As a French-founded and French-ruled colony, Louisiana had connections to locations controlled by France in Africa such as the Senegambian region, and in the West Indies such as St. Domingue, which later became Haiti. Under the French, the majority of enslaved Africans that slave traders brought to Louisiana originated in the Senegambian region. Under Spanish rule, Louisiana developed similar connections to Cuba and other Spanish-ruled locations.

New Orleans’s connection to St. Domingue (later Haiti) and Cuba expanded with the onset and success of the Haitian Revolution. While many people fled to Louisiana in the early 1790s more fled to Cuba. However, in 1809, conditions between France and Spain drove nearly ten-thousand of the Haitian refugees from Cuba to Louisiana. Among them were roughly equal numbers of enslaved people, free people of color and white people.  The majority of those immigrants remained in New Orleans, nearly doubling the city’s population and reinforcing the African-based cultural practices that already existed. 

The impact of Haitian heritage was evident at the Sunday gatherings in Congo Square. Counterparts of the cultural practices witnessed in Congo Square and other parts of New Orleans also existed in parts of Haiti and Cuba as well as at other locations in the West Indies. Some of the most popular Creole Slave songs that gatherers sang in Congo Square and other locations in the city and state, such as “My Lisette,”  originated in the West Indies. 

The influence of the gatherings on popular music has created another international connection. On April 30, 2012, UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) launched the inaugural annual International Jazz Day in Congo Square reinforcing the worldwide recognition of this site as the primary, identified location in the evolution of jazz, the musical form that is considered America’s gift to the world. On that day, over 190 countries held performances of jazz music, now an annual occurrence that continues to thrive. 

More Information

Cerin, Jean Bernard and Brandi Berry. “My Lizette.” This film traces the Creole slave song, “Lisette quitté la plaine” from Haiti to Louisiana.

Divine Horsemen: The Living Gods of Haiti 2. Music Rising at Tulane University – The Musical Cultures of the Gulf South.</p class="hangingindent"

Gibson, Michelle. Second Line Aesthetic in Jacmel – New Waves! Ayiti 2014</p class="hangingindent"

“Kongo Vodou” Excerpt from the documentary, "The Living Gods of Haiti" by Maya Deren. Vodou Petwo/Kongo is popular in both Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Its influences are mostly from the Kongo empire. The music and dance of the Kongo peoples have influenced all sorts of secular music in Dominican Republic.

Island of Saint Louis, Senegal (UNESO/HNK). Music Rising at Tulane University – The Musical Cultures of the Gulf South.

Congo Square Sunday the 26th of June with Titos Sompa from The Congo and Drummers

Haiti and the Music of Congo Square. Jazz and Heritage Festival Panel Discussion: Luther Gray, Royce Osborne, Freddi Williams Evans, (May 2011). Music Rising at Tulane University – The Musical Cultures of the Gulf South.

Rara in Gonayiv, Haiti

Rara Music of Haiti. Music Rising at Tulane University – The Musical Cultures of the Gulf South. (5:18)

Tumba Francesa - Mason Franco (Haitian Cuban Dance). Music Rising at Tulane University – The Musical Cultures of the Gulf South.

La Tumba Francesca 1961. Music Rising at Tulane University – The Musical Cultures of the Gulf South.

Lucumi - the Rumbero of Cuba. Tony Gatlif film. Music Rising at Tulane University – The Musical Cultures of the Gulf South. (2:31) (6:13)

Rumba Guaguanco (Cuba). Music Rising at Tulane University – The Musical Cultures of the Gulf South. (3:10)

Rumba Columbia. Music Rising at Tulane University – The Musical Cultures of the Gulf South. (14:56)

How to Play the Son Clave. Music Rising at Tulane University – The Musical Cultures of the Gulf South

Cutumba Performing Son. (2008). at Tulane University – The Musical Cultures of the Gulf South (4:14)

Vodou Archive: Documents, photographs, videos pertaining to Haitian Vodou, Haitian Creole, and Haitian culture, University of Florida Digital Library Center.

Roots Institute: A comprehensive bibliography of sources related to African Diaspora Music and Expressive Culture (i.e., The African Background of American Culture through the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade). Compiled by Michael Stone, of the Department of Anthropology at Hartwick College. Project support by the NEH Summer Institute and the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, June 1998. Highly recommended for studing of jazz history.

Haitian Music:

Dewulf, Jeroen. From the Kingdom of Kongo to Congo Square: Kongo Dances and the Origins of the Mardi Gras Indians. Lafayette: University of Louisiana at Lafayette Press, 2017.

