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State of Louisiana

ORIGIN OF STATE NAME: Named in 1682 for France's King Louis XIV.

NICKNAME: The Pelican State.

CAPITAL: Baton Rouge.

ENTERED UNION: 30 April 1812 (18th).

SONG: "Give Me Louisiana;" "You are My Sunshine;" "State March Song."

MOTTO: Union, Justice, and Confidence.

FLAG: On a blue field, fringed on three sides, a white pelican feeds her three young, symbolizing the state providing for its citizens; the state motto is inscribed on a white ribbon.

OFFICIAL SEAL: In the center, a pelican and its young are as depicted on the flag; the state motto encircles the scene, and the words "State of Louisiana" surround the whole.

BIRD: Eastern brown pelican.

FISH: Crustacean: Crawfish.

FLOWER: Magnolia; Louisiana iris (wildflower).

TREE: Bald cypress.

GEM: Agate.

LEGAL HOLIDAYS: New Year's Day, 1 January; Birthday of Martin Luther King Jr., 3rd Monday in January; Mardi Gras Day, Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, February; Good Friday, Friday before Easter, March or April; Independence Day, 4 July; Huey Long's Birthday, 30 August, by proclamation of the governor; Labor Day, 1st Monday in September; Election Day, 1st Tuesday in November in even-numbered years; Veterans' Day, 11 November; Thanksgiving Day, 4th Thursday in November; Christmas Day, 25 December. Legal holidays in Baton Rouge parish also include Inauguration Day, once every four years in January.

TIME: 6 AM CST = noon GMT.


Situated in the western south-central United States, Louisiana ranks 31st in size among the 50 states. The total area of Louisiana is 47,751 sq mi (123,675 sq km), including 44,521 sq mi (115,309 sq km) of land and 3,230 sq mi (8,366 sq km) of inland water. The state extends 237 mi (381 km) e-w; its maximum n-s extension is 236 mi (380 km). Louisiana is shaped roughly like a boot, with the heel in the sw corner and the toe at the extreme se.

Louisiana is bordered on the n by Arkansas; on the e by Mississippi (with part of the line formed by the Mississippi River and part, in the extreme se, by the Pearl River); on the s by the Gulf of Mexico; and on the w by Texas (with part of the line passing through the Sabine River and Toledo Bend Reservoir). The state's geographic center is in Avoyelles Parish, 3 mi (5 km) se of Marksville. The total boundary length of Louisiana is 1,486 mi (2,391 km). Louisiana's total tidal shoreline is 7,721 mi (12,426 km).


Louisiana lies wholly within the Gulf Coastal Plain. Alluvial lands, chiefly of the Red and Mississippi rivers, occupy the north-central third of the state. East and west of this alluvial plain are the upland districts, characterized by rolling hills sloping gently toward the coast. The coastal-delta section, in the southernmost portion of the state, consists of the Mississippi Delta and the coastal lowlands. The highest elevation in the state is Driskill Mountain at 535 ft (163 m), in Bienville Parish; the lowest, 8 ft (2 m) below sea level, in New Orleans. The mean elevation of the state is approximately 100 ft (31 m).

Louisiana has the most wetlands of all the states, about 11,000 sq mi (28,000 sq km) of floodplains and 7,800 sq mi (20,200 sq km) of coastal swamps, marshes, and estuarine waters. The largest lake, actually a coastal lagoon, is Lake Pontchartrain, with an area of more than 620 sq mi (1,600 sq km). Toledo Bend Reservoir, an artificial lake along the Louisiana-Texas border, has an area of 284 sq mi (736 sq km). The most important rivers are the Mississippi, Red, Pearl, Atchafalaya, and Sabine. Most drainage takes place through swamps between the bayous, which serve as outlets for overflowing rivers and streams. Louisiana has nearly 2,500 coastal islands covering some 2,000 sq mi (5,000 sq km).


Louisiana has a relatively constant semitropical climate. Rainfall and humidity decrease, and daily temperature variations increase, with distance from the Gulf of Mexico. The normal daily temperature in New Orleans is 69°f (20°c), ranging from 53°f (11°c) in January to 82°f (27°c) in July. The all-time high temperature is 114°f (46°c), recorded at Plain Dealing on 10 August 1936; the all-time low, 16°f (27°c), was set at Minden on 13 February 1899. New Orleans has sunshine 58% of the time, and the average annual rainfall is about 61.6 in (156 cm). Snow falls occasionally in the north, but rarely in the south.

Prevailing winds are from the south or southeast. During the summer and fall, tropical storms and hurricanes frequently batter the state, especially along the coast. The 2005 hurricane season devastated much of the Gulf region, primarily through Hurricane Katrina. Katrina made landfall at Buras on 29 August 2005 as a Category 4 storm. The combination of high winds and flooding led to levee damage around New Orleans, allowing flood waters to cover about 80% of the city, with depths as high as 20 ft (6.3 m). One month later, Hurricane Rita made landfall near Johnson's Bayou as a Category 3 storm. Initial reports from Hurricane Rita alone included 119 deaths and $8 billion in damage. As of early 2006, damage assessments for Hurricane Katrina were still underway. Over 1,300 deaths had been reported, well over 1 million people were displaced, and the cost of rebuilding was estimated at over $150 billion.


Forests in Louisiana consist of four major types: shortleaf pine uplands, slash and longleaf pine flats and hills, hardwood forests in alluvial basins, and cypress and tupelo swamps. Important commercial trees also include beech, eastern red cedar, and black walnut. Among the state's wildflowers are the ground orchid and several hyacinths; two species (Louisiana quillwort and American chaffseed) were listed as endangered in April 2006. Spanish moss (actually a member of the pineapple family) grows profusely in the southern regions but is rare in the north.

Louisiana's varied habitatstidal marshes, swamps woodlands, and prairiesoffer a diversity of fauna. Deer, squirrel, rabbit, and bear are hunted as game, while muskrat, nutria, mink, opossum, bobcat, and skunk are commercially significant furbearers. Prized game birds include quail, turkey, woodcock, and various waterfowl, of which the mottled duck and wood duck are native. Coastal beaches are inhabited by sea turtles, and whales may be seen offshore. Freshwater fish include bass, crappie, and bream; red and white crawfishes are the leading commercial crustaceans. Threatened animal species include five species (green, hawksbill, Kemp's ridley, leatherback, and loggerhead) of sea turtle. In April 2006, a total of 23 species occurring within the state were on the threatened and endangered species list of the US Fish and Wildlife Service. These included 20 animal (vertebrates and invertebrates) and 3 plant species. Among those listed were the Louisiana black bear, bald eagle, Alabama heelsplitter, and red-cockaded woodpecker.


Louisiana's earliest and most pressing environmental problem was the chronic danger of flooding by the Mississippi River. In April and May 1927, one of the worst floods in the state's history inundated more than 1,300,000 acres (526,000 hectares) of agricultural land, left 300,000 people homeless, and would have swept away much of New Orleans had levees below the city not been dynamited. The following year, the US Congress funded construction of a system of floodways and spillways to divert water from the Mississippi when necessary. These flood control measures and dredging for oil and gas exploration created another environmental problemthe slowing of the natural flow of silt into the wetlands. As a result, salt water from the Gulf of Mexico has seeped into the wetlands.

The city of New Orleans suffered a major environmental disaster under Hurricane Katrina, which swept through the area in September 2005. High winds and flooding eventually led to a breach in the levees around New Orleans, allowing flood waters to cover about 80% of the city, with depths as high as 20 ft (6.3 m). Hundreds of homes, industries, and other public buildings were destroyed releasing a myriad of contaminants into the air, water, and soil. As of early 2006, environmental cleanup and damage assessments were still underway.

In 1984, Louisiana consolidated much of its environmental protection efforts into a new state agencyThe Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). Among its responsibilities are maintenance of air and water quality, solid-waste management, hazardous waste disposal, and control of radioactive materials. According to the Louisiana Environmental Action Plan (LEAP to 2000 Project), toxic air pollution, industrial and municipal waste-water discharges, and coastal wetland loss head the list of state residents' environmental concerns. Louisiana's problem in protecting its wetlands differs from that of most other states in that its wetlands are more than wildlife refugesthey are central to the state's agriculture and fishing industries. Assessment of the environmental impact of various industries on the wetlands has been conducted under the Coastal Zone Management Plan of the Department of Natural Resources.

The two largest wildlife refuges in the state are the Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge, comprising 84,000 acres (34,000 hectares) in Cameron and Vermilion parishes, and the Marsh Island Refuge, 82,000 acres (33,000 hectares) of marshland in Iberia Parish. Both are managed by the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. Louisiana's coastal marshes represent almost 40% of such lands in the country. Catahoula Lake, located in LaSalle and Rapides parishes, was designated as a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance in 1991, primarily for its role as a habitat for migratory birds. The site is managed jointly by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the US Army Corps of Engineers, and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. In 1996, wetlands, which once covered more than half the state, accounted for about one-third of Louisiana's land.

With approximately 100 major chemical and petrochemical manufacturing and refining facilities located in Louisiana, many DEQ programs deal with the regulation of hazardous waste generation, management and disposal, and chemical releases to the air and water. Trends in air monitoring have, for example, continued to show decreases in criteria pollutants. In 1993, Louisiana became one of the first states in the nation to receive federal approval for stringent new solid waste landfill regulations, and the department has developed a Statewide Solid Waste Management Plan which encourages waste reduction. In 2003, Louisiana had 155 hazardous waste sites included in the US Environment Protection Agency (EPA) database, 11 of which were included on the National Priorities List as of 2006, including the Louisiana Army Ammunition Plant in Doyline. Nine sites were deleted from the National Priority List in 2006, but three new sites were proposed. In 2005, federal EPA grants awarded to the state included $14.8 million for the state revolving loan program (in support of water quality projects) and $2.4 million for water pollution control projects in urban and agricultural settings.

In 2003, 126.8 million lb of toxic chemicals were released in the state. Of the total river miles in the state impacted by pollution, 69% of the pollution is due to nonpoint sources such as agricultural and urban runoff. Efforts by DEQ to curb nonpoint source pollution have included the support and cooperation of the agricultural community and other state and federal agencies.

Among the most active citizen's groups on environmental issues are the League of Women Voters, the Sierra Club (Delta Chapter), and the Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LEAN). Curbside recycling programs exist in 28 parishes.


Louisiana ranked 24th in population in the United States with an estimated total of 4,523,628 in 2005, an increase of 1.2% since 2000. Between 1990 and 2000, Louisiana's population grew from 4,219,973 to 4,468,976, an increase of 5.9%. The population is projected to reach 4.67 million by 2015 and 4.76 million by 2025.

At the time of the 1980 census, Louisiana ranked 19th among the 50 states, with a population of 4,203,972, representing an increase of more than 15% since 1970. However, by 1990 the population was 4,219,973, representing only a 0.3% gain, and ranking had slipped to 21st. The population density in 2004 was 104.2 persons per sq mi.

In 2004 the median age was 35.2. Persons under 18 years old accounted for 25.8% of the population while 11.7% was age 65 or older.

New Orleans is the largest city, with an estimated 2004 population of 462,269, followed by Baton Rouge, 224,097; and Shreveport, 198,675. Baton Rouge, the capital, had grown with exceptional speed since 1940, when its population was 34,719; however, since 1980, the population has been decreasing. Among the state's largest metropolitan areas are New Orleans, with an estimated 1,319,589, and Baton Rouge, with 728,731.


Louisiana, most notably the Delta region, is an enclave of ethnic heterogeneity in the South. At the end of World War II, the established population of the Delta, according to descent, included blacks, French, Spanish (among them Central and South Americans and Islenos, Spanish-speaking migrants from the Canary Islands), Filipinos, Italians, Chinese, American Indians, and numerous other groups.

Blacks made up about 32.5% of the population in 2000 (the second-highest percentage among the 50 states), and were estimated to number 1,451,944. They include descendants of "free people of color," some of whom were craftsmen and rural property owners before the Civil War (a few were slaveholding plantation owners). Many of these, of mixed blood, are referred to locally as "colored Creoles" and have constituted a black elite in both urban and rural Louisiana. The black population of New Orleans constituted 67.3% of the city's residents in 2000; New Orleans elected its first black mayor, Ernest N. "Dutch" Morial, in 1977. In 2004, 33% of the state's population was black.

