New Orleans, Louisiana

The French Mississippi Company, led by Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville, established La Nouvelle-Orléans on Chitimacha territory in the spring of 1718. It was given Philippe II’s name because he was the regent for the French Kingdom at the time and was the Duke of Orleans. His name is a reference to the French city of Orleans. Following France’s defeat by Great Britain in the Seven Years’ War, the French colony of Louisiana was given to the Spanish Empire under the terms of the 1763 Treaty of Paris. New Orleans was a crucial port during the American Revolutionary War for sneaking supplies and equipment up the Mississippi River to the American rebels. The Geography of New, Orleans plays a significant role in shaping its economy and culture.

In the 1740s, Louisiana’s governor, Marquis de Vaudreuil, continued to be concerned about relations with the Native American population. Early in the 1740s, traders entered the Appalachian Mountains from the Thirteen Colonies. The Native American tribes would now depend on which of the numerous European colonists would be most advantageous to them in order to operate. In exchange for their allegiance, several of these tribes, particularly the Chickasaw and Choctaw, would exchange gifts and supplies. Native American tribes frequently raided the colony as a result of the colony’s ongoing economic problems and French weakness. The Chickasaw carried out raids along the Mississippi’s east bank all the way down to Baton Rouge in 1747 and 1748.

During the antebellum era, New Orleans’ port had a significant impact on the Atlantic slave trade. The port handled items that were imported and exported from other nations, which were then stored, moved to smaller vessels in New Orleans, and disseminated across the Mississippi River basin. Steamboats, flatboats, and sailing ships crowded the river. Despite its involvement in the slave trade, New Orleans at the time was home to the largest and wealthiest group of free people of color in the country, many of whom were educated, middle-class landowners.

The largest slave market in the United States was located in New Orleans, dwarfing the other antebellum southern cities. After the United States stopped engaging in international trade in 1808, the market grew. Two-thirds of the more than one million slaves transported to the Deep South via the domestic slave trade did so under duress. Estimates place the revenue from the selling of slaves in the Upper South at 15% of the economy’s value from staple crops. The value of the slaves as a whole was $500 million. The antebellum period’s ancillary economy, which included transportation, housing, clothes, fees, and other expenses, was estimated to have contributed 13.5 percent of the price per person, or tens of billions of dollars (2005 dollars, adjusted for inflation).

In comparison to other American cities, New Orleans reached its economic and population apex during the antebellum era. It was much bigger than all other southern cities and ranked as the fifth-largest city in the country in 1860. As neighboring regions had rapid economic expansion beginning in the middle of the 19th century, New Orleans’ relative prominence rapidly decreased. As railroads and roads expanded, river traffic dropped and goods were diverted to other transit routes and markets. The Great Migration in World War II and later saw many of the most ambitious people of color leave the state, often for West Coast locations. Beginning in the late 1800s, most censuses showed that New Orleans was losing ground to other American cities in terms of size.


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