat during these decades, but blacks remained essentially disfranchised until after the civil rights movement of the mid-20th century, gaining enforcement of their constitutional rights through passage by Congress of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Since the 1960s, when civil rights legislation was passed under President Lyndon Johnson to protect voting and civil rights, most African Americans in the state have affiliated with the Democratic Party. In the same years, many white social conservatives have moved to support Republican Party candidates in national, gubernatorial and statewide elections. In 2004, David Vitter was the first Republican in Louisiana to be popularly elected as a U.S. senator. The previous Republican senator, John S. Harris, who took office in 1868 during Reconstruction, was chosen by the state legislature under the rules of the 19th century.
Louisiana is unique among U.S. states in using a system for its state and local elections similar to that of modern France. All candidates, regardless of party affiliation, run in a nonpartisan blanket primary (or "jungle primary") on Election Day. If no candidate has more than 50% of the vote, the two candidates with the highest vote totals compete in a runoff election approximately one month later. This run-off method does not take into account party identification; therefore, it is not uncommon for a Democrat to be in a runoff with a fellow Democrat or a Republican to be in a runoff with a fellow Republican.
Congressional races have also been held under the jungle primary system. All other states (except Washington, California, and Maine) use single-party primaries followed by a general election between party candidates, each conducted by either a plurality voting system or runoff voting, to elect senators, representatives, and statewide officials. Between 2008 and 2010, federal congressional elections were run under a closed primary system – limited to registered party members. However, upon the passage of House Bill 292, Louisiana again adopted a nonpartisan blanket primary for its federal congressional elections.
Louisiana has six seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, five of which are currently held by Republicans and one by a Democrat. The state lost a House seat at the end of the 112th Congress due to stagnant population growth as recorded by the 2010 United States Census. Louisiana is not classified as a "swing state" for future presidential elections, as since the late 20th century, it has regularly supported Republican candidates. The state's two U.S. senators are Bill Cassidy (R) John Neely Kennedy (R).
Louisiana's statewide police force is the Louisiana State Police. It began in 1922 with the creation of the Highway Commission. In 1927, a second branch, the Bureau of Criminal Investigations, was formed. In 1932, the State Highway Patrol was authorized to carry weapons.
On July 28, 1936, the two branches were consolidated to form the Louisiana Department of State Police; its motto was "courtesy, loyalty, service". In 1942, this office was abolished and became a division of the Department of Public Safety, called the Louisiana State Police. In 1988, the Criminal Investigation Bureau was reorganized. Its troopers have statewide jurisdiction with power to enforce all laws of the state, including city and parish ordinances. Each year, they patrol over 12 million miles (20 million km) of roadway and arrest about 10,000 impaired drivers. The State Police are primarily a traffic enforcement agency, with other sections that delve into trucking safety, narcotics enforcement, and gaming oversight.
The elected sheriff in each parish is the chief law enforcement officer in the parish. They are the keepers of the local parish prisons, which house felony and misdemeanor prisoners. They are the primary criminal patrol and first responder agency in all matters criminal and civil. They are also the official tax collectors in each parish. The sheriffs are responsible for general law enforcement in their respective parishes. Orleans Parish is an exception, as the general law enforcement duties fall to the New Orleans Police Department. Before 2010, Orleans parish was the only parish to have two sheriff's offices. Orleans Parish divided sheriffs' duties between criminal and civil, with a different elected sheriff overseeing each aspect. In 2006, a bill was passed which eventually consolidated the two sheriff's departments into one parish sheriff responsible for both civil and criminal matters.
In 2015, Louisiana had a higher murder rate (10.3 per 100,000) than any other state in the country for the 27th straight year. Louisiana is the only state with an annual average murder rate (13.6 per 100,000) at least twice as high as the U.S. annual average (6.6 per 100,000) during that period, according to Bureau of Justice Statistics from FBI Uniform Crime Reports. In a different kind of criminal activity, the Chicago Tribune reports that Louisiana is the most corrupt state in the United States.
According to the Times Picayune, Louisiana is the prison capital of the world. Many for-profit private prisons and sheriff-owned prisons have been built and operate here. Louisiana's incarceration rate is nearly five times Iran's, 13 times China's and 20 times Germany's. Minorities are incarcerated at rates disproportionate to their share of the state's population.
The judiciary of Louisiana is defined under the Constitution and law of Louisiana and is composed of the Louisiana Supreme Court, the Louisiana Circuit Courts of Appeal, the District Courts, the Justice of the Peace Courts, the Mayor's Courts, the City Courts, and the Parish Courts. The chief justice of the Louisiana Supreme Court is the chief administrator of the judiciary. Its administration is aided by the Judiciary Commission of Louisiana, the Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board, and the Judicial Council of the Supreme Court of Louisiana.