Two groups that have been highly identified with the culture of Louisiana are Creoles and Acadians (also called Cajuns). Both descend primarily from early French immigrants to the state, but the Cajuns trace their origins from the mainly rural people exiled from Acadia (Nova Scotia) in the 1740s, while the Creoles tend to be city people from France and, to a lesser extent, from Nova Scotia or Hispaniola. (The term "Creole" also applies to the relatively few early Spanish settlers and their descendants.) Although Acadians have intermingled with Spaniards and Germans, they still speak a French patois and retain a distinctive culture and cuisine. In 2000, 179,739 residents claimed Acadian/Cajun ancestry. In 2000, 107,738, or 2.4% of the population, were Hispanic or Latino. That figure had risen to 2.8% of the population by 2004.

At the time of the 2000 census, 115,885 Louisianians (2.6% of the population) were foreign born. France, Germany, Ireland, and the United Kingdom provided Louisiana with the largest ancestry groups. As of 2000, there were 25,477 American Indians in Louisiana, along with 54,758 and Asians, including 24,358 Vietnamese. Pacific Islanders numbered 1,240. In 2004, 0.6% of the population was American Indian, 1.4% Asian, and 0.8% of the population claimed origin of two or more races.


White settlers in Louisiana found several Indian tribes of the Caddoan confederacy, from at least five different language groups. In 1990, about 495 Louisiana residents spoke an American Indian language at home. Place-names from this heritage include Coushatta, Natchitoches, and Ouachita.

Louisiana English is predominantly Southern. Notable features of the state's speech patterns are pen and pin as sound-alikes and, in New Orleans, the so-called Brooklyn pronunciation of bird as /boyd/. A pecan sugar candy is well known as praline.

In 2000, 3,771,003 Louisiana residents90.8% of the population five years old and older (up from 89.9% in 1990)spoke only English at home.

Unique to Louisiana is a large enclave, west of New Orleans, where a variety of French called Acadian (Cajun) is the first language. From it, and from early colonial French, English has taken such words as pirogue (dugout canoe), armoire (wardrobe), boudin (blood sausage), and lagniappe (extra gift).

The following table gives selected statistics from the 2000 Census for language spoken at home by persons five years old and over. The category "African languages" includes Amharic, Ibo, Twi, Yoruba, Bantu, Swahili, and Somali.

Population 5 years and over 4,153,367 100.0
  Speak only English 3,771,003 90.8
  Speak a language other than English 382,364 9.2
Speak a language other than English 382,364 9.2
  French (incl, Patois, Cajun) 194,314 4.7
  Spanish or Spanish Creole 105,189 2.5
  Vietnamese 23,326 0.6
  German 8,047 0.2
  Chinese 5,731 0.1
  Arabic 5,489 0.1
  French Creole 4,470 0.1
  Italian 3,730 0.1
  Tagalog 3,335 0.1
  Korean 2,402 0.1
  African languages 2,278 0.1


Spanish missionaries brought Roman Catholicism to Louisiana in the early 16th century, and many of them were killed in their attempts to convert the Indians. During the early days, the most active religious orders were the Jesuits, Capuchins, and Ursuline nuns. Until the Louisiana Purchase, the public practice of any but the Catholic religion was prohibited, and Jews were entirely banned.

Joseph Willis, a mulatto preacher who conducted prayer meetings at what is now Lafayette in 1804, organized the first Baptist church west of the Mississippi, at Bayou Chicot in 1812. In the Opelousas region, in 1806, the first Methodist church in the state was organized. The first Episcopal church was established in New Orleans in 1805, a Methodist church in 1813, a Presbyterian church in 1817, a synagogue in 1828, and a Baptist church in 1834. After the Civil War, blacks withdrew from white-dominated churches to form their own religious groups, mainly Baptist and Methodist.

The Roman Catholic Church is the largest Christian denomination, with 1,312,237 church members statewide in 2004; the archdiocese of New Orleans had 488,004 members that year. One of the leading Protestant denominations is the Southern Baptist Convention, with 768,587 members in 2000 and 13,391 newly baptized members reported in 2002. The United Methodist Church had about 127,059 members statewide in 2004. Other Protestant denominations (with 2000 membership data) include Assemblies of God, 49,041, and the Episcopal Church, 33,653. There were about 16,500 Jews residing in Louisiana in 2000, a majority of them in New Orleans. The Muslim community had about 13,050 members. Voodoo, in some cases blended with Christian ritual, is more widespread in Louisiana than anywhere else in the United States, although the present number of practitioners is impossible to ascertain. Over 1.8 million people (about 41.2% of the population) did not claim any religious affiliation in the 2000 survey.


New Orleans is a major center of domestic and international freight traffic. In volume of domestic and foreign cargo handled, however, the Port of South Louisiana, which stretches 54 miles along the Mississippi River, is the largest tonnage port in the Western Hemisphere and third in the world. Although Louisiana's roads remained poor until the 1930s, the state was one of the nation's major rail centers by the end of the 19th century, and New Orleans was one of the first cities to develop a mass transit system.

Several short-run railroads were built in Louisiana during the 1830s. The first of these, and the first rail line west of the Alleghenies, was the Pontchartrain Railroad, which opened, using horse-drawn vehicles, on 23 April 1831. New Orleans was connected with New York before the Civil War, with Chicago by 1873, and with California in 1883 via a line that subsequently became part of the Southern Pacific. Railroads soon rivaled the Mississippi River in the movement of goods to and from New Orleans. There were six Class I line-haul railroads in Louisiana in 2003. Total railroad mileage was 3,426 route mi (5,515 km), of which 2,788 miles (4,488 km) was Class I right-of-way. Chemicals that same year, were the top commodity originating in the state that were transported by rail. As of 2006, Amtrak provided connecting passenger service to Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York, carrying passengers from seven stations through the state. The New Orleans and Carrollton Railroads, a horse-drawn trolley system, began service in 1835. Fifty-nine years later, electric trolleys came into use.

Louisiana's first road-building boom began after Huey Long entered the statehouse. When Long took office in 1928, the state had no more than 300 mi (480 km) of paved roads. By 1931 there were 1,583 mi (2,548 km). At the end of 2004, Louisiana had a total of 60,941 mi (98,115 km) of public roads, most of them rural. Also that year, there were 1.926 million automobiles and 1.747 million trucks registered in the state, with 3,169,627 drivers' licenses in force.

Early in the nation's history, the Mississippi River emerged as the principal route for north-south traffic, and New Orleans soon became the South's main port. The advent of the steamboat in 1812 solved the problem of upstream navigation, which previously had required three or four months for a distance that could be covered downstream in 15 days. (Barges moved by towboats eventually supplanted steamboats as cargo carriers.) An important breakthrough in international transportation was the deepening of the channel at the mouth of the Mississippi by means of jetties, the first of which were completed in 1879. The port of New Orleans is served by more than 100 steamship lines, 20 common carrier lines, and about 100 contract carrier barge lines. The Louisiana Offshore Oil Port (LOOP), the first deepwater oil port in the United States, was opened in 1981. Located south of New Orleans in the Gulf of Mexico, the supertanker facility has a designed capacity of 1,400,000 barrels of oil a day. Large ports include Baton Rouge, with a tonnage of 57.082 million tons in 2004 (tenth-busiest port in the United States); New Orleans, with 78.085 million tons (seventh-busiest in the United States); and the Port of Plaquemines, with 54.404 million tons (13th busiest). The Port of South Louisiana in that same year handled 224.187 million tons was the busiest port in the United States. Louisiana in 2004 had 2,823 mile (4,545 km) of navigable inland waterways. In 2003, waterborne shipments totaled 469.461 million tons.

In 2005, Louisiana had a total of 495 public and private-use aviation-related facilities. This included 242 airports, 237 heliports, and 16 seaplane bases. The state's busiest airport was the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport. In 2004, the airport had 4,839,400 enplanements, making it the 40th-busiest airport in the United States.


The region now known as Louisiana is largely the creation of the Mississippi River; the process of land building still goes on in the Atchafalaya Basin and below New Orleans on the Mississippi Delta. Louisiana was never densely inhabited in prehistoric times, and at no time, probably, did as many as 15,000 Indians live inside the present boundaries of the state. The main relic of prehistoric inhabitants is the great earthwork at Poverty Point, near Marksville, but other Indian mounds are to be found in alluvial and coastal regions.

When white exploration and settlement of North America began, various tribes of Caddo Indians inhabited northwestern Louisiana, and small Tunican-speaking groups lived in the northeast. In the southwest were a number of rather primitive people of the Atakapa group; in south-central Louisiana, the Chitimacha ranged through the marshes and lowlands. Various small Muskogean tribes, related to the Choctaw, lived east of the Mississippi in the "Florida parishes," so called because they were once part of Spanish West Florida. The Natchez Indians, whose main villages were in present-day Mississippi near the city that still bears their name, fought with the French settlers in Louisiana's early history but were exterminated in the process.

Several Spanish explorers sailed along the coast of Louisiana, but Hernando de Soto was probably the first to penetrate the state's present boundaries, in 1541. Almost a century and a half passed before Robert Cavelier, Sieur de la Salle, departing from Canada, reached the mouth of the Mississippi on 9 April 1682, named the land there Louisiana in honor of King Louis XIV, and claimed it for France. La Salle's later attempt at a permanent settlement failed, but in 1699 an expedition headed by Pierre le Moyne, Sieur d'Iberville, made a settlement on Biloxi Bay. In 1714, Louis Juchereau de St. Denis established Natchitoches, the first permanent European settlement in Louisiana; Iberville's brother, the Sieur de Bienville, established New Orleans four years later.

Louisiana did not thrive economically under French rule, either as a royal colony or, from 1712 to 1731, under the proprietorship first of Antoine Crozat and then of John Law's Company of the Indies. On the other hand, French culture was firmly implanted there, and non-French settlers, especially Germans from Switzerland and the Rhineland, were quickly Gallicized. In 1762, on the verge of losing the rest of its North American empire to Great Britain in the French and Indian War, France ceded Louisiana to Spain. Governed by Spaniards, the colony was much more prosperous, although it was a burden on the Spanish treasury. New settlersAmericans, Spaniards, Canary Islanders, and, above all, Acadian refugees from Nova Scotiaadded to the population. By 1800 there were about 50,000 inhabitants, a considerable number of them black slaves imported from Africa and the West Indies. The availability of slave labor, Eli Whitney's invention of the cotton gin, and Étienne de Boré's development of a granulation process for making cane sugar set the stage for future prosperity, though not under Spanish auspices. In 1800, by the secret Treaty of San Ildefonso, Napoleon forced the feeble Spanish government to return Louisiana to France. Three years later, having failed to reestablish French rule and slavery in Haiti, Napoleon sold Louisiana to the United States to keep it from falling into the hands of Great Britain.

President Thomas Jefferson concluded what was probably the best real estate deal in history, purchasing 800,000 sq mi (2,100,000 sq km) for $15,000,000 and thus more than doubling the size of the United States at a cost of about 3 cents per acre. He made William C. C. Claiborne the governor of the huge new acquisition. The next year, that part of the purchase south of 33°N was separated from the remainder and designated the Territory of Orleans. The people of the territory then began the process of learning self-government, something with which they had had no experience under France and Spain. After the census of 1810 showed that the population had risen to 76,556, the people were authorized by Congress to draw up a state constitution. The constitutional convention met under the presidency of Julian Poydras in a coffeehouse in New Orleans and adopted, with a few changes, the constitution then in effect in Kentucky. In the meantime, in 1810, a revolt against Spain had taken place in West Florida. When the proposed Louisiana constitution reached Washington, Congress added that part of West Florida between the Mississippi and Pearl rivers to the new state, which entered the Union on 30 April 1812.

The key event in the Americanization of Louisiana was the campaign for New Orleans in December 1814 and January 1815, actually fought after the War of 1812 had ended. A force of British veterans under General Sir Edward Pakenham sailed into Lake Borgne and established itself below New Orleans at Chalmette. There they were met by detachments of Creoles, Acadians, blacks, and even Jean Lafitte's pirates, all from Louisiana, as well as Tennesseans, Kentuckians, and Choctaw Indians, with the whole army under the command of Andrew Jackson. After several preliminary battles, the British were bloodily defeated when they launched an all-out assault on Jackson's line.

From 1815 to 1861, Louisiana was one of the most prosperous states in the South, producing sugar and cotton on its rich alluvial lands and grazing hogs and cattle in the wooded hills of the north and on the prairies of the southwest. Yeoman farmers and New Orleans workers far outnumbered the wealthy planters but the planters, whose slaves made up almost half the population, dominated Louisiana politically and economically. When the secession crisis came in 1861, the planters led Louisiana into the Confederacy and, after four bloody years, to total defeat. The state suffered crippling economic losses during the Civil War, but the greatest loss was the lives of tens of thousands of young white men who died in defense of the South, and of thousands of blacks who died seeking and fighting for freedom. Louisiana did not fully recover from this disaster until the mid-20th century.

