Welcome to New Orleans, From the Local Arrangements Committee for #SHEAR2022

Lithograph of New Orleans from St. Patrick's Church in 1852.

New Orleans from St. Patrick’s Church 1852 / J.W. Hill & Smith, del.; lith. par B.F. Smith, Jr. Courtesy of Library of Congress.

“There is on the globe one single spot, the possessor of which is our natural and habitual enemy. It is New Orleans, through which the produce of three eighths of our territory must pass to market.” – Thomas Jefferson to Robert Livingston, 1802

The geographical, economic, political, and cultural centrality of the crescent-shaped bowl of earth and swamp between the Mississippi River and Lake Ponchartrain was already true for decades before Jefferson made this observation, and is still very much true today. And yet somehow it is the first time SHEAR has met in this centrally-important metropolis in its 44-year existence. Thankfully we are rectifying that this summer – welcome to New Orleans!

For many visitors, the city conjures images of Carnival and jazz, Creole food and vibrant neighborhoods. But as historians of the early American republic, each of us knows there is far more below the surface. And since Hurricane Katrina made landfall in August of 2005, new types of disaster, despair and, yes, resurgence have become synonymous with New Orleans.

The overarching vision of this year’s local arrangements committee has been to offer up plenty of time and space to explore the city and its many delights on your own or with friends/colleagues. “You literally can’t go wrong” is a phrase we hear constantly about historical walks, food, drinks, and cultural experiences. But we have arranged some planned activities for SHEARites.

Plan to visit the Whitney Plantation on Thursday prior to the start of the conference. The site is the only museum in Louisiana with an exclusive focus on the lives of enslaved people – and also one of the main sites of the 1811 German Coast uprising, the largest slave insurgency in U.S. History. The tour will be led by Director of Research Ibrahima Seck. The bus will leave from the hotel at 10:00 a.m. for the 45 minute drive upriver.

Also on Thursday join local experts for a walking tour of Faubourg Tremé (pronounced Trem-ay), the oldest African American neighborhood in what is now the United States, to learn more about its significance in the antebellum era as well as the one of the fountainheads of the Southern Civil Rights Movement and the birthplace of jazz.

On Friday take some time for a walking tour of the French Quarter, just across Canal Street from the conference hotel. We might suggest avoiding the ghost, voodoo, and pirate tours and booking directly with the Friends of the Cabildo, located on 701 Chartres Street (pronounced “Charters”), adjacent to the Cathedral.

After sessions conclude on Friday evening walk, bike, Lyft, or Streetcar your way across the French Quarter to 400 Esplanade Avenue to the Old New Orleans Mint, now home to the New Orleans Jazz Museum. During its years of operation, the Mint produced over 427 million gold and silver coins of nearly every American denomination. Today the Mint houses the New Orleans Jazz Museum, which celebrates jazz in the city where it was born.

On Sunday, join us for a tour of the Chalmette Battlefield, site of the Battle of New Orleans – the last land battle fought on American soil between the United States and a foreign enemy. Bus leaves from hotel at 12:30 but the Battlefield is also a reasonable taxi or Lyft ride away. [The tour will include a demonstration of weaponry by a U.S. black powder ranger.]

Beyond the planned activities, here are some other suggestions for how to spend non-conference time. Each of us urges you to brave the stifling humidity of the South Louisiana July and visit nearby neighborhoods on your own (within walking distance are the French Quarter, Foubourg Tremé, Foubourg Marigny, the Bywater, and the Warehouse District. Short streetcar/taxi rides away are the Garden District and Uptown. Visit parks: City Park (home of the New Orleans Art Museum), Audubon Park (designed by John Charles Olmstead), Crescent Park (on the River passing through the Marigny and Bywater), and Armstrong Park, home of Congo Square.

Speaking of the Mighty Mississippi: do plan to have a look at the river in all its continent-draining glory. Great vantages include the Moon Walk in the French Quarter (just behind Café Du Monde and its delicious beignets), Crescent Park, and Audubon Riverview Park Uptown. Try a debris Poboy or a muffaletta, the sandwich of Italian New Orleans. Talk to the locals: they’ll usually offer up their favorite place for a cocktail, to hear live music, or to sample the local cuisine.

Music. Follow your ears to find what you like, from the buskers in Jackson Square to the venerable Preservation Hall on St. Peter to the outstanding clubs on Frenchmen Street, extending from the southeast corner of the French Quarter through the Marigny. Many have traditional jazz happy hours with no cover charge; expect to pay $20-$30 for name acts that play well into the night. Uptown is the glorious Maple Leaf Bar.  Be sure to check the “Guardians of the Groove” WWOZ Livewire Music Calendar.

Here is information on some other interesting attractions to explore, most a short walk, streetcar or taxi ride from the hotel. And don’t hesitate to ask one of us for restaurant recommendations (a list would fill more space in this program than we were allotted). And, again, “you can’t go wrong.”

We are delighted to welcome you to New Orleans and look forward to joining you at a great conference.  Laissez les bon temps rouler!

Jonathan Earle, Chair, local arrangements

Erin Greenwald

Randy Sparks

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