Louisiana has more than 9,000 soldiers in the Louisiana Army National Guard, including the 225th Engineer Brigade and the 256th Infantry Brigade. Both these units have served overseas during the War on Terror in either Iraq, Afghanistan, or both. The Louisiana Air National Guard has over 2,000 airmen and its 159th Fighter Wing has likewise seen overseas service in combat theaters.
Training sites in the state include Camp Beauregard near Pineville, Camp Villere near Slidell, Camp Minden near Minden, England Air Park (formerly England Air Force Base) near Alexandria, Gillis Long Center near Carville, and Jackson Barracks in New Orleans.
Louisiana is home to several notable colleges and universities, which include Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge and Tulane University in New Orleans. Louisiana State University is the largest and most comprehensive university in Louisiana. Tulane University is a major private research university and the wealthiest university in Louisiana with an endowment over $1.1 billion. Tulane is also highly regarded for its academics nationwide, ranked fortieth on U.S. News & World Report's 2018 list of best national universities.
Louisiana is also home to two major HBCU's (Historically Black Colleges and Universities), Southern University in Baton Rouge and Grambling State University in Ruston, LA. Both of these SWAC (Southwestern Athletic Conference) schools compete against each other annually in the much anticipated rivalry, the Bayou Classic, during Thanksgiving weekend in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana.
The Louisiana Science Education Act is a controversial law passed by the Louisiana Legislature on June 11, 2008, and signed into law by Governor Bobby Jindal on June 25. The act allows public school teachers to use supplemental materials in the science classroom which are critical of established science on such topics as the theory of evolution and global warming.
Louisiana is nominally the least populous state with more than one major professional sports league franchise: the National Basketball Association's New Orleans Pelicans and the National Football League's New Orleans Saints.
Louisiana has 12 collegiate NCAA Division I programs, a high number given its population. The state has no NCAA Division II teams and only two NCAA Division III teams. The LSU Tigers football team has won 11 Southeastern Conference titles, six Sugar Bowls and three national championships.
Each year New Orleans plays host to the Sugar Bowl, the Bayou Classic, and the New Orleans Bowl college football games, and Shreveport hosts the Independence Bowl. Also, New Orleans has hosted the Super Bowl a record seven times, as well as the BCS National Championship Game, NBA All-Star Game and NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship.
The Zurich Classic of New Orleans, is a PGA Tour golf tournament held since 1938. The Rock 'n' Roll Mardi Gras Marathon and Crescent City Classic are two road running competitions held at New Orleans.
As of 2016, Louisiana was the birthplace of the most NFL players per capita for the eighth year in a row.
Louisiana is home to many, especially notable are the distinct culture of the Louisiana Creoles, typically people of color, descendants of free mixed-race families of the colonial and early statehood periods.
The French colony of La Louisiane struggled for decades to survive. Conditions were harsh, the climate and soil were unsuitable for certain crops the colonists knew, and they suffered from regional tropical diseases. Both colonists and the slaves they imported had high mortality rates. The settlers kept importing slaves, which resulted in a high proportion of native Africans from West Africa, who continued to practice their culture in new surroundings. As described by historian Gwendolyn Midlo Hall, they developed a marked Afro-Creole culture in the colonial era.
At the turn of the 18th century and in the early 1800s, New Orleans received a major influx of white and mixed-race refugees fleeing the violence of the Haitian Revolution, many of whom brought their slaves with them. This added another infusion of African culture to the city, as more slaves in Saint-Domingue were from Africa than in the United States. They strongly influenced the African-American culture of the city in terms of dance, music and religious practices.
Creole culture is an amalgamation of French, African, Spanish (and other European), and Native American cultures. Creole comes from the Portuguese word crioulo; originally it referred to a colonist of European (specifically French) descent who was born in the New World, in comparison to immigrants from France. The oldest Louisiana manuscript to use the word "Creole," from 1782, applied it to a slave born in the French colony. But originally it referred more generally to the French colonists born in Louisiana.
Over time, there developed in the French colony a relatively large group of Creoles of Color (gens de couleur libres), who were primarily descended from African slave women and French men (later other Europeans became part of the mix, as well as some Native Americans.) Often the French would free their concubines and mixed-race children, and pass on social capital to them. They might educate sons in France, for instance, and help them enter the French Army for a career. They also settled capital or property on their mistresses and children. The free people of color gained more rights in the colony and sometimes education; they generally spoke French and were Roman Catholic. Many became artisans and property owners. Over time, the term "Creole" became associated with this class of Creoles of Color, many of whom achieved freedom long before the Civil War.
Wealthy French Creoles generally maintained town houses in New Orleans as well as houses on their large sugar plantations outside town along the Mississippi River. New Orleans had the largest population of free people of color in the region; they could find work there and created their own culture, marrying among themselves for decades.