After the Civil War, radical Republican governments elected by black voters ruled the state, but declining support from the North and fierce resistance from Louisiana whites brought the Reconstruction period to an end. Black people and their few white allies lost control of state government, and most of the former slaves became laborers on sugar plantations or sharecroppers in the cotton fields. There, as the years passed, they were joined by more and more landless whites. In 1898, blacks were disfranchised almost entirely by a new state constitution drawn up primarily for that purpose. This constitution also significantly reduced the number of poorer whites who voted in Louisiana elections.

The vast majority of Louisiana whiteswhether hill farmers, Cajuns along the southern rivers and bayous, lumbermen in the yellow pine forests, or workers in New Orleanswere little better off than the black or white sharecroppers. Many economic changes had taken place: rice had become a staple crop on the southwestern prairies, and an oil boom had begun after the turn of the century. But just as before the Civil War, large landownerscombined with New Orleans bankers, businessmen, and politiciansdominated state government, effectively blocking political and social reform. The Populist movement, which succeeded in effecting some change in other southern states, was crushed in Louisiana.

Not until 1928, with the election of Huey P. Long as governor, did the winds of change strike Louisiana; having been so long delayed, they blew with gale force. The years from 1928 through 1960 could well be called the Long Era: three LongsHuey, who was assassinated in 1935; his brother Earl, who served as governor three times; and Huey's son Russell, who became a powerful US senatordominated state politics for most of the period. From a backward agricultural state, Louisiana evolved into one of the world's major petrochemical-manufacturing centers. Offshore drilling sent clusters of oil wells 60 mi (97 km) out into the Gulf. The pine lands were reforested, and soybeans provided a new source of income. What had been one of the most parsimonious states became one of the most liberal in welfare spending, care for the aged, highway building, and education. The state could afford these expanding programs because of ever-increasing revenues from oil and gas.

In the mid-1980s, a drop in world oil prices rocked Louisiana's economy, hurting the oil exploration and service industries and raising the state's unemployment rate in 1986 to 13%, the highest in the nation. For most of the 1990s, in spite of an increase in service-sector and high-tech jobs, Louisiana had more people living in poverty than any other state. Louisiana had for decades been among the nation's poorest; the percentage of residents living in poverty in 1998 was 19.1%, making it the second-poorest state in the nation. In 1999 it was reported that Louisiana also ranked second-lowest in the nation for its care of children; the report took into account such factors as infant mortality rates, teen pregnancy rates, and children who lived in poverty or lacked health care. Other problems confronting the state at the turn of the century included racial tensions, disposing of toxic wastes from the petrochemical industry, depletion of oil and gas resources, and the ongoing struggle to institute good government.

The announcement in February 1985 by Russell B. Long, senator since 1948, that he would not seek reelection, and the indictment of former Governor Edwin W. Edwards by a federal grand jury on conspiracy charges during the same month, caused turmoil in Louisiana's political arena. Edwards was defeated in 1987 by Buddy Roemer, a young, well-educated Republican who promised to clean up government. In 1989, racial tensions surfaced when white supremacist David Duke, running as a Republican, narrowly won a seat in the Louisiana state legislature. Duke later ran unsuccessfully for the US Senate and for governor, but his runs for office had raised concerns about the level of frustration of many white voters. In 1995 gubernatorial candidate Murphy "Mike" Foster, Republican, promised more Roemer-like reforms. As he faced reelection four years later, some analysts said the Bayou State had made progress in building a trustworthy and responsive government. Nevertheless, Foster was criticized for favoring the oil industry and being soft on big gambling. He still managed to win another term, claiming 64% of the vote, becoming the first Republican governor in Louisiana history to be reelected. He offered the New Orleans Saints professional football team $186.5 million in subsidies in 2002 to keep the team from moving out of the state. Foster maintained the football team had a salutary effect on Louisiana's economy.

On 29 August 2005, Hurricane Katrina landed on the state, in what was one of the worst natural disasters in US history. New Orleans had been evacuated, but some 150,000 people were unable to leave before the storm hit. A day after the storm appeared to have bypassed the city's center, levees were breached by the storm surge and water submerged the metropolis. Those unable to leave the city were sheltered in the Louisiana Superdome and New Orleans Convention Center; air conditioning, electricity, and running water failed, making for unsanitary and uncomfortable conditions. They were later transferred to other shelters, including the Houston Astrodome. The costs of the hurricane and flooding were exceedingly high in terms of both loss of life and economic damage: more than 1,000 people died and damages were estimated to reach $150 billion. Katrina had global economic consequences, as imports, exports, and oil suppliesincluding production, importation, and refiningwere disrupted. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) of the Department of Homeland Security, and President George W. Bush were criticized in varying degrees for their lack of adequate response to the disaster. Race and class issues also came to the fore, as the majority of New Orleans residents unable to evacuate the city and affected by the catastrophe were poor and black.


Louisiana has had 11 constitutions (more than any other state), the latest, as of 2006, was enacted in 1974. By January 2005 it had been amended 129 times. The state legislature consists of a 39member Senate and a 105-member House of Representatives. The legislature meets annually, beginning the last Monday in March in even-numbered years and on the last Monday in April in odd-numbered years. The even-numbered year session is limited to 60 legislative days in 85 calendar days; the odd-numbered year session is limited to 45 legislative days in 60 calendar days. Special sessions may be called by a majority petition of each house, with length limited to 30 calendar days. All legislators are elected for concurrent four-year terms; they must be at least 18 years old, qualified voters, and have resided in the state for two years and in their districts for at least one year preceding election. The legislative salary in 2004 was $16,800.

Statewide elected executive officials include the governor and lieutenant governor (separately elected), secretary of state, attorney general, treasurer, commissioner of agriculture, commissioner of insurance, and commissioner of elections. All are elected for four-year terms. The governor must be a qualified elector, be at least 25 years old, and a US and Louisiana citizen for five years preceding election; after two full consecutive terms, a governor may not run for reelection. The same eligibility requirements apply to the lieutenant governor, except that there is no limit on succession to the latter office. As of December 2004, the governor's salary was $94,532. Other executive agencies are the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, whose eight elected members and three appointed members serve four-year terms, and the Public Service Commission, whose five members serve for six years.

To become law, a bill must receive majority votes in both the Senate and the House and be signed by the governor, be left unsigned (for 10 days when the legislature is in session or for 20 days following the legislature's adjournment) but not vetoed by the governor, or be passed again by two-thirds votes of elected members of both houses over the governor's veto. Appropriation bills must originate in the House but may be amended by the Senate. The governor has an item veto on appropriation bills. Constitutional amendments require approval by two-thirds of the elected members of each house and ratification by a majority of the people voting on it at the next general election.

Voters in Louisiana must be US citizens, 18 years old, and state residents. Restrictions apply to convicted felons and those declared mentally incompetent by the court.


The major political organizations are the Democratic Party and the Republican Party, each affiliated with the national party. However, differences in culture and economic interests have made Louisiana's politics extremely complex. Immediately following statehood, the primary political alignment was according to ethnic background, Anglo or Latin. By the 1830s, however, Louisiana politics reflected the national division of Jacksonian Democrats and National Republicans, who were by mid-decade replaced by the Whigs. By and large, the Whigs were favored by the Anglo-Americans while the Democrats were favored by those of French and Spanish descent. When the Whig Party fell apart over slavery, many former Whigs supported the Native American (Know-Nothing) Party.

Louisiana was one of the three southern states whose disputed electoral votes put Republican Rutherford B. Hayes in the White House in 1877, in return for his agreement to withdraw federal troops from the South, thus putting an end to Reconstruction. The ensuing period of Bourbon Democratic dominance in Louisiana, a time of reaction and racism in politics (though a few blacks continued to hold office), lasted until the early 1890s, when worsening economic conditions inspired Populists and Republicans to challenge Democratic rule. The attempt failed largely because Democratic landowners were able to control the ballots of their black sharecroppers and "vote" them Democrats. The recognition that it was the black vote, however well-controlled, that held the balance in Louisiana politics impelled the Democrats to seek its elimination as an electoral factor. The constitution of 1898 imposed a poll tax, a property requirement, a literacy test, and other measures that succeeded in reducing the number of registered black voters from 130,000 at the beginning of 1897 to 5,320 in March 1900 and 1,342 by 1904. White registration also declined, from 164,000 in 1897 to 92,000 in 1904, because the new constitutional requirements tended to disfranchise poor whites as well as blacks.

Between 1900 and 1920, the New Orleans Ring, or Choctaw Club, was the dominant power in state politics. Growing political discontent led 5,261 Louisianians (6.6% of those voting) to cast their ballots for the Socialist presidential candidate in 1912. A few Socialists won local office that year in Winn Parish, a center of Populist activity in the 1890s and the birthplace of Huey Long in 1893.

During his relatively brief career as a member of the Railroad Commission, governor, and US senator, Long committed government resources to public service to an extent without precedent in the state. He also succeeded in substituting for the traditional Democratic Party organization a state machine geared primarily toward loyalty to himself and, after his assassination in 1935, to the Long family name, which kept its hold on the voters despite a series of scandals that publicized the corruption of his associates. When blacks began voting in increasing numbers during the 1940s, they tended to favor Democratic candidates from the Long camp. The Longs repaid their loyalty: when race became a bitterly divisive issue in the late 1940s and 1950sLouisiana gave its presidential vote to the States' Rights "Dixiecrat" candidate in 1948the Longs supported the national Democratic ticket.

Louisiana Presidential Vote by Political Parties, 19482004
*Won US presidential election.
1948 10 Truman (SRD) 136,344 72,657 204,290 3,035
1952 10 Stevenson (D) 345,027 306,925
1956 10 *Eisenhower (R) 243,977 329,047 44,520
1960 10 *Kennedy (D) 407,339 230,980 169,572
1964 10 Goldwater (R) 387,068 509,225
1968 10 Wallace (Al) 309,615 257,535 530,300
1976 10 *Carter (D) 661,365 587,446 3,325 7,417 10,058
1980 10 *Reagan (R) 708,453 792,856 8,240 1,584 10,333
1984 10 *Reagan (R) 651,586 1,037,299 1,876 9,502
1988 10 *Bush (R) 717,460 883,702 4,115 18,612 2,355
1992 9 *Clinton (D) 815,971 733,386 3,155 211,478 18,545
1996 9 *Clinton (D) 927,837 712,586 7,499 123,293
2000 9 *Bush, G. W. (R) 792,344 927,871 2,951 20,473 14,356
2004 9 *Bush, G. W. (R) 820,299 1,102,169 2,781 7,032 5,203

The 1960s and 1970s saw a resurgence of the Republican Party and the election in 1979 of David C. Treen, the state's first Republican governor since Reconstruction. Treen was succeeded by Democrat Edwin Edwards in 1983, Democrat Charles Roemer in 1987, and Edwin Edwards again in 1991. In 1995, Louisiana elected another Republican governorMurphy J. "Mike" Foster, who was reelected in 1999. Foster was unable to run for reelection in November 2003, due to term limits. In 2003, Democrat Kathleen Babineaux Blanco won the governor's election, and became Louisiana's first female governor. In 2004 there were 2,806,000 registered voters. In 1998, 62% of registered voters were Democratic, 21% Republican, and 16% unaffiliated or members of other parties.

In 2005, US senators from Louisiana were Republican David Vitter (elected in 2004) and Democrat Mary L. Landrieu (elected 1996 to replaced retiring Senator J. Bennett Johnston Jr. and reelected in 2002). Landrieu is the daughter of former New Orleans mayor Moon Landrieu. Following the 2004 elections Louisiana's delegation of US representatives consisted of two Democrats and five Republicans. In mid-2005, 24 of the state senators were Democrats and 15 were Republicans; 67 of the state representatives were Democrats and 37 were Republicans.

In 2000 and 2004, Louisianians gave Republican George W. Bush 53% and 56% of the vote, respectively in the presidential elections, while Democrat Al Gore received 45% (2000) and Dem-ocrat John Kerry received 42% (2004). The state had nine electoral votes in the 2004 presidential election.


The ecclesiastical districts, called parishes, into which Louisiana was divided in the late 17th century remain the primary political divisions in the state, serving functions similar to those of counties in other states.

In 2005, there were 64 parishes, most of them governed by police jury (governing board). Juries range from 3 to 15 elected members. Other parish officials are the sheriff, clerk of court, assessor, and coroner. Each parish elects a school board whose members generally serve six-year terms; all other officers serve four-year terms. In 2005, there were 78 public school districts in the state.

As of 2005, Louisiana also had 302 municipal governments. Municipalities are classed by the state (based on population) as village, town, or city. Municipal officials include the mayor, chief of police, and council or board of aldermen. In 2005, Louisiana had 45 special districts established by the legislature.

