Hermann-Grima House’s Newest Tour: A Look at Urban Enslavement

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NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) —There is a new guided tour in the French Quarter that offers a different glimpse into the past.

New Orleans was once home to the largest slave market in the country. For many, the port of New Orleans was a doorway to the harsh life of rural farm labor. The city supplied plantations all over the Southern United States with slave labor. However, the narrative of slavery encompasses much more than the servitude inside of plantations.

New Orleans was also a unique setting of a different but uniquely troubling type of enslavement. The Urban Enslavement Tour is the newest offering of historic experiences offered at the Hermann-Grima + Gallier Historic Houses in the French Quarter of New Orleans.

Anastacia J. Scott, Ph.D. is the Director of Educational Programming and says, “at any given time between 1831 and 1865 there were anywhere between eight to eighteen enslaved people at the Grima House.”

The tour profiles people of history, like Olliver, an enslaved young man who once worked the kitchen and was owned by the Grima family. For the urban-enslaved, a work-day began at four in the morning and ended at ten at night.

In the 1800s the city was a major supplier of the domestically-trained enslaved. Enslaved Africans had an array of different tasks based on their assignments that included buying groceries at the market, starting the daily kitchen fire, cooking, laundry, and being responsible for every personal request of their owners.

In addition to domestic labor, some slave-owners would pay off debts by leasing the enslaved to work in the city clearing swamps, building infrastructure, and working inside the shops as craftsmen and women.

However, the enslaved did have more movement than their counterparts living on rural plantations. On Sunday, Code Noir gave a reprieve from work and many enslaved Africans and free people of color gathered in Congo Square to sell food, dance, and ultimately preserve pieces of their ancestral West African heritages.

“They were able to have a sense of movement that people on rural plantations did not. They interacted with free people of color, Native Americans, and Europeans, and because of this fusion of cultures and ways of life, out comes the city’s unique traditions of second-line jazz bands, jazz itself, and the elaborate funeral processions that make up New Orleans. This story is important because it gives a holistic history of New Orleans. We have a very robust African heritage that needs to be focused on, talked about, and shared.” says Dr. Scott.

Elaborate French service styled-meals were also inspired with African cooking techniques and Native American Ingredients to create the bedding for New Orleans’ creole food.

Dr. Scott says, there is an opportunity by giving the tour, to shed light on a history that is not told often. It’s a history that shows how America received some of its biggest gifts of music, food, and culture at the expense of an inhuman institution.

To purchase a ticket and book a tour, click here.

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