Getting Back to Abnormal

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

In Context

From 1979 to 2004, the presence of African Americans in New Orleans government surged to unprecedented levels. During Morial's mayoralty, African-American political organizations such as BOLD (Black Organization for Leadership Development), SOUL (Southern Organization for Unified Leadership) and LIFE (Louisiana Independent Federation of Electors) emerged as conduits for black citizens to engage in the political process. These organizations were a necessary counterbalance to the popular whites-only gentlemen's clubs where business and policymaking decisions were traditionally made.

By 2004, the city of New Orleans had elected four African-American mayors: Ernest N. Morial (1978-1986), Sidney J. Barthelemy (1986-1994), Marc Morial (1994-2002) and C. Ray Nagin (2002-2010), who served during Hurricane Katrina. The city council sustained a black majority for almost two decades, and black voter participation in the city was consistently higher than white turnout.


» Eggler, Bruce. "Katrina Changed Racial Landscape of Orleans Politics." The Times-Picayune, October 18, 2008.

» Garvey, Joan B., and Mary Lou Widmer. "Mayors of New Orleans." Beautiful Crescent: A History of New Orleans. Gretna, LA: Pelican, 2013.

» Mock, Brentin. "The Changing Face of Political Power in New Orleans." The Root, August 23, 2010.

» Smith, Ryan. "Gap Closes on Voter Turnout." The Times-Picayune, October 18, 2008.