In 2005, local government accounted for about 192,400 full-time (or equivalent) employment positions.


To address the continuing threat of terrorism and to work with the federal Department of Homeland Security, homeland security in Louisiana operates under the authority of state statute and executive order; the adjutant general is designated as the state homeland security advisor.

Louisiana's ethics laws are administered by the Board of Ethics under the Department of Civil Service. Departments focus on labor, natural resources, revenue, environmental quality, social services, state civil service, wildlife and fisheries, and youth services.

Educational services are provided through the Department of Education, which has jurisdiction over elementary, secondary, higher, and vocational-technical instruction, as well as the state schools for the visually impaired, hearing-impaired, and other handicapped children. Highways, waterways, airports, and mass transit are the province of the Department of Transportation and Development. Environmental affairs, conservation, forestry, and mineral resources are the responsibility of the Department of Natural Resources. The Motor Vehicle Office, Fire Protection Office, Emergency Preparedness Office, and Alcoholic Beverage Control Office are all within the Department of Public Safety.

Health services are administered mainly through the Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH), including Medicare, Medicaid, mental health services, services for citizens with developmental disabilities, and public health services. Such programs as supplemental food stamps, child welfare services, and services for the disabled, blind, and deaf, are administered by the Department of Social Services.


Louisiana's legal system is the only one in the United States to be based on civil or Roman law, specifically the Code Napoléon of France. Under Louisiana state law, cases may be decided by judicial interpretation of the statutes, without reference to prior court cases, whereas in other states and in the federal courts the common law prevails, and decisions are generally based on previous judicial interpretations and findings. In actual practice, Louisiana laws no longer differ radically from US common law, and most Louisiana lawyers and judges now cite previous cases in their arguments and rulings.

The highest court in Louisiana is the Supreme Court, with appellate jurisdiction. It consists of a chief justice who is chosen by seniority of service, and seven associate justices, all of them elected from six supreme court districts (the first district has two judges) for staggered 10-year terms. There are five appellate circuits in the state, each divided into three districts; the five circuits are served by 54 judges, all of them elected for overlapping 10-year terms. Each of the state's district courts serves at least one parish and has at least one district judge, elected for a six-year term; there are 222 district judges. District courts have original jurisdiction in criminal and civil cases. City courts are the principal courts of limited jurisdiction.

Louisiana may have been the first state to institute a system of leasing convict labor. Large numbers of convicts were leased, especially after the Civil War, until the practice was discontinued in the early 1900s. The abuses entailed in this system may be suggested by the fact that, of 700 convicts leased in 1882, 149 died in service.

As of 31 December 2004, a total of 36,939 prisoners were held in Louisiana's state and federal prisons, an increase from 36,047 of 2.5% from the previous year. As of year-end 2004, a total of 2,386 inmates were female, down from 2,405 or 0.8% from the year before. Among sentenced prisoners (one year or more), Louisiana had an incarceration rate of 816 people per 100,000 population in 2004, the highest in the United States.

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Louisiana in 2004, had a violent crime rate (murder/nonnegligent manslaughter; forcible rape; robbery; aggravated assault) of 638.7 reported incidents per 100,000 population, or a total of 28,844 reported incidents. Crimes against property (burglary; larceny/theft; and motor vehicle theft) in that same year totaled 199,153 reported incidents or 4,410.2 reported incidents per 100,000 people. Louisiana has a death penalty, of which lethal injection is the sole method of execution. From 1976 through 5 May 2006, the state has executed 27 persons, although there were no executions in 2005, or in 2006 (as of 5 May). As of 1 January 2006, Louisiana had 85 inmates on death row.

Judges may also impose sentences of hard labor.

In 2003, Louisiana spent $530,079,419 on homeland security, an average of $117 per state resident.


In 2004, the US Department of Defense had 33,000 personnel in Louisiana including 22,254 active-duty military and 3,315 civilians. There was one major army installation in the state, Ft. Polk at Leesville; an Air Force base at Barksdale near Bossier City; and a naval air station and support station in the vicinity of New Orleans. During fiscal year 2004, Louisiana firms received defense contracts totaling $2.5 billion. In addition, $1.8 billion in defense payroll, including retired military pay, was paid in the state.

There were 366,957 veterans of US military service in Louisiana as of 2003, of whom 48,602 served in World War II; 37,321 in the Korean conflict; 109,441 during the Vietnam era; and 66,646 dur-ing the Persian Gulf War. Expenditures on veterans during fiscal year 2004 amounted to $1.1 billion.

As of 31 October 2004, the Louisiana State Police employed 1,199 full-time sworn officers.


Louisiana was settled by an unusually diverse assortment of immigrants. The Company of the Indies, which administered Louisiana from 1717 until 1731, at first began importing French convicts, vagrants, and prostitutes because of the difficulty of finding willing colonists. Next the company turned to struggling farmers in Germany and Switzerland, who proved to be more suitable and productive settlers. The importation of slaves from Africa and the West Indies began early in the 18th century.

Attracted by generous land grants, perhaps 10,000 Acadians, or Cajunspeople of French descent who had been exiled from Nova Scotia (Acadia) during the 1740smigrated to Louisiana after the French and Indian War. They settled in the area of Lafayette and Breaux Bridge and along Bayou Lafourche and the Mississippi River. Probably the second-largest group to migrate in the late 18th century came from the British colonies and, after the Revolution, from the United States. Between 1800 and 1870, Americans settled the area north of the Red River. Small groups of Canary Islanders and Spaniards from Malaga also settled in the south, and in 179l, a number of French people fled to Louisiana during the slave insurrection on Hispaniola.

During the 1840s and 1850s, masses of Irish and German immigrants came to New Orleans. In the late 1880s, a large number of Midwestern farmers migrated to the prairies of southwestern Louisiana to become rice farmers. Louisiana did not immediately begin losing much of its black population after the Civil War. In fact, the number of blacks who migrated to Louisiana from the poorer southeastern states during the postwar years may have equaled the number of blacks who migrated before the war or were brought into the state as slaves. In 1879, however, "Kansas fever" struck blacks from the cotton country of Louisiana and Mississippi, and many of them migrated to the Wheat State; however, many later returned to their home states.

Beginning in World War II, large numbers of both black and white farm workers left Louisiana and migrated north and west. During the 1960s, the state had a net out-migration of 15% of its black population, but the trend had slowed somewhat by 1975.

Recent migration within the state has been from north to south, and from rural to urban areas, especially to Shreveport, Baton Rouge, and the suburbs of New Orleans. From 1980 to 1990, however, the state's urban population fell from 68.6% to 68.1% Overall, Louisiana suffered a net loss from migration of about 368,000 from 1940 to 1990. Between 1990 and 1998, the state had a net loss of 117,000 in domestic migration and a net gain of 25,000 in international migration. In 1998, 2,193 foreign immigrants arrived in Louisiana. Between 1990 and 1998, the state's overall population increased 3.5%. In the period 200005, net international migration was 20,174 and net internal migration was 89,547, for a net loss of 69,373 people.


Among the interstate and regional efforts in which Louisiana participates are the Central Interstate Low-Level Radioactive Waste Compact, Interstate Oil and Gas Compact, Interstate Compact for Juveniles, Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission, Red River Compact, Sabine River Compact, Tangipahoa River Water way Compact, South Central Interstate Forest Fire Protection Compact, Southern Growth Policies Board, Southern Dairy Compact, Southern Rapid Rail Transit Compact, Southern States Energy Board, and Southern Regional Education Board. Federal grants to Louisiana during fiscal year 2005 amounted to $6.6 billion; that figure rose to an estimated $6.897 billion in fiscal year 2006 and an estimated $6.949 billion in fiscal year 2007.


Before the Civil War, when Louisiana was one of the most prosperous of southern states, its economy depended primarily on two then-profitable cropscotton and sugarand on its position as the anchor of the nation's principal north-south trade route. But the upheaval and destruction wrought by the war, combined with severe flood damage to cotton crops, falling cotton prices, and the removal of the federal bounty on sugar, left the economy stagnant through the end of the 19th century, although New Orleans retained its commercial importance as an exporter of cotton and grain.

With the addition of two major crops, rice and soybeans, the rebirth of the timber industry as a result of reforestation, the demand for pine for paper pulp, and most dramatically, the rise of the petrochemical industry, Louisiana's economy has regained much of its former vitality. Today, Louisiana ranks second only to Texas in the value of its mineral products.

Louisiana is primarily an industrial state, but its industries are to a large degree based on its natural resources, principally oil, natural gas, water, and timber. This reliance on a natural resource-based industrial sector has come at a price. These industries, and the state's economy, are subject to sharp commodity price swings, leading to a boom and bust cycle, particularly in the oil and natural gas sectors, as well as in those industries that are heavily reliant upon the price of oil and natural gas. A booming oil industry in the 1970s fueled an expansion in Louisiana's economy, but that expansion ended in the early 1980s, when the price of oil dropped from $37 a barrel in 1981 to $15 a barrel in 1986. Employment in oil and gas extraction consequently dropped from 100,000 to 55,000. In addition, energy-related industries such as barge building, machinery manufacturing, and rig/platform production also suffered. At the same time that oil prices dropped, natural gas prices rose, forcing a contraction in the chemical industry which uses large quantities of natural gas. Chemicals were also hurt by a leap in the exchange value of the dollar in the mid-1980s, as Louisiana exports a large part of its chemical production. A subsequent drop in the dollar's exchange value in the late 1980s and early 1990s enabled the chemical industry not only to rebound, but to expand. A higher dollar in the late 1990s once again reversed the chemical industry's growth. In an attempt to offset losses in employment, Louisiana built several riverboat casinos and a land-based casino in 1995 which added about 7,000 jobs. The oil and gas extraction sector, however, continued to grow in both absolute and relative terms. While Louisiana has also seen growth in the state's various service sectors, output from manufacturing as a percent of gross state product has decreased from 16.8% in 1997 to 7.5% in 2004. During the national recession in 2001, employment gains contin-ued in health services, lodging establishments, state services, and in the transportation and public utilities sector. In August 2005, the state, along with the city and port of New Orleans, and the oil and natural gas industries were severely affected by Hurricane Katrina, and it was expected to take years for the state to recover from the damage inflicted.

Louisiana's gross state product (GSP) in 2004 totaled $152.944 billion, of which mining (about 99% is oil and gas production) contributed $19.669 billion or 12.8% of GSP, followed by real estate at $15.354 billion (10% of GSP), and manufacturing (durable and nondurable goods) at $11.522 billion (7.5% of GSP). In that same year, there were an estimated 347,436 small businesses in Louisiana. Of the 96,084 businesses that had employees, a total of 93,742 or 97.6% were small companies. An estimated 9,875 new businesses were established in the state in 2004, up 6.2% from the year before. Business terminations that same year came to 9,668, down 20.6% from 2003. There were 622 business bankruptcies in 2004, up 24.6% from the previous year. In 2005, the state's personal bankruptcy (Chapter 7 and Chapter 13) filing rate was 649 filings per 100,000 people, ranking Louisiana as the 17th-highest in the nation.


In 2005 Louisiana had a gross state product (GSP) of $166 billion which accounted for 1.3% of the nation's gross domestic product and placed the state at number 24 in highest GSP among the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, in 2004 Louisiana had a per capita personal income (PCPI) of $27,297. This ranked 43rd in the United States and was 83% of the national average of $33,050. The 19942004 average annual growth rate of PCPI was 4.0%. Louisiana had a total personal income (TPI) of $123.0 billion, which ranked 25th in the United States and reflected an increase of 5.9% from 2003. The 19942004 average annual growth rate of TPI was 4.4%. Earnings of persons employed in Louisiana increased from $86.9 billion in 2003 to $91.3 billion in 2004, an increase of 5.1%. The 200304 national change was 6.3%.

The US Census Bureau reports that the three-year average median household income for 2002 to 2004 in 2004 dollars was $35,523 compared to a national average of $44,473. During the same period an estimated 17.0% of the population was below the poverty line as compared to 12.4% nationwide.


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in April 2006 the seasonally adjusted civilian labor force in Louisiana was 1,872,700, with approximately 90,100 workers unemployed, yielding an unemployment rate of 4.8%, compared to the national average of 4.7% for the same period. Preliminary data for the same period placed nonfarm employment at 1,759,500. Since the beginning of the BLS data series in 1976, the highest unemployment rate recorded in Louisiana was 12.9% in September 1986. The historical low was 4.3% in February 2006. Preliminary nonfarm employment data by occupation for April 2006 showed that approximately 6% of the labor force was employed in construction; 8.1% in manufacturing; 20.5% in trade, transportation, and public utilities; 5.3% in financial activities; 9.6% in professional and business services; 11.9% in education and health services; 9.6% in leisure and hospitality services; and 21% in government.

