Why I call New Orleans the ‘most African city’ in the U.S.

Editor’s Note: The Noirlinians photo project documents African culture in New Orleans, which the project’s organizers have called the “most African city in the U.S.” In this week’s edition of Parallax, Danielle Miles, a photographer with the project, described how she set out to portray the traditions that shape the city — ones that she said are uniquely, and beautifully, African.

Danielle Miles (as told to Corinne Segal)

If you took all of the African-ness away from New Orleans, there would be very little left.

I grew up in Houston, Texas. I came [to New Orleans] as a volunteer after the storm. I just fell in love with the people and I wanted to be sure that I did the work that was necessary to help people come home. Moving here, I found [New Orleans] really is the most African city. The way that people congregate is very African. They [used to] have “free day” on Sunday for the slaves to speak their own languages and trade and things like that, mainly in the Congo Square area of New Orleans. That allowed them to hold a lot of traditions that a lot of other places wouldn’t normally have.

In this photo, I wanted to document the confluence that was happening on the corner. Any time that there’s a convergence of people, there’s a lot of exchanges of ideas and news. People get their news there. What happened yesterday? Or this happened over here, did you know this about this person? Every morning you walk outside, and everybody’s passing, asking how you’re doing, and we actually stop and wait for a response.

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