Mayor LaToya Cantrell joined 2018 NOLA Foundation President and CEO Mark Romig, community leaders and tourism partners Thursday (Sept. 27) to publicly unveil historical markers and a new mobile walking tour app that explore New Orleans’ role as the largest slave market in 19th-century America.
“It’s more fitting now than ever that we uphold and acknowledge the history of our 300-year-old city,” said Mayor LaToya Cantrell. “This initiative will allow us to honor the lives and dignity of those ancestors who were undoubtedly bought and sold here in New Orleans, and I want to thank the 2018 NOLA Foundation and the Historic New Orleans Collection for the hours of hard work and research to make this happen.”
The Tricentennial Cultural and Historical Committee, led by Former New Orleans First Lady Sybil Morial and Historic New Orleans Collection President and CEO Priscilla Lawrence, set out to chronicle this important piece of history during the city’s Tricentennial more than a year ago. The committee worked with researchers and historians to identify various locations in New Orleans that once publicly sold enslaved individuals to would-be buyers. Until now, the City of New Orleans had not publicly detailed or recognized its role in the domestic slave trade, a critical and dark time in the city’s history. Currently, five markers are in place, including the Merieult House (The Historic New Orleans Collection), the Cabildo, the St. Louis Hotel façade (Omni Royal New Orleans Hotel), Franklin & Armfield Compound (Corner of Esplanade and Royal Street), and New Orleans Slave Depot (Four Winds Apartments). A sixth marker, at Banks’ Arcade (St. James Hotel), is forthcoming.
“This is such a historic time in our city, and we must be mindful of everything that has taken place in our 300-year history,” said Mark Romig, 2018 NOLA Foundation President and CEO. “The objective of our efforts is to tell the complete history of our city and to use this history to teach and provide a roadmap for the future. The launch of this initiative is a testament to the hard work of everyone on the Tricentennial Cultural and Historical Committee and all of our local artists and community leaders that made this project come to life.”
Once the marker locations were identified, the committee partnered with a software company to launch the mobile walking tour app. The app was created by OnCell, a Rochester, NY-based software company. The New Orleans Slave Trade Marker Tour takes users on a walking tour of sites connected to the slave trade and explores the stories of individuals and families whose lives were shattered by slavery. The app-based tour provides historical overviews of slave trading sites, invites participants to listen to the voices of the enslaved, and examines slavery’s centrality to the growth of the American economy.
“Every day we share stories and display artifacts of our city’s history,” said Priscilla Lawrence, President and CEO of The Historic New Orleans Collection. “We must reflect and acknowledge our past to know where we have been and inform our future.”
Local artists provided voice narration throughout the tour including Donna Duplantier, Harold X. Evans, Donald Lewis, Terrence Rosemore, Carol Sutton, and Oliver Thomas. Kathy Randels and Artspot Productions served as the production arm of the project with music provided by Luther Gray and Bamboula 2000, Terence Blanchard, Papa Titos, Troi Bechet and Carol Sutton.
The New Orleans Slave Trade Marker and App initiative, according to historian Erin M. Greenwald, “takes steps to recognize the difficult history of the slave trade and recover the stories of some of the more than 130,000 men, women, and children who were carried to New Orleans against their wills to be sold in the city’s slave markets.”