During the antebellum period, Louisiana had both the largest slave market in the United StatesNew Orleansand the largest slave revolt in the nation's history, in St. Charles and St. John the Baptist parishes in January 1811. New Orleans also had a relatively large free black population, and many of the slaves in the city were skilled workers, some of whom were able to earn their freedom by outside employment. Major efforts to organize Louisiana workers began after the Civil War. There were strikes in the cane fields in the early 1880s, and in the mid-1880s, the Knights of Labor began to organize the cane workers. The strike they called in 1886 was ended by hired strikebreakers, who killed at least 30 blacks. Back in New Orleans, the Knights of Labor led a general strike in 1892. The Brotherhood of Timber Workers began organizing in 1910 but had little to show for their efforts except the scars of violent conflict with the lumber-mill owners.

A right-to-work law was passed in 1976, partly as a result of violent conflict between an AFL-CIO building trades union and an independent union over whose workers would build a petrochemical plant near Lake Charles. In 1979, a police strike began in New Orleans on the eve of Mardi Gras, causing the cancellation of most of the parades, but it collapsed the following month.

The BLS reported that in 2005, a total of 114,000 of Louisiana's 1,778,000 employed wage and salary workers were formal members of a union. This represented 6.4% of those so employed, down from 7.6% in 2004, and below the national average of 12%. Overall in 2005, a total of 132,000 workers (7.4%) in Louisiana were covered by a union or employee association contract, which includes those workers who reported no union affiliation. Louisiana is one of 22 states with a right-to-work law.

As of 1 March 2006, Louisiana did not have a state-mandated minimum wage law. Employees in that state however, were covered under federal minimum wage statutes. In 2004, women in the state accounted for 47.8% of the employed civilian labor force.


With a farm income of $2.1 billion in 200557% from cropsLouisiana ranked 34th among the 50 states. Nearly every crop grown in North America can be raised somewhere in Louisiana. In the south are strawberries, oranges, sweet potatoes, and truck crops; in the southeast, sugarcane; and in the southwest, rice and soybeans. Soybeanswhich were introduced into Louisiana after World War Iare also raised in the cotton-growing area of the northeast and in a diagonal belt running east-northwest along the Red River. Oats, alfalfa, corn, potatoes, and peaches are among the other crops grown in the north.

As of 2004, there were an estimated 27,200 farms covering 7.85 million acres (3.18 million hectares) with an average farm size of 290 acres (117 hectares). Louisiana ranked second in the United States in sugar cane production. Cash receipts for the sugar crop in 2003 amounted to $304.2 million 10,320,000 tons. Louisiana ranked third in the value of its rice production in 2004, $223.9 million for 28,522,000 hundredweight (a unit of measure equal to 100 lb); and eighth for upland cotton in 2004, $200.5 million for 885,000 bales.


In the mid-19th century, before rice production began there, southwestern Louisiana was a major cattle-raising area. Today, cattle are raised mainly in the southeast (between the Mississippi and Pearl rivers), in the north-central region, and in the west.

In 2005, there were an estimated 860,000 cattle and calves worth $670.8 million. In 2004, Louisiana had an estimated 16,000 hogs and pigs worth around $1.7 million. Dairy farmers had an estimated 43,000 milk cows, which produced 519 million lb (236 million kg) of milk in 2003. Also during 2003, poultry farmers produced an estimated 7.5 million lb (3.4 million kg) of chicken, which sold for $631,000, and an estimated 487 million eggs worth around $35.9 million.


In 2004, Louisiana was second behind only Alaska in the size and value of its commercial landings, with nearly 1.1 billion lb (500 million kg) valued at $274.4 million. Leading ports in volume were Empire-Venice (379 million lb/172 million kg, third in the nation), Intracoastal City (301.8 million lb/137.2 million kg, fifth in the nation), and Cameron (243.1 million lb/110.5 million kg, sixth in the nation). In value, Empire-Venice was sixth in the nation with $60.2 million and Dulac-Chauvin was 11th with $42.8 million.

The most important species caught in Louisiana are shrimp, hard blue crab, and oysters. In 2004, shrimp landings in Louisiana amounted to 134.3 million lb/61 million kg), the highest in the nation. Hard blue crab landings in the state accounted for 26% of the national total. In 2002, the state commercial fleet had 8,874 boats and 2,084 vessels. In 2003, there were 90 processing and 114 wholesale plants in the state.

Louisiana produces most of the US crawfish harvest. With demand far exceeding the natural supply, crawfish farming began about 1959. In 2004, 1,126 crawfish farms covered some 118,250 acres (47,856 hectares), producing 69.5 million lb (28.1 million kg). Spring water levels of the state's Atchafalaya Basin cause the wild crawfish harvest to vary from year to year. Catfish are also cultivated in Louisiana, on 38 farms covering some 7,600 acres (3,075 hectares) in 2005, with a 2006 inventory of about 18.4 million fingerlings and 12.2 million stocker-sized catfish. Cash receipts from sales of catfish were $14.3 million in 2004.

The Natchitoches National Fish Hatchery focuses on paddlefish, striped bass, and pallid sturgeon, but also raises largemouth bass, bluegill, and catfish in limited quantities.

Louisiana had 639,139 sport fishing license holders in 2004.


As of 2004, there were 14,017,000 acres (5,673,000 hectares) of forestland in Louisiana, representing over half the state's land area and 2% of all US forests. The principal forest types are loblolly and shortleaf pine in the northwest, longleaf and slash pine in the south, and hardwood in a wide area along the Mississippi River. More than 99% of Louisiana's forests are commercial timberland, over 90% of it privately owned. Lumber production totaled 1.52 billion board feet in 2004.

Louisiana has one national forest, Kisatchie, with a gross area of 1,022,373 acres (413,754 hectares) within its boundaries; gross acreage of National Forest System lands in the state was 2,049,000 acres (829,000 hectares) in 2005. Near the boundaries of Kisatchie's Evangeline Unit is the Alexander State Forest, established in 1923.


According to preliminary data from the US Geological Survey (USGS), the estimated value of nonfuel mineral production by Louisiana in 2003 was $331 million, an increase from 2002 of about 6%. The USGS data ranked Louisiana as 34th among the 50 states by the total value of its nonfuel mineral production, accounting for around 1% of total US output.

Salt was the state's leading nonfuel mineral commodity in 2003, accounting for about 41% of all nonfuel mineral production (by value) that year. It was followed by construction sand and gravel, which accounted for 32% of all nonfuel mineral output (by value), crushed stone, industrial sand and gravel (about 4% of output by value), and lime. According to preliminary data, the production of salt in 2003 totaled 12.1 million metric tons and was valued at $135 million, while the output of construction sand and gravel totaled 19.7 million metric tons, with a value of $107 million. Industrial sand and gravel output in 2003 totaled 529,000 metric tons and was valued at $11.8 million, according to the preliminary data. Louisiana in 2003 was the largest salt producing state in the United States.


As of 2003, Louisiana had 43 electrical power service providers, of which 22 were publicly owned and 13 were cooperatives. Of the remainder, five were investor owned, and three were owners of independent generators that sold directly to customers. As of that same year there were 2,131,340 retail customers. Of that total, 1,611,090 received their power from investor-owned service providers. Cooperatives accounted for 366,208 customers, while publicly owned providers had 153,740 customers. There were 302 independent generator or "facility" customers.

Total net summer generating capability by the state's electrical generating plants in 2003 stood at 25.748 million kW, with total production that same year at 94.885 billion kWh. Of the total amount generated, 45.8% came from electric utilities, with the remainder (54.2%) coming from independent producers and combined heat and power service providers. The largest portion of all electric power generated, 45.434 billion kWh (47.9%), came from natural gas fired plants, with coal-fired plants in second place at 22.888 billion kWh (24.1%) and nuclear fueled plants in third at 16.126 billion kWh (17%). Other renewable power sources accounted for 3.3%% of all power generated, with petroleum fired plants at 3.1%, plants using other types of gases at 2.8%, hydroelectric at 0.9% and "other" types of generating facilities at 0.8%.

As of 2006, Louisiana had two nuclear power plants: the River Bend plant in West Feliciana, near Baton Rouge; and the Waterford plant near Taft, in St. Charles Parish.

Oil and gas production has expanded greatly since World War II, but production reached its peak in the early 1970s and proven reserves are declining. As of 2004, Louisiana had proven crude oil reserves of 427 million barrels, or 2% of all proven US reserves, while output that same year averaged 228,000 barrels per day. Including federal offshore domains, the state that year ranked eighth (seventh excluding federal offshore) in proven reserves and fifth (fourth excluding federal offshore) in production among the 31 producing states. In 2004 Louisiana had 19,970 producing oil wells and accounted for 4% of all US production. As of 2005, the state's 17 refineries had a combined crude oil distillation capacity of 2,772,723 barrels per day.

In 2004, Louisiana had 20,734 producing natural gas and gas condensate wells. In that same year, marketed gas production (all gas produced excluding gas used for repressuring, vented and flared, and nonhydrocarbon gases removed) totaled 1,357.366 billion cu ft (38.5 billion cu m). As of 31 December 2004, proven reserves of dry or consumer-grade natural gas totaled 9,588 billion cu ft (272.2 billion cu m).

Louisiana in 2004, had two producing coal mines, both of which were surface operations. Coal production that year totaled 3,805,000 short tons, down from 4,028,000 short tons in 2003. One short ton equals 2,000 lb (0.907 metric tons).


According to the US Census Bureau's Annual Survey of Manufactures (ASM) for 2004, Louisiana's manufacturing sector covered some 19 product subsectors. The shipment value of all products manufactured in the state that same year was $124.304 billion. Of that total, petroleum and coal products manufacturing accounted for the largest share at $53.365 billion. It was followed by chemical manufacturing at $39.911 billion; transportation equipment manufacturing at $7.369 billion; food manufacturing at $6.601 billion; and paper manufacturing at $4.456 billion.

In 2004, a total of 140,985 people in Louisiana were employed in the state's manufacturing sector, according to the ASM. Of that total, 103,159 were actual production workers. In terms of total employment, the chemical manufacturing industry accounted for the largest portion of all manufacturing employees at 22,903 with 14,458 actual production workers. It was followed by fabricated metal product manufacturing at 19,992 employees (15,284 actual production workers); transportation equipment manufacturing at 19,184 employees (14,788 actual production workers); food manufacturing at 17,607 employees (12,995 actual production workers); and paper manufacturing with 8,680 employees (6,964 actual production workers).

ASM data for 2004 showed that Louisiana's manufacturing sector paid $6.704 billion in wages. Of that amount, the chemical manufacturing sector accounted for the largest share at $1.630 billion. It was followed by transportation equipment manufacturing at $940.776 million; fabricated metal product manufacturing at $793.515 million; petroleum and coal products manufacturing at $774.905 million; and food manufacturing at $517.504 million.

The Standard Oil Refinery (now owned by Exxon) that is today the largest in North America began operations in Louisiana in 1909, the same year construction started on the state's first long-distance oil pipeline. Since then, a huge and still-growing petrochemical industry has become a dominant force in the state's economy. Other expanding industries are wood products and, especially since World War II, shipbuilding.

The principal industrial regions extend along the Mississippi River from north of Baton Rouge to New Orleans, and also include the Monroe, Shreveport, Morgan City, and Lake Charles areas.


According to the 2002 Census of Wholesale Trade, Louisiana's wholesale trade sector had sales that year totaling $47.1 billion from 5,904 establishments. Wholesalers of durable goods accounted for 3,672 establishments, followed by nondurable goods wholesalers at 1,987 and electronic markets, agents, and brokers accounting for 245 establishments. Sales by durable goods wholesalers in 2002 totaled $15.2 billion, while wholesalers of nondurable goods saw sales of $28.9 billion. Electronic markets, agents, and brokers in the wholesale trade industry had sales of $3.01 billion.

In the 2002 Census of Retail Trade, Louisiana was listed as having 17,613 retail establishments with sales of $41.8 billion. The leading types of retail businesses by number of establishments were: gasoline stations (2,545); food and beverage stores (2,336); clothing and clothing accessories stores (2,299); and motor vehicle and motor vehicle parts dealers (1,998). In terms of sales, motor vehicle and motor vehicle parts stores accounted for the largest share of retail sales at $11 billion, followed by general merchandise stores at $7.8 billion; food and beverage stores at $5.4 billion; gasoline stations at $4.3 billion; and building material/garden equipment and supplies dealers at $3.3 billion. A total of 228,290 people were employed by the retail sector in Louisiana that year.

