Mary Tutwiler

African-American Trail featured in NYT

by Mary Tutwiler

Louisiana’s Department of Tourism launched the state’s African-American Heritage Trail in March of this year. This week, the New York Times travel section is featuring the trail as a summer road trip. With 26 sites scattered from New Orleans to Shreveport, the trail is a long haul; and as the NYT sees it, difficult traveling with kids in tow. Nonetheless, exploring sites deeply rooted in the state’s African heritage and culture are well worth the trek. Destinations span the state, from St. Augustine Catholic Church in Tremé to the African House, built on Melrose Plantation outside of Natchitoches, and later decorated by Louisiana’s most celebrated folk artist, Clementine Hunter. Stops in Acadiana on the trail are The Creole Heritage Folk Life Center in Opelousas, The African American Museum in St. Martinville and Lake Charles’ Black Heritage Festival.

Conceived by Lieutenant Governor Mitch Landrieu as one of many initiatives to jump start the state’s tourism economy, post-Katrina, the trail documents history while asking visitors to engage in a dialogue about race. “We want to transform the discussion about race and poverty in America,” Landrieu told the NYT. “Many, many white people and black people of good will have been separated by ideological fights that have been powerful. But you can’t transform the discussion if you can’t remember what happened.”