Rex & Zulu: The King Krewes of Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras 2021
This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

NEW ORLEANS— Rex and Zulu are two names synonomous with Mardi Gras. They each have a unique and storied pas that plays an integral role in New Orleans culture.

In 1872, Rex was founded in a city still recovering from the Civil War. The goal of the Krewe of Rex organization was to entice tourism and business in New Orleans. It succeeded and has held more parades in New Orleans than any other parading organization.

“With reigns in hand, the first king of rex reigned over the Crescent City on horseback. Today, the King’s Float is one of several iconic floats in the Rex Parade, along with the Butterfly King and Boef Gras floats. The parade is one that revelers from all over the world have looked forward to for ages.

The word “Rex” is latin for the word “king” and the “King of Carnival” is the King of Rex in New Orleans.

37 years after Rex debuted, the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club was formed and the first king was crowned in 1910. Zulu’s roots trace back to the days of segregation when African Americans weren’t allowed to be in other Mardi Gras krewes.

In the early 1900s, social aid and pleasure clubs were a popular mechanism for improving day-to-day life in the African American community. One of these clubs, the Tramps, went to the Pythian Temple in 1909 to see a play titled “There Never Was and Never Will Be a King Like Me.”

The play was based loosely on the Zulu ethnic group in Africa. When the Tramps walked out, they were no longer tramps, but Zulu warriors instead.

When they formed the Zulu parade krewe, the city required all krewe members to wear masks. Zulu members had limited resources — and theatrical inspiration. Thus, the Zulu tradition was born.

It wasn’t until 1968, that Zulu Rolled on a more traditional parade route that included St. Charles and Canal street.

Zulu is known as much for its elaborate coconuts as it is for community service and bringing people together. Members are also responsible for what could be the largest formal African American affair in the country, the Zulu Ball.

Today, Zulu parades first on Mardi Gras and is followed by Rex. Both kings make various stops for their traditional toasts throughout the city and then the king’s exchange toasts at Gallier Hall.

Zulu and Rex began a tradition in 1999. The two kings publicly exchanged greetings for the first time. Now the Zulu/Rex greeting is a Lundi Gras festivity that continues.

It’s two Kings, of two philanthropic organizations, that shine on a very special day; they rule over the greatest free show on earth!

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


Latest News

More News