Exporters located in Louisiana exported $19.2 billion in merchandise during 2005.


Consumer protection is the responsibility of the Consumer Protection Section, which is under the state's Office of the Attorney General. The section investigates and mediates consumer complaints, takes action against companies allegedly engaging in unfair business practices, distributes consumer publications, and registers multi-level marketing, telemarketing, and charitable organizations, as authorized by the state's Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act. However, the section does not handle the areas of insurance, banking, or utilities.

When dealing with consumer protection issues, the state's Attorney General's Office can initiate civil and criminal proceedings; represent the state before state and federal regulatory agencies; administer consumer protection and education programs; handle formal consumer complaints; and exercise broad subpoena powers. However, the Attorney General's office cannot represent individual consumers. In antitrust actions, the Attorney General's Office can act on behalf of those consumers who are incapable of acting on their own; initiate damage actions on behalf of the state in state courts; and represent counties, cities, and other governmental entities in recovering civil damages under state or federal law. However, the Office cannot file for criminal proceedings for antitrust actions.

The offices of the Consumer Protection Section of the Attorney General's Office is located in Baton Rouge. A county government office is also located in the city of Gretna.


As of June 2005, Louisiana had 164 insured banks, savings and loans, and saving banks, plus 53 state-chartered and 201 federally chartered credit unions (CUs). Excluding the CUs, the New Or-leans-Metairie-Kenner market area accounted for the largest portion of the state's financial institutions and deposits in 2004, with 42 institutions and $20.066 billion in deposits. As of June 2005, CUs accounted for 8.9% of all assets held by all financial institutions in the state, or some $5.986 billion. Banks, savings and loans, and savings banks collectively accounted for the remaining 91.1% or $61.010 billion in assets held.

Louisiana state-chartered banks are regulated by the Office of Financial Institutions under the Department of Economic Development. Federally chartered banks are regulated by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.

As of fourth quarter 2005, the median net interest margin (the difference between the lower rates offered to savers and the higher rates charged on loans), was 4.59%, up from 4.42% in 2004 and 4.40% in 2003. Prior to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, 2005 was on track to be a record year for earnings by the financial institutions based in Louisiana. However, those insured institutions located in the most heavily impacted parishes, as of early 2006 continued to report significant decreases in profits. In fourth quarter 2005, median return on assets for those parishes was 0.46%.


In 2004 there were over 4.6 million individual life insurance policies in force with a total value of over $179 billion; total value for all categories of life insurance (individual, group, and credit) was over $267 billion. The average coverage amount is $38,500 per policy holder. Death benefits paid that year totaled at about $910.6 million.

There were 58 life and health and 33 property and casualty insurance companies domiciled in the state at the end of 2003. In 2004, direct premiums for property and casualty insurance totaled $7.4 billion. That year, there were 380,192 flood insurance policies in force in the state, with a total value of $53.9 billion. About $1.2 billion of coverage was held in Beach and Windstorm plans and another $22.7 billion of coverage was held through FAIR plans, which are designed to offer coverage for some natural circumstances, such as wind and hail, in high risk areas.

In 2004, 48% of state residents held employment-based health insurance policies, 5% held individual policies, and 28% were covered under Medicare and Medicaid; 19% of residents were uninsured. Louisiana tied with four other states as having the fourth-highest percentage of uninsured residents in the nation. In 2003, employee contributions for employment-based health coverage averaged at 19% for single coverage. The average employee contribution for family coverage was one of the highest in the nation at 30%. The state offers a 12-month health benefits expansion program for small-firm employees in connection with the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA, 1986), a health insurance program for those who lose employment-based coverage due to termination or reduction of work hours.

In 2003, there were over 2.6 million auto insurance policies in effect for private passenger cars. Required minimum coverage includes bodily injury liability of up to $10,000 per individual and $20,000 for all persons injured in an accident, as well as property damage liability of $10,000. In 2003, the average expenditure per vehicle for insurance coverage was $1,013.93, the sixth-highest average in the nation.

The Department of Insurance administers Louisiana's laws governing the industry.


There are no securities or commodities exchanges in Louisiana. In 2005, there were 670 personal financial advisers employed in the state and 1,340 securities, commodities, and financial services sales agents. In 2004, there were over 73 publicly traded companies within the state, with over 18 NASDAQ companies, 17 NYSE listings, and 5 AMEX listings. In 2006, the state had two Fortune 500 companies; Entergy (based in New Orleans) ranked first in the state and 218th in the nation with revenues of over $10.7 billion, followed by Freeport-McMoRan Copper and Gold, Inc. (New Orleans) at 480th in the nation. Shaw Group (Baton Rouge), CenturyTel (Monroe), and SCP Pool (Covington) were listed in the Fortune 1,000. SCP Pool is listed on NASDAQ and the others are listed with the NYSE.


The budget is prepared by the state executive budget director and submitted annually by the governor to the legislature for amendment and approval. The fiscal year (FY) runs from 1 July through 30 June.

Fiscal year 2006 general funds were estimated at $7.1 billion for resources and $6.7 billion for expenditures. In fiscal year 2004, federal government grants to Louisiana were $7.7 billion.

In the fiscal year 2007 federal budget, Louisiana was slated to receive: $37.5 million in incremental funding for a $150 million project for the construction of the 36-mile segment of I-49 between the Arkansas State line and I-220 in Shreveport; $25 million for planning, design, and science-related efforts to restore the Louisiana coastal wetlands and barrier island ecosystem.


In 2005, Louisiana collected $8,639 million in tax revenues or $1,910 per capita, which placed it 36th among the 50 states in per capita tax burden. The national average was $2,192 per capita. Property taxes accounted for 0.5% of the total, sales taxes 33.1%, selective sales taxes 20.0%, individual income taxes 27.7%, corporate income taxes 4.1%, and other taxes 14.6%.

As of 1 January 2006, Louisiana had three individual income tax brackets ranging from 2% to 6%. The state taxes corporations at rates ranging from 4% to 8% depending on tax bracket.

In 2004, state and local property taxes amounted to $2.5 billion or $502 per capita. The per capita amount ranks the state fifth-lowest nationally. Local governments collected $2.2 billion of the total and the state government $39.7 million.

Louisiana taxes retail sales at a rate of 4%. In addition to the state tax, local taxes on retail sales can reach as much as 6.25%, making for a potential total tax on retail sales of 10.25%. Food purchased for consumption off-premises is exempt from state tax, but subject to local taxes. The tax on cigarettes is 36 cents per pack, which ranks 42nd among the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Louisiana taxes gasoline at 20 cents per gallon. This is in addition to the 18.4 cents per gallon federal tax on gasoline.

According to the Tax Foundation, for every federal tax dollar sent to Washington in 2004, Louisiana citizens received $1.45 in federal spending.

LouisianaState Government Finances
(Dollar amounts in thousands. Per capita amounts in dollars.)
Abbreviations and symbols:zero or rounds to zero; (NA) not available; (X) not applicable.
source: U.S. Census Bureau, Governments Division, 2004 Survey of State Government Finances, January 2006.
Total Revenue 23,730,239 5,265.20
  General revenue 19,156,139 4,250.31
    Intergovernmental revenue 6,995,885 1,552.23
    Taxes 8,030,495 1,781.78
      General sales 2,680,716 594.79
      Selective sales 1,929,796 428.18
      License taxes 429,068 95.20
      Individual income tax 2,192,038 486.36
      Corporate income tax 236,745 52.53
      Other taxes 562,132 124.72
    Current charges 2,390,841 530.47
    Miscellaneous general revenue 1,738,918 385.83
  Utility revenue 4,870 1.08
  Liquor store revenue - -
  Insurance trust revenue 4,569,230 1,013.81
Total expenditure 20,471,959 4,542.26
  Intergovernmental expenditure 4,410,251 978.53
  Direct expenditure 16,061,708 3,563.72
    Current operation 11,117,933 2,466.81
    Capital outlay 1,303,178 289.15
    Insurance benefits and repayments 2,459,609 545.73
    Assistance and subsidies 501,576 111.29
    Interest on debt 679,412 150.75
Exhibit: Salaries and wages 3,754,815 833.11
Total expenditure 20,471,959 4,542.26
  General expenditure 18,007,725 3,995.50
    Intergovernmental expenditure 4,410,251 978.53
    Direct expenditure 13,597,474 3,016.97
  General expenditures, by function:
    Education 6,433,899 1,427.53
    Public welfare 4,122,416 914.67
    Hospitals 1,648,253 365.71
    Health 471,892 104.70
    Highways 1,138,233 252.55
    Police protection 259,125 57.49
    Correction 608,725 135.06
    Natural resources 396,585 87.99
    Parks and recreation 214,417 47.57
    Government administration 672,278 149.16
    Interest on general debt 679,412 150.75
    Other and unallocable 1,362,490 302.31
  Utility expenditure 4,625 1.03
  Liquor store expenditure - -
  Insurance trust expenditure 2,459,609 545.73
Debt at end of fiscal year 10,182,940 2,259.36
Cash and security holdings 43,125,998 9,568.67


The Office of Commerce and Industry in the Department of Economic Development seeks to encourage investment and create jobs in the state and to expand the markets for Louisiana products. Financial assistance services for industrial development include state and local tax incentives and state "Enterprise Zone" legislation. The Louisiana Small Business Equity Corporation and the Louisiana Minority Business Development Authority offer financial assistance. Beginning in 1999, the Louisiana Economic Development Council prepared annual reports and action plans with a view to the implementation of the state's Master Plan for Economic Development dubbed Vision 2020. The three main goals of Vision 2020 were to, by 2020, recreate Louisiana as a place where all citizens are engaged in the pursuit of knowledge; create an economy driven by technology-intensive industries, and rank among the top 10 states in standard of living indicators. Successes in 2002 were reported in providing economic development incentives, and developing infrastructure for biosciences, information technology, research and development, and education.

With the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina and the breaching of the levees in New Orleans in 2005, Louisiana was faced with an entirely new economic development scenario. In September 2005, President George W. Bush announced he would create a Gulf Opportunity Zone for Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. Businesses would be able to double to $200,000 the amount they could deduct from their taxes for investments in new equipment. It would also provide a 50% bonus depreciation and make loan guarantees available. Congress passed the Gulf Opportunity Zone Act in December 2005, which provides a number of tax incentives to encourage the rebuilding of areas ravaged by Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma.


The infant mortality rate in October 2005 was estimated at 9.5 per 1,000 live births, representing the third-highest rate in the country (following the District of Columbia and Mississippi). The birth rate in 2003 was 14.5 per 1,000 population. The abortion rate stood at 13 per 1,000 women in 2000. In 2003, about 84.1% of pregnant woman received prenatal care beginning in the first trimester. In 2004, approximately 75% of children received routine immunizations before the age of three.

The crude death rate in 2003 was 9.5 deaths per 1,000 population. As of 2002, the death rates for major causes of death (per 100,000 resident population) were: heart disease, 249.5; cancer, 210.6; cerebrovascular diseases, 57.9; chronic lower respiratory diseases, 37.8; and diabetes, 39.6. Louisiana had the second-highest diabetes death rate in the nation, following West Virginia. The state also had the second-highest homicide death rate at 13.5 per 100,000 population (following the District of Columbia at 40.1 per 100,000); the national average death rate by homicide is 6.1 per 100,000. The mortality rate from HIV infection was 8.1 per 100,000 population. In 2004, the reported AIDS case rate was at about 22.4 per 100,000 population, the fifth-highest rate in the nation. In 2002, about 58.4% of the population was considered overweight or obese. As of 2004, about 23.4% of state residents were smokers.

In 2003, Louisiana had 127 community hospitals with about 17,800 beds. There were about 690,000 patient admissions that year and 10.8 million outpatient visits. The average daily inpatient census was about 10,600 patients. The average cost per day for hospital care was $1,177. Also in 2003, there were about 314 certified nursing facilities in the state with 38,397 beds and an overall occupancy rate of about 75.9%. In 2004, it was estimated that about 68.2% of all state residents had received some type of dental care within the year. Louisiana had 262 physicians per 100,000 resident population in 2004 and 873 nurses per 100,000 in 2005. In 2004, there were a total of 2,040 dentists in the state.

About 28% of state residents were enrolled in Medicaid and Medicare programs in 2004. Approximately 19% of the state population was uninsured in 2004. In 2003, state health care expenditures totaled $6.3 million.


In 2004, about 90,000 people received unemployment benefits, with the average weekly unemployment benefit at $195. In fiscal year 2005, the estimated average monthly participation in the food stamp program included about 807,896 persons (318,126 households); the average monthly benefit was about $100.96 per person. That year, the total of benefits paid through the state for the food stamp program was about $978.7 million.

