Getting Back to Abnormal

PBS Premiere: July 14, 2014Check the broadcast schedule »

In Context

The desegregation of public schools began a dramatic change in the demographics of New Orleans, as many white residents relocated to suburban areas where a number of school districts were still segregated. This trend, commonly referred to as "white flight," is attributed in part to backlash against the civil rights movement and upwardly mobile black families moving into previously all-white neighborhoods. This pattern of white families moving out of the cities and into the suburbs was widespread throughout the country.

During this time, New Orleans saw an exodus of residents from the Lower Ninth Ward, which had previously been inhabited mostly by white and working class residents. In 1965, Hurricane Betsy wrought severe damage in the Lower Ninth Ward, causing even more white residents to leave the area. Most settled in St. Bernard parish, while the predominantly African-American population remaining suffered the devastation of the hurricane. During the period from Hurricane Betsy to Hurricane Katrina, the population of New Orleans dropped by more than 20 percent as white residents left. By 2000, approximately 90 percent of the population of the Lower Ninth Ward was African-American.


» Landphair, Juliette. "'The Forgotten People of New Orleans': Community, Vulnerability, and the Lower Ninth Ward." Journal of American History 94 (December 2007).