New Orleans (NOLA) is a place where you can uncover centuries of African/African American history.
As soon as you step foot in the French Quarter or Tremé, you’ll be walking in the footsteps of Black people known for their ambition, resilience, and creativity.
NOLA wouldn’t be the cultural hub that it is today without Black people’s contributions to its architecture, cuisine, art, history, music, and dance.
Let’s go through the best places to learn African and African American History in The Crescent City!
Walking tours are an amazing way to get familiar with a new city. They can range between 2-6+ hours and can be given at any time of day (depending on the tour’s theme).
In New Orleans, you can find great walking tours for as cheap as $25 or as high as $1500. There’s definitely something for everyone!
The Historic French Quarter Tour – Doubloon Tours
This tour gives general details about the French Quarter and how Black/African, French, Spanish, Native American, and European American culture has influenced New Orleans from its inception.
Yes, I did mean to list “European American” as a separate culture, because the “Americans” did not come to New Orleans until after the Louisiana Purchase of 1803…
New Orleans was already a booming city with its own distinct culture, laws, and religions. The Louisiana Purchase definitely changed New Orleans for the African/African American communities.
Learn more here: http://doubloontours.com/index.php?page=creole-city
Tremé Tour – French Quarter Phantoms
I wanted to go on this tour but was unable to book a ticket in enough time. Tremé is the oldest African American neighborhood in the United States and was founded/built by Black women.
Now, it’s going through a period of gentrification, but you can still see and learn about the vast history of this culturally rich neighborhood.
Here is a video explaining the tour from one of the best resources: master storyteller, Malika Fredberg of French Quarter Phantoms: https://www.frenchquarterphantoms.com/tour-treme
The African and Afro-Creole Heritage of New Orleans – Doubloon Tours
Overall, this was the best tour that I experienced in New Orleans because it takes you throughout the French Quarter, pinpointing statues, landmarks, architecture, and overall historical facts about the African and Afro-Creole populations.
Of course, the tour also highlights historical figures that you may or may not know, like African American nun Henriette DeLille (Sisters of the Holy Family) and many others.
You’ll learn how the Haitian Revolution of 1791 – 1804 brought a wave of Haitian immigrants (along with their rich culture) to the shores of New Orleans and infused it in the music, dance, food, and history.
Learn more here: http://doubloontours.com/index.php?page=the-african-experience
Create Your Own – Doubloon Tours
You’ve probably noticed that I’ve recommended a few walking tours from the company Doubloon Tours. I am not sponsored by them at all, by the way, I just loved my experience with the company and the owner.
These tours were so amazing (and that’s coming from a person with a history degree)! I loved that I was able to request a personalized tour that really honed in on what I was in New Orleans to research at the time.
I was researching Black women’s lives during the colonial and Antebellum periods and, even though it was tough to find information, Doubloon tours gave me the best tour of my trip. The tour guide was very nice, funny, accommodating, and knowledgeable about the subject.
To book a personalized tour, I would recommend emailing them: [email protected]
Moving on to one of my favorite things to do when traveling: visiting museums and historical sites! New Orleans is filled to the brim with both and these are just a few that will definitely teach you a little bit about African American history.
A word on visiting plantation/historical site tours:
Although we shouldn’t have to, we must prepare ourselves for ignorant/insensitive comments when visiting plantations/historic sites.
These comments might seem innocent to people without a connection to the place’s history, but to those of us who are exploring/learning about plantation life as the descendants of enslaved Africans/African Americans, they are demeaning, insensitive, and disrespectful. Please refrain from taking funny pictures, laughing during the tour (regardless of who is giving the tour), and dismissing the suffering that you’re learning about as “in the past”.
Please be aware that tour guides change the tone and information that they give depending on their audience and may mislead some into believing that these plantations/historical sites were happy places overall. They were not. If this is difficult to understand, then picture yourself laughing while touring Auschwitz. Even though the situations aren’t the same at all, the history of suffering should give you cause to show respect to these historic sites and those that suffered.
Before Congo Square became a safe space for both Free People of Color and enslaved Africans, it was sacred ground for Native Americans. Once Black people were transported to NOLA, they connected with the Native American communities and shared Congo Square every Sunday.
Congo Square became a place for Black people to sing, dance, eat good African food, and buy and sell goods. Today, Congo Square is still a place to see statues of famous Black people and enjoy amazing music and activities (like the New Orleans Rhythms Festival).
If you go on a walking tour that I share below, a few of them will take you through Congo Square where you can learn more!