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), the system of federal welfare assistance that officially replaced Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) in 1997, was reauthorized through the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005. TANF is funded through federal block grants that are divided among the states based on an equation involving the number of recipients in each state. Louisiana's TANF cash assistance program is called the Family Independent Temporary Assistance Program (FITAP), and the work program is called FIND Work (Family Independence Work Program). In 2004, the state program had 46,000 recipients; state and federal expenditures on this TANF program totaled $73 million fiscal year 2003.

In December 2004, Social Security benefits were paid to 739,180 Louisiana residents. This number included 377,770 retired workers, 104,640 widows and widowers, 109,910 disabled workers, 57,750 spouses, and 89,110 children. Social Security beneficiaries represented 16.4% of the total state population and 90.3% of the state's population age 65 and older. Retired workers received an average monthly payment of $888; widows and widowers, $826; disabled workers, $887; and spouses, $438. Payments for children of retired workers averaged $420 per month; children of deceased workers, $563; and children of disabled workers, $253. Federal Supplemental Security Income payments in December 2004 went to 169,549 Louisiana residents, averaging $391 a month. An additional $38,000 of state-administered supplemental payments were distributed to 4,797 residents.


The Indians of Louisiana built huts with walls made of clay kneaded with Spanish moss and covered with cypress bark or palmetto leaves. The earliest European settlers used split cypress boards filled with clay and moss; a few early 18th-century houses with clay and moss walls remain in the Natchitoches area. Examples of later architectural styles also survive, including buildings constructed of bricks between heavy cypress posts, covered with plaster; houses in the raised cottage style, supported by brick piers and usually including a wide gallery and colonettes; the Creole dwellings of the Vieux Carre in New Orleans, built of brick and characterized by balconies and French windows; and urban and plantation houses from the Greek Revival period of antebellum Louisiana.

In 2004, Louisiana had an estimated 1,919,859 housing units, of which 1,713,680 were occupied. About 66.2% were owner-occupied. An estimated 65.7% of all units were single-family, detached homes. Nearly 39% of all housing units were built between 1970 and 1989. Most units relied on utility gas or electricity for heating. It was estimated that 121,505 units lacked telephone service, 7,424 lacked complete plumbing facilities, and 8,581 lacked complete kitchen facilities. The average household had 2.56 members.

In 2004, 23,000 privately owned units were authorized for construction. The median home value was $95,910. The median monthly cost for mortgage owners was $902. Renters paid a median of $540 per month. In September 2005, the state received a grant of $300,000 from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for rural housing and economic development programs. For 2006, HUD allocated to the state over $29.3 million in community development block grants (CDGB). New Orleans received over $15.4 million in CDBG grants the same year. Also in 2006, HUD offered an additional $6.2 billion to the state in emergency funds to rebuild housing that was destroyed by Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma in late 2005.


Most education in Louisiana was provided through private (often parochial) schools until Reconstruction. Not until Huey Long's administration, when spending for education increased greatly and free textbooks were supplied, did education become a high priority of the state. As of 2004, 78.7% of Louisianians 25 years and older had completed high school, well below the national average of 84%. Some 22.4% had completed four or more years of college, below the national average of 26%.

Integration of New Orleans public schools began in 1960; two years later, the archbishop of New Orleans required that all Catholic schools under his jurisdiction be desegregated. However, it took a federal court order in 1966 to bring about integration in public schools throughout the state. By 1980, 36% of minority students in Louisiana were in schools with less than 50% minority enrollment, and 25% were in schools with 99-100% minority enrollment.

The total enrollment for fall 2002 in Louisiana's public schools stood at 730,000. Of these, 537,000 attended schools from kindergarten through grade eight, and 194,000 attended high school. Approximately 48.5% of the students were white, 47.7% were black, 1.8% were Hispanic, 1.3% were Asian/Pacific Islander, and 0.7% were American Indian/Alaskan Native. Total enrollment was estimated at 709,000 in fall 2003 and was expected to be 707,000 by fall 2014, a decline of 3.3% during the period 2002 to 2014. Expenditures for public education in 200304 were estimated at $5.7 billion. In fall 2003, there were 140,492 students enrolled in 440 private schools. Since 1969, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) has tested public school students nationwide. The resulting report, The Nation's Report Card, stated that in 2005 eighth graders in Louisiana scored 268 out of 500 in mathematics compared with the national average of 278.

As of fall 2002, there were 232,140 students enrolled in college or graduate school; minority students comprised 34.7% of total postsecondary enrollment. As of 2005, Louisiana had 90 degree-granting institutions. There are 16 public four-year schools, 46 public two-year institutions, and 10 private four-year nonprofit institutions. The center of the state university system is Louisiana State University (LSU), founded at Baton Rouge; LSU also has campuses at Alexandria, Eunice, and Shreveport, and includes the University of New Orleans. Tulane University, founded in New Orleans in 1834, is one of the most distinguished private universities in the South, as is Loyola University, also in New Orleans. Southern University Agricultural and Mechanical System at Baton Rouge (1881) is one of the largest predominantly black universities in the country; other campuses are in New Orleans and Shreveport. Another mainly black institution is Grambling State University (1901).

The Louisiana Student Financial Assistance Commission and the Louisiana Tuition Trust Authority administer state loan, grant, and scholarship programs managed by the Louisiana Office of Student Financial Assistance. The state Council for the Development of French in Louisiana (CODOFIL) organizes student exchanges with Quebec, Belgium, and France and aids Louisianians studying French abroad.


The Louisiana Division of the Arts (LDOA; est. 1977), the largest arts grantmaker in the state, is an agency of the state Office of Cultural Development, Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism. In the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita of 2005, the LDOA worked with the Louisiana Partnership for the Arts to assess the impact these disasters had on the art communities. Arts projects are funded in every parish (county) in the state through the LDOA Decentralized Arts Funding Program. In 2005, Louisiana arts organizations received 24 grants totaling $1,150,100 from the National Endowment for the Arts.

The Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities was established in 1971. As of 2006, ongoing programs included "Relic: Readings in Literature and Culture" and "Prime Time Family Reading Time." In 2005, the National Endowment for the Humanities awarded 17 grants totaling $2,037,337 to state organizations.

New Orleans has long been one of the most important centers of artistic activity in the South. The earliest theaters were French, and the first of these was started by refugees from Hispaniola, who put on the city's first professional theatrical performance in 1791. The American Theater, which opened in 1824, attracted many of the finest actors in America, as did the nationally famous St. Charles. Showboats traveled the Mississippi and other waterways, bringing dramas, musicals, and minstrel shows to river towns and plantations as early as the 1840s, with their heyday being the 1870s and 1880s.

Principal theaters included the New Orleans Theater of the Performing Arts, the Saenger Theater in New Orleans (one of the "grand old theaters"), the Tulane Theater, and Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carre. Le Petit Theatre was established in 1916 and has been recognized as one of the leading community theaters in the nation. During the 200405 season Le Petit Theatre began a construction project on the main stage providing a complete orchestra pit, a new stage, and a fly loftthe stage had been unchanged since 1922. Junebug Productions is a black touring company based in New Orleans. Louisiana State University (LSU) at Baton Rouge has theaters for both opera and drama. Baton Rouge, Shreveport, Monroe, Lake Charles, and Hammond are among the cities with little theaters, and Baton Rouge, Lafayette, and Lake Charles have ballet companies. There are symphony orchestras in most of the larger cities, the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra (LPO) being the best known. Although Hurricane Katrina battered the state, devastating New Orleans in 2005, the LPO returned to New Or leans with a spring concert season during March, April, and May 2006.

It is probably in music that Louisiana has made its most distinctive contributions to culture. Jazz was born in New Orleans around 1900; among its sources was the music played by brass bands at carnivals and at Negro funerals, and its immediate precursor was the highly syncopated music known as ragtime. Early jazz in the New Orleans style is called Dixieland; Louis Armstrong pioneered the transformation of jazz from the Dixieland ensemble style to a medium for solo improvisation. Traditional Dixieland has been played by performers associated with the Preservation Hall, Dixieland Hall, and the New Orleans Jazz Club. In 2005, many of the buildings that housed these organizations and clubs were either severely damaged or destroyed by the forces of Hurricane Katrina. Despite having to close buildings, groups like the Hall Jazz Band of the Preservation Hall continued touring; the Preservation Hall celebrated its 45th anniversary on tour in 2006. Equally distinctive is Cajun music, dominated by the sound of the fiddle and accordion.

Visual arts in the state flourish, especially in New Orleans, home to the Ogden Museum of Southern Art. Prompted by the devastation of Hurricane Katrina the museum showcased several special exhibits including, Come Hell and High Water: Portraits of Hurricane Katrina Survivors, New Housing Prototypes for New Orleans, and Louisiana Story: A Photographic Journey.


For the calendar year 2001, Louisiana's 64 parishes were served by 65 public library systems, with a total of 329 libraries, of which 264 were branches. In that same year, the public library system had 10,850,000 volumes of books and serial publications on its shelves, and had a total circulation of 18,376,000. The system also had 230,000 audio and 309,000 video items, 13,000 electronic format items (CD-ROMs, magnetic tapes, and disks), and 30 bookmobiles. The New Orleans Public Library, with 14 branches and 739,473 books, features a special collection on jazz and folk music, and the Tulane University Library (1,765,000 volumes) has special collections on jazz and Louisiana history. Among the libraries with special black-studies collections are those of Grambling State University, Southern University Agricultural and Mechanical System at Baton Rouge, Xavier University of Louisiana at New Orleans, and the Amistad Collection at Tulane University. The library of Northwestern State University at Natchitoches has special collections on Louisiana history, folklore, Indians, botany, and oral history. In 2001, operating income for the state's public library system was $112,068,000, which included $107,000 in federal funds and $6,817,000 in state funds.

As of 2000, Louisiana had 89 museums and historic sites, as well as more than 27 art collections. Leading art museums are the New Orleans Museum of Art, the Lampe Gallery in New Orleans, and the R. W. Norton Art Gallery at Shreveport. The art museum of the Louisiana Arts and Science Center at Baton Rouge is located in the renovated Old Illinois Central Railroad Station. The oldest and largest museum in the state is the Louisiana State Museum, an eight-building historic complex in the Vieux Carre. There is a military museum in Beauregard House at Chalmette National Historical Park, on the site of the Battle of New Orleans, and a Confederate Museum in New Orleans. The Bayou Folk Muse-um at Cloutierville is in the restored home of author Kate Chopin; the Longfellow-Evangeline State Commemorative Area has a historical museum on its site. Among the state's scientific museums are the Lafayette Natural History Museum, Planetarium, and Nature Station, and the Museum of Natural Science in Baton Rouge. Audubon Park and Zoological Gardens are in New Orleans. The "Louisiana and Lower Mississippi Valley Collection" at LSU is an extensive collection of Louisiana history, photographs, and manuscripts.


The second rural free delivery route in the United States, and the first in Louisiana, was established on 1 November 1896 at Thibodaux. As of 2004, 90.9% of Louisiana's occupied housing units had telephones. Additionally, by June of that same year there were 2,547,153 mobile wireless telephone subscribers. In 2003, 52.3% of Louisiana households had a computer and 44.1% had Internet access. By June 2005, there were 536,339 high-speed lines in Louisiana, 475,284 residential and 610,055 for business.

In 2005, the state had 77 major radio broadcasting stations (15 AM and 62 FM) as well as 32 television stations. In 1999, New Orleans had 629,820 television households, 76% of which had cable TV.

As of 2000, a total of 46,786 Internet domain names had been registered in Louisiana.


At one time, New Orleans had as many as nine daily newspapers (four English, three French, one Italian, and one German), but by 1997 there was only one, the Times-Picayune. In 2005, Louisiana had a total of 15 morning dailies, 11 evening dailies, and 21 Sunday papers.

The following table shows the principal dailies with their approximate 2005 circulations:

Baton Rouge Advocate (m,S) 87,026 115,442
New Orleans Times-Picayune (m,S) 252,799 281,374
Shreveport Times (m,S) 62,511 77,090

Two influential literary magazines originated in the state. The Southern Review was founded at Louisiana State University in the 1930s by Robert Penn Warren and Cleanth Brooks. The Tulane Drama Review, founded in 1955, moved to New York University in 1967 but is still known by its original acronym, TDR.


In 2006, there were over 3,076 nonprofit organizations registered within the state, of which about 2,085 were registered as charitable, educational, or religious organizations. Among business or professional organizations with headquarters in Louisiana are the American Shrimp Processors Association and the Southern Pine Council. Blue Key, a national honor society, has its headquarters in Metairie. The American Bone Marrow Donor Registry is based in Mandeville.

