Once called the Place de Nègres,
Congo Square fostered the growth of jazz and modern dance, while boosting the local economy. Nestled at the foot of the New Orleans Municipal Auditorium on Rampart Street, just outside the French Quarter, the Square is an iconic component of the city. This insightful examination details the history of the area from its roots in the French Colonial period to the present day.
Sections of the book discuss Congo Square’s origin as a public market, which began to take shape in the 1740s and 1750s. Because slaves were exempt from work on Sundays, they gathered along the edge of the City Commons to sell goods. This also became the site for the Congo Circus, which featured carousels, acrobats, and other amusements. The author also notes the factors that brought an end to Congo Square activities, including competition from the Tremè Market, the 1834 construction of a parish prison nearby, and the prohibition of public dances in 1856.
The book includes a map depicting the plan for Congo Square; drawings of such instruments as a congaa and an ogororo, which were used during the public gatherings; and illustrations of the dancers. In-depth explanations accompany each drawing.