The Pinkster King and the King of Kongo: The Forgotten History of American’s Dutch-Owned Slaves. Jackson: Univeristy Press of Mississippi, 2017.

Evans, Freddi Williams. Congo Square: African Roots in New Orleans. Lafayette: University of Louisiana at Lafayette Press, 2011. A comprehensive study of Congo Square that also connects the people and their cultural practices to locations in West and Central Africa and the Caribbeans.

___ and Zada Johnson. “The Cultural Connections of New Orleans Second Line, Cuban Conga, and Haitian Rara.” In Freedom’s Dance: Social, Aid and Pleasure Clubs in New Orleans, Louisiana State University Press, 2018.

___. “Kongo Music and Dance at New Orleans’s Congo Square.” In Kongo Across the Waters. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2013.

Evans, Sula Janet. Spirit of the Orisha, translated by by Omoba Adéwálé Adénlé.For those who studying Orisha music, this book contains 38 song lyrics, translations and phonetics. The book and the 2-disc set CD project are available at:

Hall, Gwendolyn Midlo. Africans in Colonial Louisiana. Baton Rouge: Louisiana. Discusses the ethnic origin of enslaved Africans in Louisiana and their contributions to the language, food and cultural practices in the state.

___. Slavery and African Ethnicities in the Americas. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2005.

Harris, Jessica. Beyond Gumbo: Creole Fusion Food from the Atlantic Rim. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2003.

Holloway, Joseph E. “The Origins of African-American Culture.” In Africanisms in American Culture, edited by Joseph Holloway, 1-17. Bloomington: Indiana University Press,1990.

Jackson, Joyce and Fehintola Mosadomi, “Cultural Continuity: Masking Traditions of the Black Mardi Gras Indians and the Yoruba Egungun, in Orisa: Yoruba Gods and Spiritual Identity. Ed. by Toyin Falola, African World Press, 2005.

LaChance, Paul. “The 1809 Immigration of Saint-Dominique Refugees.” In The Road Louisiana: The Saint-Domingue Refugees, 1792-1809, edited by Carl A. Brasseaux & Glen

R. Conrad, 245-284. Lafayette: The Center for Louisiana Studies, 1992.

Maultsby, Portia K. “Africanisms in African-American Music.” In Africanisms in American Culture, ed. Joseph E. Holloway, pp.185-210. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990.

Moreau De Saint-Mery, Mederic-Louis-Elie. A Civilization That Perished: The Last Years of White Colonial Rule in Haiti. Translated, abridged & edited by Ivor D. Spencer.

Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 1985.

___. Dance. Translated by Lily and Baird Hastings. Philadelphia: A Dance Horizon Publication, 1976.

____. Description Topographique, Physique, Civile, Politique et Historique de la Partie Francaise de l’Isle Saint-Dominque. Philadelphia: Chez l’auteur, 1797.

Mulira, Jessie Gaston. The Case of Voodoo. In Africanisms in American Culture. Edited by Joseph Holloway, 34-67. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990.

Nettel, Reginald. “Historical Introduction to ‘La Calinda.” Music & Letters. Vol. XXVII. (1946): 59-62.

Nketia, J.H. Kwabena. The Music of Africa. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1974.

___. “Drums, Dance, and Song.” Atlantic Monthly. CCIII (April, 1959), 69-72.

___. “African Roots of Music in the Americas: An African View.” In Report of the 12th Congress, pp. 82-88. London: American Musicological Society; In Africanisms in American Culture, Joseph E. Holloway, ed., pp. 185-210. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990.

Smith, Pamela Jo. Caribbean Influences on Early New Orleans Jazz. Tulane University, Masters Thesis. 1986.

Southern, Eileen. The Music of Black Americans. New York: Norton & Company, 1971.

Stewart, Jack. Cuban Influences on New Orleans Music.

Sublette, Ned. The World That Made New Orleans: From Spanish Silver to Congo Square Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 2009.

___. Cuba and Its Music: From the First Drums to the Mambo. Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 2007.

Tattlin, Isdora. Cuba Diaries: An American Housewife in Havana.

Thompson, Robert Farris. Kongo Influences on African-American Artistic Culture. In Africanisms in American Culture, ed. Joseph E. Holloway, pp.148-184. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1991.

___. Tango: The Art History of Love. Visalia: Vintage Press, 2006.

Turner, Richard Brent. “Mardi Gras Indians and Second Lines/Sequin Artists and Rara Bands: Street Festivals and Performances in New Orleans and Haiti.” Journal of Haitian Studies 9, no. 1 (1 April 2003): 124-156.

Walker, Daniel E. No More, No More: Slavery and Cultural Resistance in Havana and New Orleans. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2004.