During the American Revolutionary War , New Orleans was an important port for smuggling aid to the rebels , and transporting military equipment and supplies up the Mississippi River. Thereafter, the city grew rapidly with influxes of Americans, French , Creoles and Africans. Later immigrants were Irish , Germans and Italians. Major commodity crops of sugar and cotton were cultivated with slave labor on nearby large plantations.
Thousands of refugees from the Haitian Revolution , both whites and free people of color affranchis or gens de couleur libres , arrived in New Orleans, often accompanied by slaves of African descent. While Governor Claiborne and other officials wanted to keep out additional free black people, the French Creoles wanted to increase the French-speaking population.
The migration brought 2, whites, 3, free persons of African descent, and 3, slaves of African descent, doubling the city's population. The city became 63 percent black, a greater proportion than Charleston, South Carolina 's 53 percent.
Despite great challenges, General Andrew Jackson , with support from the U. Navy , successfully cobbled together a force of militia from Louisiana and Mississippi , including free men of color , U.
Army regulars, a large contingent of Tennessee state militia , Kentucky riflemen, Choctaw fighters and local privateers the latter led by the pirate Jean Lafitte , to decisively defeat the British troops , led by Sir Edward Pakenham , in the Battle of New Orleans on January 8, The armies had not learned of the Treaty of Ghent that had been signed on December 24, however, the treaty did not call for cessation of hostilities until after both governments had ratified it.
Philip the Royal Navy went on to capture Fort Bowyer near Mobile , before the commanders received news of the peace treaty. Port Mississippi River steamboats at New Orleans, As a port , New Orleans played a major role during the antebellum era in the Atlantic slave trade. The port handled commodities for export from the interior and imported goods from other countries, which were warehoused and transferred in New Orleans to smaller vessels and distributed along the Mississippi River watershed.
The river was filled with steamboats, flatboats and sailing ships. Despite its role in the slave trade , New Orleans at the time had the largest and most prosperous community of free persons of color in the nation, who were often educated, middle-class property owners.
The market expanded after the U. Two-thirds of the more than one million slaves brought to the Deep South arrived via forced migration in the domestic slave trade. The money generated by the sale of slaves in the Upper South has been estimated at 15 percent of the value of the staple crop economy. The slaves were collectively valued at half a billion dollars.
An ancillary economy grew up around the trade—for transportation, housing and clothing, fees, etc. If a substantial proportion of free persons of color and slaves had not also spoken French, however, the Gallic community would have become a minority of the total population as early as The population doubled in the s and by , New Orleans had become the nation's wealthiest and the third-most populous city.
In this period, the state legislature passed more restrictions on manumissions of slaves and virtually ended it in They maintained instruction in French in two of the city's four school districts all were white.
The census recorded 81 percent as mulatto, a term used to cover all degrees of mixed race. Most blacks were still enslaved, working at the port, in domestic service, in crafts, and mostly on the many large, surrounding sugarcane plantations. After growing by 45 percent in the s, by , the city had nearly , people. Philip , led by Gen.
Butler , a respected state lawyer of the Massachusetts militia, Northern forces occupied the city. Later New Orleans residents nicknamed him "Beast" Butler, because of a military order he issued.
After his troops had been assaulted and harassed in the streets by Southern women, his order warned that such future occurrences would result in his men treating such "ladies" as those "plying their avocation in the streets", implying that they would treat the women like prostitutes.
Accounts of this spread widely. He also came to be called "Spoons" Butler because of the alleged looting that his troops did while occupying the city.
Statewide measures in and, after the war, further strengthened the English-only policy imposed by federal representatives. With the predominance of English speakers, that language had already become dominant in business and government. It was also under pressure from Irish, Italian and German immigrants. The Union Army eventually extended its control north along the Mississippi River and along the coastal areas. As a result, most of the southern portion of Louisiana was originally exempted from the liberating provisions of the " Emancipation Proclamation " issued by President Abraham Lincoln.
Large numbers of rural ex-slaves and some free people of color from the city volunteered for the first regiments of Black troops in the War. The new group was made up mostly of former slaves. They were supplemented in the last two years of the War by newly organized United States Colored Troops , who played an increasingly important part in the war. Louisiana was readmitted to the Union in Its Constitution of granted universal male suffrage and established universal public education. Both blacks and whites were elected to local and state offices.
In , lieutenant governor P. Pinchback , who was of mixed race , succeeded Henry Clay Warmouth for a brief period as Republican governor of Louisiana , becoming the first governor of African descent of an American state the next African American to serve as governor of an American state was Douglas Wilder , elected in Virginia in New Orleans operated a racially integrated public school system during this period. Wartime damage to levees and cities along the Mississippi River adversely affected southern crops and trade.
