Celebrating Black History Month at the VCU Libraries
Long ago during slavery, Faubourg Tremé was home to the largest community of free black people in the Deep South and a hotbed of political ferment. Here black and white, free and enslaved, rich and poor co-habitated, collaborated, and clashed to create much of what defines New Orleans culture up to the present day.
Founded as a suburb (or faubourg in French) of the original colonial city, the neighborhood developed during French rule and many families like the Trevignes kept speaking French as their first language until the late 1960s. Tremé was the home of the Tribune, the first black daily newspaper in the US. During Reconstruction, activists from Tremé pushed for equal treatment under the law and for integration. And after Reconstruction's defeat, a "Citizens Committee" legally challenged the resegregation of public transportation resulting in the infamous Plessy vs. Ferguson Supreme Court case.
New Orleans Times Picayune columnist Lolis Eric Elie bought a historic house in Tremé in the 1990s when the area was struggling to recover from the crack epidemic. Rather than flee the blighted inner city, Elie begins renovating his dilapidated home and in the process becomes obsessed with the area's mysterious and neglected past. Shot largely before Hurricane Katrina and edited afterwards, the film is both celebratory and elegiac in tone.
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