Faubourg Tremé is considered the oldest black neighborhood in America, the origin of the southern civil rights movement and the birthplace of jazz. Long before Hurricane Katrina, two native New Orleanians, one black and one white — writer Lolis Eric Elie and filmmaker Dawn Logsdon — began documenting the rich, living culture of this historic district. Miraculously, their tapes survived the disaster unscathed.The completed film, Faubourg Tremé: The Untold Story of Black New Orleans, which critics have hailed as "devastating," "charming" and "revelatory," brims with unknown historical nuggets. Who knew that in the early 1800s while most African Americans were toiling on plantations, free black people in Tremé were publishing poetry and conducting symphonies? Who knew that long before Rosa Parks, Tremé leaders organized sit-ins and protests that successfully desegregated the city's streetcars and schools? Who knew that jazz, New Orleans' greatest gift to America, was born from the embers of this first American civil rights movement?
Lolis Eric Elie, a New Orleans newspaperman, takes us on a tour of the city — his city — in what evolves from a reflection on the relevance of history into a love letter to the storied New Orleans neighborhood Faubourg Tremé. Faubourg Tremé: The Untold Story of Black New Orleans, executive produced by Wynton Marsalis and Stanley Nelson, premiered on PBS in February 2009, a timely addition to the network's Black History Month programming.
Long ago, during slavery, Faubourg Tremé was home to the largest community of free black people in the Deep South and was a hotbed of political activism. Here, black and white, free and enslaved, rich and poor cohabited, collaborated and clashed to create America's first civil rights movement and a uniquely American culture. The Tremé district was damaged when the levees broke as a result of Hurricane Katrina. Many Tremé residents are still unable to return home, and the neighborhood is once again fighting many of the same civil rights battles first launched here 150 years ago. Faubourg Tremé: The Untold Story of Black New Orleans celebrates the resiliency of this community and explores how it managed to carve out a unique and expressive culture and history that is still enriching America and the world.
Faubourg Tremé: The Untold Story of Black New Orleans had its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York and won Best Documentary awards at the San Francisco International Film Festival, the San Francisco Black Film Festival, the Martha's Vineyard Black Film Festival and others. The film was executive produced by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer/musician Wynton Marsalis and Stanley Nelson (Jonestown, The Murder of Emmett Till); directed by Dawn Logsdon; co-directed and written by Times-Picayune columnist Lolis Eric Elie; produced by Lucie Faulknor, Lolis Eric Elie and Dawn Logsdon; with original music composed by Derrick Hodge (of Terrence Blanchard's band) and including tracks by Irvin Mayfield, George Lewis, Bunk Johnson, Rebirth Brass Band, John Boutté, Glen David Andrews and Edmond Dédé.