The Voodoo Priestess Whose Celebrity Foretold America’s Future

Marie Laveau, the Self-Invented New Orleans Prophetess, Blurred the Sacred and Profane While Presiding Over a Multiracial Following 

Any tourist who rolls into New Orleans’s French Quarter eventually finds themselves standing before a Bourbon Street botanica called Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo. It’s a small shop, and the front window is cluttered with the materials of a spirit altar: candy, bones, saint figurines, jewelry, sugar skulls, and a small porcelain statuette of the woman in blue herself, wearing her signature orange tignon: Marie Laveau.

Wander inside the shop, and you’ll find every surface packed with totems, oils, potions, pendants, plastic souvenirs, herbs, and unmarked satchels of gris-gris; a …

The Notorious, Mixed-Race New Orleans Madam Who Turned Her Identity Into a Brand

By Repackaging the Myths of the Tragic Octoroon and the Self-Made Woman, Lulu White Crafted a Persona That Haunts Beyoncé's "Formation"

In 2016, music and pop-culture idol Beyoncé released the album Lemonade to rapturous reviews. As a historian of New Orleans, I was especially intrigued by the video for one of …

An L.A. Woman Embraces Her Ancestral New Orleans Home

How Family Reunions Revealed That My Grandparents’ Stories Are My Own

Zigzagging through the crush of rush-hour commuters at L.A.’s Union Station, I’m hoping to make up for lost time. Suddenly, out of the edges of my vision, a man …

Dancing in New Orleans to Overcome Division

A Crescent City Transplant Creates a Diverse Non-Profit, and Finds a New Home

Five years ago, I moved from New York to New Orleans. The reasons included a need to escape from the New York grind, a lover’s terminal brain cancer, and a …

New Orleans Taught Me the Meaning of Home

Though Our Lives Have Picked Different Paths, the City Remains the Ground Zero of Our Family's Dramas

I’d just woken up in my mother’s home outside Bay St. Louis, on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. It was late February, Mardi Gras season. It was chilly, and as my …

New Orleans Is My Second Language

We Lived in Los Angeles, But My Mother’s Songs, Stories, Cooking—and Most of All the Way She Spoke—Made Louisiana Feel Like Home

For a time, most likely between the ages of 5 and 8, I floated around with a secret: a dogged yet utterly erroneous notion that my family spoke a second …