Regarding the mainland of North America, “Only in Place Congo in New Orleans was the African tradition able to continue in the open.” This concluding statement came from Dena Epstein after her exhaustive study of black folk music in the United States, the West Indies and South America, which she published in Sinful Tunes and Spirituals: Black Folk Music to the Civil War. The public gatherings of enslaved people in Congo Square continued on Sunday afternoons off and on into the 1850s. 

The longevity of the location as a gathering place, the diverse and large number of people, and the impact of their practices are among the many factors that make Congo Square a significant historical landmark. The documentation of the cultural practices perpetuated in Congo Square, as well as in and around the city, enable scholars to establish significant connections to points of origin and to other locations in the African Diaspora that had similar practices.  The documentation also enables scholars to notate the influence of the practices on local, national and international popular culture. 

Reproduction of an 1845 map of New Orleans. 

More Information

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 Caribbean.

___. “A WINDOW TO AFRICA: Enslaved Africans Perpetuated Cultural and Commercial Practices at Congo Square.” In New Orleans & The World: 1718-2018 Tricentennial Anthology. New Orleans: Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, 2017.

Johnson, Jerah. “New Orleans’s Congo Square: An Urban Setting for Early Afro-American Culture Formation.” Louisiana History: The Journal of the Louisiana Historical Association 32, no. 2 (1 April 1991): 117-157.

Medley, Keith Weldon, “New Orleans Congo Square, African Seeds in American Soil,” New Orleans Tribune (August, 1986).

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

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.

Unruh, Amy Elizabeth, "The Role of Early Exposure to African-derived Music in Shaping an American Musical Pioneer from New Orleans." Dissertation. Kent State University: 2009.!etd.send_file?accession=kent1257865487&disposition=inline

Widmer, Ted. “The Invention of Memory: Congo Square and African Music in Nineteenth Century New Orleans.” Revue française d’études américaines 98 (1 December 2003): 69-78.