The federal government contributed to restoring infrastructure. The nationwide financial recession and Panic of adversely affected businesses and slowed economic recovery. From , elections in Louisiana were marked by violence, as white insurgents tried to suppress black voting and disrupt Republican Party gatherings. Violence continued around elections. The disputed gubernatorial election resulted in conflicts that ran for years. The " White League ", an insurgent paramilitary group that supported the Democratic Party , was organized in and operated in the open, violently suppressing the black vote and running off Republican officeholders.
In , in the Battle of Liberty Place , 5, members of the White League fought with city police to take over the state offices for the Democratic candidate for governor, holding them for three days. By , such tactics resulted in the white Democrats , the so-called Redeemers , regaining political control of the state legislature.
The federal government gave up and withdrew its troops in , ending Reconstruction. Jim Crow era White Democrats passed Jim Crow laws, establishing racial segregation in public facilities. In , the legislature passed a constitutional amendment incorporating a " grandfather clause " that effectively disfranchised freedmen as well as the propertied people of color manumitted before the war. Unable to vote, African Americans could not serve on juries or in local office, and were closed out of formal politics for generations.
The South was ruled by a white Democratic Party. Public schools were racially segregated and remained so until New Orleans' large community of well-educated, often French-speaking free persons of color gens de couleur libres , who had been free prior to the Civil War, fought against Jim Crow.
As part of their legal campaign, they recruited one of their own, Homer Plessy , to test whether Louisiana's newly enacted Separate Car Act was constitutional. Plessy boarded a commuter train departing New Orleans for Covington, Louisiana , sat in the car reserved for whites only, and was arrested. The case resulting from this incident, Plessy v. Ferguson , was heard by the U. Supreme Court in The court ruled that " separate but equal " accommodations were constitutional, effectively upholding Jim Crow measures.
In practice, African-American public schools and facilities were underfunded across the South. The Supreme Court ruling contributed to this period as the nadir of race relations in the United States. The rate of lynchings of black men was high across the South, as other states also disfranchised blacks and sought to impose Jim Crow.
Nativist prejudices also surfaced. Anti-Italian sentiment in contributed to the lynchings of 11 Italians , some of whom had been acquitted of the murder of the police chief. Some were shot and killed in the jail where they were detained. It was the largest mass lynching in U. The mob killed him and an estimated 20 other blacks; seven whites died in the days-long conflict, until a state militia suppressed it.
Throughout New Orleans' history, until the early 20th century when medical and scientific advances ameliorated the situation, the city suffered repeated epidemics of yellow fever and other tropical and infectious diseases. It was the nation's fifth-largest city in after New York , Philadelphia , Boston and Baltimore and was significantly larger than all other southern cities.
The growth of railways and highways decreased river traffic, diverting goods to other transportation corridors and markets. From the late s, most censuses recorded New Orleans slipping down the ranks in the list of largest American cities New Orleans' population still continued to increase throughout the period, but at a slower rate than before the Civil War.
By the midth century, New Orleanians recognized that their city was no longer the leading urban area in the South. By , Houston , Dallas , and Atlanta exceeded New Orleans in size, and in Miami eclipsed New Orleans, even as the latter's population reached its historic peak. The census recorded the first absolute decline in population since the city became part of the United States in The New Orleans metropolitan area continued expanding in population, albeit more slowly than other major Sun Belt cities.
While the port remained one of the nation's largest, automation and containerization cost many jobs. The city's former role as banker to the South was supplanted by larger peer cities. New Orleans' economy had always been based more on trade and financial services than on manufacturing, but the city's relatively small manufacturing sector also shrank after World War II. Despite some economic development successes under the administrations of DeLesseps "Chep" Morrison — and Victor "Vic" Schiro — , metropolitan New Orleans' growth rate consistently lagged behind more vigorous cities.
Civil Rights Movement During the later years of Morrison's administration, and for the entirety of Schiro's, the city was a center of the Civil Rights Movement. A prominent and violent series of confrontations occurred in when the city attempted school desegregation, following the Supreme Court ruling in Brown v.
Board of Education When six-year-old Ruby Bridges integrated William Frantz Elementary School in the Ninth Ward , she was the first child of color to attend a previously all-white school in the South. The Civil Rights Movement's success in gaining federal passage of the Civil Rights Act of and the Voting Rights Act of renewed constitutional rights, including voting for blacks.
Together, these resulted in the most far-reaching changes in New Orleans' 20th century history. From , the African-American majority elected primarily officials from its own community.
They struggled to narrow the gap by creating conditions conducive to the economic uplift of the African-American community.