Laura Plantation Tour:
I visited this museum on the recommendation of my hotel’s concierge. They gave me the information to do the Laura Plantation tour and I couldn’t be more grateful, because I learned so much during this tour.
The Laura Plantation takes you through three generations of a Creole family and how their lives and enslaved Africans were directly influenced by New Orleans’ high society, culture, and politics. There’s much more, of course, but you’ll have to visit to find out!
Whitney Plantation Tour
Ugh, I’m soooo upset that I haven’t been able to visit this plantation yet! The Whitney Plantation tour has amazing reviews as a historical trove of information to learn about plantation life.
What makes this plantation so special, though? Instead of being told through a general perspective that tends to gloss over the finer details, the Whitney Plantation tour recounts life on the plantation from the perspective of enslaved Africans/African Americans.
Expect to spend about 2 hours on this tour, but that might not be enough to fully experience everything that it offers for history lovers!
The Cabildo used to be the seat of government in New Orleans. It’s also the famous site of the Plessy v. Ferguson ruling in 1896.
If you’re interested in learning a mixture of old and newer history, then the Cabildo would be a great option. It does not solely focus on African/African American history, but this is a great place to see famous artifacts, clothing, etc. that are significant to Black communities.
Free People Of Color Museum
Although this is an amazing museum all by itself, what really makes it come alive is the tour guide. She (I’ve had her twice now!) is so genuine and knows her history forwards, backward, and sideways! I loved hearing her speak about the “Declaration of Independence” that the “Free People of Color” (those of mixed heritage – African, European, and Native American descent) created and wrote out to Abraham Lincoln.
She doesn’t sugarcoat anything about the divide between the Free People of Color and the rest of the Black population. If you don’t visit any other museum, please visit this one and hear the story of the Free People of Color, their eventual disappearance, and how this history influenced New Orleans.
The Mckenna Museum of African American Art
This museum is amazing for those of you who love art! It’s packed with Black artists’ masterpieces, showcasing prominent figures and events like Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau, the Haitian Revolution, Black spirituality on the plantation, NOLA traditions, and much more.
You’ll feel proud walking through the space and witnessing Black creativity that is normally hidden away and dismissed.
Backstreet Cultural Museum
As of this posting, the museum is closed due to damages from Hurricane Ida but will reopen in Tremé soon.
The Backstreet Culture Museum was on my list to visit as well, but I couldn’t make it.
Once you arrive, you’ll see artifacts, films, memorabilia, Mardi Gras costumes, photos, etc. from African American history. According to the website, “The exhibits illuminate African American history in the struggles against slavery and disenfranchisement and for freedom. The artisans who created the objects know hardship, yes. But they also know how to live triumphantly and express the beauty of life; something that no hardship can ever take away.”
I couldn’t have said it better.
The New Orleans Jazz Museum
If you love jazz, then this museum might be for you! It provides the history and cultural importance of Jazz within the African American community through interactive exhibits, research facilities, musical performances, etc.
Amazingly, every exhibit is meant to personally engage the visitor.
For those of you who want to dive deep into historical records and materials, then New Orleans has some of the best libraries for African American history. Period!
The Historic New Orleans Collection
The Historic New Orleans Collection focuses on New Orleans and Gulf of South history, but you can still learn a lot about Black history. I visited this museum to do research on the Quadroon/Octoroon balls and found it to be a great place to sit and work.
The librarians were very helpful and knowledgeable about the collection and the subject that I came to research. Unfortunately, the center closed during Covid but it reopened in June 2021. Since then, they have moved thousands of library materials, images, resources, and audio/videos online for the public to enjoy.
Amistad Research Center
The event that this research center was named for is incredible by itself, but the center’s contributions and support for the African Diaspora shine through too. In fact, it was just awarded the National Medal for Museum and Library Service for 2022!
The center focuses on “collecting, preserving, and providing open access to original materials that reference the social and cultural importance of America’s ethnic and racial history, the African Diaspora, human relations, and civil rights.” – The Amistad Research Center.
If you want to browse through a collection of materials written and created by famous Black artists, educators, business leaders, etc. then you should visit and even subscribe to their newsletter!
Now you have a nice list of places to go to learn more about African American history in New Orleans!
I’m sure that you can’t go wrong with any of these options because the guides are always so good at bringing history to life. They really care about New Orleans and love sharing the culture and traditions.
Comment down below and tell me which places you’re looking to visit on your next trip to NOLA!
Thanks for reading,