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Transport and Turmoil: The turbulent racial history of transport in New Orleans

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Race and transportation have long been interwoven in New Orleans. Yet while other states across the south responded to growing white supremacist ideology by passing Jim Crow segregation laws, Louisiana did not legislate against its black population until 1890. Conflict arising from segregated transit ensured that transport has always held a contentious place in race relations in Louisiana particularly in its largest city of New Orleans. In 2014 the advocacy group Ride New Orleans published a startling analysis of transport since Hurricane Katrina devastated the streetcar and bus network. The results identified a significant racial disparity in the level of transport provided for white and non-white residential areas in the city. Such reports echo the city’s discriminative past and are indicative of a return to racially motivated transport policies placing African Americans in a position of conflict with the state. This article explores past policies and motivation for segregated transport in late nineteenth-century Louisiana and the environment in which the Separate Car Act (1890) became lasting legislation. With a particular focus on New Orleans the growth of white supremacy is examined to show how it garnered support for legal segregation in a city that was previously integrated de jure.
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Keywords: New Orleans; race; reform; segregation; transport; white supremacy

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Ulster University

Publication date: June 1, 2018

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  • The European Journal of American Culture (EJAC) is an academic, refereed journal for scholars, academics and students from many disciplines with a common involvement in the interdisciplinary study of America and American culture, drawing on a variety of approaches and encompassing the whole evolution of the country.
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