The ancestors of Cajuns immigrated from west central France to New France, where they settled in the Atlantic provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, known originally as Acadia. After the British defeated France in the French and Indian War (Seven Years' War) in 1763, France ceded its territory east of the Mississippi River to Britain. The British forcibly separated families and evicted them from Acadia because they refused to vow loyalty to the new British regime. The Acadians were deported to England, New England, and France. Some escaped the British remained in French Canada.
Others scattered, to France, Canada, Mexico, or the Falkland Islands. Many Acadian refugees settled in south Louisiana in the region around Lafayette and the LaFourche Bayou country. They developed a distinct rural culture there that was different from that of the French Creole colonists in the New Orleans area. Intermarrying with others in the area, they developed what was called Cajun music, cuisine and culture. Until the 1970s, the term "Cajun" was considered somewhat derogatory.
A third distinct culture in Louisiana is that of the Isleños, descendants of Spanish Canary Islanders who migrated from the Canary Islands of Spain under the Spanish crown beginning in the mid-1770s. They developed four main communities, but many relocated to what is modern-day St. Bernard Parish. This is where the majority of the Isleño population is still concentrated. An annual festival called Fiesta celebrates the heritage of the Isleños.
St Bernard Parish has an Isleños museum, cemetery and church, as well as many street names with Spanish words and Spanish surnames from this heritage. Some members of the Isleño community still speak Spanish – with their own Canary Islander accent. Numerous Isleño identity organizations, and many members of Isleños society keep contact with the Canary Islands of Spain.
According to a 2010 study by the Modern Language Association, among persons five years old and older, 91.26% of Louisiana residents speak only English at home, 3.45% speak French (standard French, French Creole, or Cajun French), 3.30% speak Spanish, and 0.59% speak Vietnamese.
Historically, Native American peoples in the area at the time of European encounter were seven tribes distinguished by their languages: Caddo, Tunica, Natchez, Houma, Choctaw, Atakapa, and Chitimacha. Of these, only Tunica, Caddo and Choctaw still have living native speakers, although several other tribes are working to teach and revitalize their languages. Other Native American peoples migrated into the region, escaping from European pressure from the east. Among these were Alabama, Biloxi, Koasati, and Ofo peoples.
Starting in the 1700s, French colonists began to settle along the coast and founded New Orleans. They established French culture and language institutions. They imported thousands of slaves from tribes of West Africa, who spoke several different languages. In the creolization process, the slaves developed a Louisiana Creole dialect incorporating both French and African forms, which colonists adopted to communicate with them, and which persisted beyond slavery. In the 20th century, there were still people of mixed race, particularly, who spoke Louisiana Creole French.
During the 19th century after the Louisiana Purchase by the United States, English gradually gained prominence for business and government due to the shift in population with settlement by numerous Americans who were English speakers. Many ethnic French families continued to use French in private. Slaves and some free people of color also spoke Louisiana Creole French. The State Constitution of 1812 gave English official status in legal proceedings, but use of French remained widespread. Subsequent state constitutions reflect the diminishing importance of French. The 1868 constitution, passed during the Reconstruction era before Louisiana was re-admitted to the Union, banned laws requiring the publication of legal proceedings in languages other than English. Subsequently, the legal status of French recovered somewhat, but it never regained its pre-Civil War prominence.
Several unique dialects of French, Creole, and English are spoken in Louisiana. Dialects of the French language are: Colonial French and Houma French. Louisiana Creole French is the term for one of the Creole languages. Two unique dialects developed of the English language: Louisiana English, a French-influenced variety of English; and what is informally known as Yat, which resembles the New York City dialect, particularly that of historical Brooklyn. Both accents were influenced by large communities of immigrant Irish and Italians, but the Yat dialect, which developed in New Orleans, was also influenced by French and Spanish.
Colonial French was the dominant language of white settlers in Louisiana during the French colonial period; it was spoken primarily by the French Creoles (native-born). In addition to this dialect, the mixed-race people and slaves developed Louisiana Creole, with a base in West African languages. The limited years of Spanish rule at the end of the 18th century did not result in widespread adoption of the Spanish language. French and Louisiana Creole are still used in modern-day Louisiana, often in family gatherings. English and its associated dialects became predominant after the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, after which the area became dominated by numerous English speakers. In some regions, English was influenced by French, as seen with Louisiana English. Colonial French, although mistakenly named Cajun French by some Cajuns, has persisted alongside English.
Renewed interest in the French language in Louisiana has led to the establishment of Canadian-modeled French immersion schools, as well as bilingual signage in the historic French neighborhoods of New Orleans and Lafayette. In addition to private organizations, since 1968 the state has maintained the Council for the Development of French in Louisiana (CODOFIL), which promotes use of the French language in the state's tourism, economic development, culture, education and international relations. Through that office's efforts, in 2018 the state became the first in the nation to join the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie as an observer.