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Louisiana Guide

The State of Louisiana is a state located in the southern region of the United States of America. The capital of Louisiana is Baton Rouge and the most populous city is New Orleans. The largest parish by population is Jefferson Parish and largest by area is Terrebonne Parish (Louisiana is the only state divided into parishes, which are local governments equivalent to counties). The New Orleans metropolitan area is Louisiana's largest.

Louisiana has a unique multicultural and multilingual heritage. Originally part of New France, Louisiana is home to many speakers of Cajun French and Louisiana Creole French. African American/Franco-African, and French/French Canadian form the two largest groups of ancestry in Louisiana's population.

The Louisiana State Seal was adopted as the official state seal of Louisiana in 1902. The seal consists of a heraldic charge called a "pelican in her piety," representing a Brown Pelican (the Official State Bird).



With its plantation economy, Louisiana was a state that generated wealth from the labor of and trade in enslaved African Americans. It also had one of the largest free black populations in the United States, totaling 18,647 people in 1860. Most of the free blacks were found in the New Orleans region and southern part of the state. According to the 1860 census, 331,726 people, or nearly 47% of the total population of 708,002, was enslaved.

Construction and elaboration of the levee system was critical to the state's ability to cultivate export crops, especially cotton and sugar cane. Enslaved Africans built the first levees under planter direction. Later levees were expanded, heightened and added to mostly by Irish immigrant laborers, whom contractors hired when doing work for the state. As the 19th century progressed, the state had an interest in ensuring levee construction. By 1860 Louisiana had built 740 miles of levees on the Mississippi River and another 450 miles of levees on its outlets. These immense earthworks were built mostly by hand. They averaged six feet in height, and up to twenty feet in some areas. [5]

Enfranchised elite whites' strong economic interest in maintaining the slave system contributed to Louisiana's decision to secede from the union. It followed other Southern states in seceding after the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States. Louisiana's secession was announced on January 26, 1861, and it became part of the Confederate States of America.

The state was quickly defeated in the Civil War, a result of Union strategy to cut the Confederacy in two by seizing the Mississippi. Federal troops captured New Orleans on April 25, 1862. Because a large part of the population had Union sympathies (or compatible commercial interests), the Federal government took the unusual step of designating the areas of Louisiana under Federal control as a state within the Union, with its own elected representatives to the U.S. Congress.

Louisiana is home to many, especially notable are the distinct culture of the Creoles and Cajuns.

Before the Louisiana Purchase occurred(1803), ancestors of Creoles came from France, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Canada, Germany, Spain, and questionably Senegal, settling along the major waterways in the State. The creative combination of these disparate groups with Native Americans was called "Creole" and continued as the dominant social, economic and political culture of Louisiana well into the 20th century. Some believe it has finally been overtaken by the American mainstream.

The ancestors of Cajuns also came from France and the provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, Canada. When the British won the French and Indian War, the British forcibly separated families and evicted them because of their long-stated political neutrality. Most captured Acadians were placed in internment camps in England and the New England colonies for 10 to 30 years. Many of those who escaped the British remained in French Canada. Once freed by England, many scattered, some to France, Canada, Mexico, the Falkland Islands. The majority found refuge in south Louisiana centered in the region around Lafayette and the LaFourche Bayou country. Until the 1970s, Cajuns were often considered lower class citizens with the term "Cajun" being derogatory. Once flush with oil and gas riches, Cajun culture, food, music and their infectious "joie de vivre" lifestyle quickly gained international acclaim.

A third distinct culture in Louisiana is that of the Islenos, who are descendants of Canary Islanders who migrated to Louisiana under the Spanish crown beginning in the mid-1770s. They settled in what is modern-day St. Bernard Parish, where the majority of the Isleno population is still concentrated today.

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