The World That Made New Orleans
by Ned Sublette
The World That Made New Orleans follows the creation of New Orleans using slavery and music as a string to follow through time. The information in here is engaging, and disturbing.
I noticed that the people that rated this as average or below average on Goodreads felt that it jumped around too much. I on the other hand loved the way that it moved about. There is a method to his movement. He focuses in and out, so that the reader gets a birds eye view or context to which New Orleans is placed. For example, it seems like Sublette starts talking about Thomas Jefferson and his political and personal aspects with slavery out of nowhere. However, he then goes on to explain the changes in slavery and the sentiments of slave owners in New Orleans once interstate slavery in effect. We now have a base line of norms for slave owners with the accounts of Thomas Jefferson paired with other historical documents. He gives an excellent picture throughout the book using this back and forth, often jumping from country to country in an effort to understand New Orleans, because its identity is a complicated mix of all sorts of people and political events both inside and out of the city,
Throughout this book strong ties are drawn between St. Domangue and New Orleans. Having been born and raised in New Orleans, I was completely oblivious to this and other many aspects of slavery discussed here, which is quite embarrassing. Anyone that is interested in New Orleans or slavery should read this book.
The World That Made New Orleans offers a new perspective on this insufficiently understood city by telling the remarkable story of New Orleans’s first century–a tale of imperial war, religious conflict, the search for treasure, the spread of slavery, the Cuban connection, the cruel aristocracy of sugar, and the very different revolutions that created the United States and Haiti. It demonstrates that New Orleans already had its own distinct personality at the time of Louisiana’s statehood in 1812. By then, important roots of American music were firmly planted in its urban swamp–especially in the dances at Congo Square, where enslaved Africans and African Americans appeared en masse on Sundays to, as an 1819 visitor to the city put it, “rock the city.”
This book is a logical continuation of Ned Sublette’s previous volume, Cuba and Its Music: From the First Drums to the Mambo, which was highly praised for its synthesis of musical, cultural, and political history. Just as that book has become a standard resource on Cuba, so too will The World That Made New Orleans long remain essential for understanding the beautiful and tragic story of this most American of cities.