State and local organization for the arts include the Acadiana Arts Council, the Louisiana Division of the Arts, the Louisiana Historical Association, the Louisiana Preservation Alliance, the New Orleans Jazz Club, the North Central Louisiana Arts Council, and the Northeast Louisiana Arts Council.

Civil rights groups represented in the state include the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the Urban League. Especially active during the 1970s were the local branches of the American Civil Liberties Union, the Louisiana Coalition on Jails and Prisons, and its legal arm, the Southern Prisoners Defense Council, and the Fishermen's and Concerned Citizens Association of Plaquemines Parish, which organized a campaign against the continued domination of the parish by the descendants of Leander Perez, a racist judge who wielded power there for 50 years until his death in 1969.

The Invisible Empire, Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, is headquartered in Denham Springs.


In 2000, there were 15.4 million visitors to the state of Louisiana. Initial reports for 2001 estimated a total travel-related economic impact of $9 billion, including support for 124,200 jobs. The two most popular activities for tourists were shopping and gambling. However, in 2005 Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and surrounding areas, and tourism was virtually eliminated. Because two-thirds of New Orleans was submerged, a majority of the population was forced to relocate, either temporarily or permanently. Tulane and Loyola universities were forced to cancel at least one semester of classes. Many of those students did not return. As of 2006, only the French Quarter of New Orleans was able to support some tourism. A Mardi Gras celebration was held, but it was shortened from its usual month to a week.

New Orleans is one of the major tourist attractions in the United States. Known for its fine restaurants, serving such distinctive fare as gumbo, jambalaya, crawfish, and beignets, along with an elaborate French-inspired haute cuisine, New Orleans also offers jazz clubs, the graceful buildings of the French Quarter, and a lavish carnival called Mardi Gras ("Fat Tuesday"). Beginning on the Wednesday before Shrove Tuesday, parades and balls staged by private organizations called krewes are held almost nightly. In other towns, people celebrate Mardi Gras in their own, no less uproarious, manner. Probably the greatest attraction of Louisiana is its French heritage. Everything from French law, to the division of the state into parishes instead of counties, to the French cuisine, and to the use of the Creole language, is a major attraction to tourists.

Among the many other annual events that attract visitors to the state are the blessing of the shrimp fleet at the Louisiana Shrimp and Petroleum Festival in Morgan City on Labor Day weekend and the blessing of the cane fields during the Louisiana Sugar Cane Festival at New Iberia in September. October offers the International Rice Festival (including the Frog Derby) at Crowley, Louisiana Cotton Festival at Ville Platte (with a medieval jousting tournament), the Louisiana Yambilee Festival at Opelousas, and the Louisiana State Fair at Shreveport. Attractions of the Natchitoches Christmas Festival include 170,000 Christmas lights and spectacular fireworks displays. There are tours of plantations starting in St. Francisville. Monroe is the home of the first Coca-Cola bottler, Joseph Biedenhorn. Jean Lafitte National Historical Park has 10 miles of raised boardwalks through the Louisiana swamps and marshes from which tourists can view wildlife (especially alligators).

Louisiana's 34 state parks and recreation sites total 39,000 acres (15,800 hectares).


Louisiana has two major professional sports teams: the Saints of the National Football League and the Hornets of the National Basketball Association. The Hornets were formerly located in Charlotte. Both the Saints and Hornets are located in New Orleans, however, due to Hurricane Katrina, both teams were forced to play in San Antonio and Oklahoma City, respectively. The Super Bowl has been held in New Orleans six times: in 1978, 1981, 1986, 1990, 1997, and 2002. It has been played in the Louisiana Superdome, the largest indoor arena in the United States.

New Orleans also has a minor league baseball team, the Zephyrs, of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League. In Shreveport, the Captains compete in the Double-A Texas League. There are several other minor league baseball and hockey teams scattered throughout the state.

During the 1850s, New Orleans was the horse-racing center of the United States, and racing is still popular in the state. The principal tracks are the Louisiana Jockey Club at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans, and Evangeline Downs at Lafayette. Gambling has long been widespread in Louisiana, particularly in the steamboat days, when races along the Mississippi drew huge wagers.

From the 1880s to World War I, New Orleans was the nation's boxing capital, and in 1893, the city was the site of the longest bout in boxing history, between Andy Bowen and Jack Burke, lasting 7 hours and 19 minutes110 roundsand ending in a draw. The TPC of Louisiana at Fairfield is a newly constructed championship-level golf course that became the home of the PGA's HP Classic in 2005.

In 1935, Tulane University inaugurated the Sugar Bowl (which they won that year for the first and only time), an annual New Year's Day event and one of the most prestigious bowl games in college football. Louisiana State University (LSU) won the Sugar Bowl in 1959, 1965, and 1968. They were named National Champions in 1958 and co-champions with USC in 2003. The LSU Tigers baseball team won the College World Series in 1991, 1993, 1996, and 1997. The LSU Tigers appeared in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Final Four in 1953, 1981, 1986, and 2006, and have had a number of famous basketball alumni, including "Pistol" Pete Maravich and Shaquille O'Neal.

Professional sports heroes Terry Bradshaw, Bill Russell, and Marshall Faulk all were born within the state's borders.


Zachary Taylor (b. Virginia, 17841850) is the only US president to whom Louisiana can lay claim. Taylor, a professional soldier who made his reputation as an Indian fighter and in the Mexican War, owned a large plantation north of Baton Rouge, which was his residence before his election to the presidency in 1848. Edward Douglass White (18451921) served first as associate justice of the US Supreme Court and then as chief justice.

Most other Louisianians who have held national office won more fame as state or confederate officials. John Slidell (b. New York, 17931871), an antebellum political leader, also played an important role in Confederate diplomacy. Judah P. Benjamin (b. West Indies, 181184), of Jewish lineage, was a US senator before the Civil War; during the conflict he held three posts in the Confederate cabinet, after which he went to England and became a leading barrister. Henry Watkins Allen (b. Virginia, 182066) was elected governor of Confederate Louisiana in 1864, after he had been maimed in battle; perhaps the best administrator in the South, he installed a system of near-socialism in Louisiana as the fortunes of the Confederacy waned. During and after the Civil War, many Louisianians won prominence as military leaders. Leonidas Polk (b. North Carolina, 180664), the state's first Episcopal bishop, became a lieutenant general in the Confederate Army and died in the Atlanta campaign. Zachary Taylor's son Richard (b. Kentucky, 182679), a sugar planter who also became a Confederate lieutenant general, is noted for his defeat of Nathaniel P. Bank's Union forces in the Red River campaign of 1864. Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard (181893) attained the rank of full general in the Confederate Army and later served as director of the Louisiana state lottery, one of the state's major sources of revenue at that time. In the modern era, General Claire Chennault (b. Texas, 18931958) commanded the famous "Flying Tigers" and then the US 14th Air Force in China during World War II.

Throughout the 20th century, the Longs have been the first family of Louisiana politics. Without question, the most important state officeholder in Louisiana history was Huey P. Long (18931935), a latter-day Populist who was elected to the governorship in 1928 and inaugurated a period of social and economic reform. In the process, he made himself very nearly an absolute dictator within Louisiana. After his election to the US Senate, the "King Fish" became a national figure, challenging Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal with his "Share the Wealth" plan and flamboyant oratory. Huey's brother Earl K. Long (18951960) served three times as governor. Huey's son, US Senator Russell B. Long (19182003), was chairman of the Finance Committeeand, consequently, one of the most powerful men in Congressfrom 1965 to 1980.

Also prominent in Louisiana history were Robert Cavelier, Sieur de la Salle (b. France, 164387), who was the first to claim the region for the French crown; Pierre le Moyne, Sieur d'Iberville (b. Canada, 16611706), who commanded the expedition that first established permanent settlements in the lands La Salle had claimed; his brother, Jean Baptiste le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville (b. Canada, 16801768), governor of the struggling colony and founder of New Orleans; and Bernardo de Galvez (b. Spain, 174686), who, as governor of Spanish Louisiana during the last years of the American Revolution, conquered British-held Florida in a series of brilliant campaigns. William Charles Coles Claiborne (b. Virginia, 17751817) was the last territorial and first state governor of Louisiana. The state's first Republican governor, Henry Clay Warmoth (b. Illinois, 18421932), came there as a Union officer before the end of the Civil War and was sworn in at age 26. Jean Étienne de Boré (b. France, 17411820) laid the foundation of the Louisiana sugar industry by developing a process for granulating sugar from cane; Norbert Rillieux (birthplace unknown, 180694), a free black man, developed the much more efficient vacuum pan process of refining sugar.

Andrew Victor Schally (b. Poland, 1926), a biochemist on the faculty of the Tulane University School of Medicine, shared the Nobel Prize for medicine in 1977 for his research on hormones. Among other distinguished Louisiana professionals have been historian T. Harry Williams (190979), who won the Pulitzer Prize for his biography of Huey Long; architect Henry Hobson Richardson (183886); and four doctors of medicine: public health pioneer Joseph Jones (b. Georgia, 183396), surgical innovator Rudolph Matas (18601957), surgeon and medical editor Alton V. Ochsner (b. South Dakota, 18961981), and heart specialist Michael De Bakey (b.1908).

Louisiana's important writers include George Washington Cable (18441925), an early advocate of racial justice; Kate O'Flaherty Chopin (b.Missouri, 18511904); playwright and memoirist Lillian Hellman (190584); and novelists Walker Percy (b. Alabama, 19161990); Truman Capote (192484); Ernest Gaines (b.1933), author of The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman; Shirley Ann Grau (b.1929); and John Kennedy Toole (193769), the last two being winners of the Pulitzer Prize.

Louisiana has produced two important composers, Ernest Guiraud (183792) and Louis Gottschalk (182969). Jelly Roll Morton (Ferdinand Joseph La Menthe, 18851941), Pete Fountain (b.1930), and Sidney Bechet (18971959) were important jazz musicians, and Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong (19001971) was one of the most prolific jazz innovators and popular performers in the nation. The distinctive rhythms of pianist and singer Professor Longhair (Henry Byrd, 191880) were an important influence on popular music. Other prominent Louisianians in music are gospel singer Mahalia Jackson (191172), pianist-singer-songwriter Antoine "Fats" Domino (b.1928), and pop singer Jerry Lee Lewis (b.1935).

Louisiana baseball heroes include Hall of Famer Melvin Thomas "Mel" Ott (190958) and pitcher Ron Guidry (b.1950). Terry Bradshaw (b.1948), a native of Shreveport, quarterbacked the Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers during the 1970s. Player-coach William F. "Bill" Russell (b.1934) led the Boston Celtics to 10 National Basketball Association championships between 1956 and 1969. Chess master Paul Morphy (183784) was born in New Orleans.


Abrahams, Roger D. Blues for New Orleans: Mardi Gras and America's Creole Soul. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006.

Bell, Caryn Cossé. Revolution, Romanticism, and the Afro-Creole Protest Tradition in Louisiana, 17181868. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1997.

Brinkley, Douglas. The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast. New York: Morrow, 2006.

Calhoun, Milburn. Louisiana Almanac, 200607. Gretna, La.: Pelican Publishing Co., 2006.

Council of State Governments. The Book of the States, 2006 Edition. Lexington, Ky.: Council of State Governments, 2006.

Fairclough, Adam. Race & Democracy: The Civil Rights Struggle in Louisiana, 19151972. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1995.

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Hogue, James Keith. Uncivil War: Five New Orleans Street Battles and the Rise and Fall of Radical Reconstruction. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2006.

Jobb, Dean. The Cajuns: A People's Story of Exile and Triumph. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 2005.

Levinson, Sanford, and Bartholomew Sparrow (eds.). The Louisiana Purchase and American Expansion, 18031898. Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2005.

McAuliffe, Emily. Louisiana Facts and Symbols. Mankato, Minn.: Hilltop Books, 1999.

Norman, Corrie E., and Don S. Armentrout (eds.). Religion in the Contemporary South: Changes, Continuities, and Contexts. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2005.

Tregle, Joseph George. Louisiana in the Age of Jackson: A Clash of Cultures and Personalities. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1999.

US Department of Commerce, Economics and Statistics Administration, US Census Bureau. Louisiana, 2000. Summary Social, Economic, and Housing Characteristics: 2000 Census of Population and Housing. Washington, D.C.: US Government Printing Office, 2003.

Worth, Richard. Voices from Colonial America. Louisiana, 16821803. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic Society, 2005.

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LOUISIANA, a southeastern state bordered on the west by the Sabine River, Texas, and Oklahoma; on the north by Arkansas; to the east by the Mississippi and Pearl Rivers and the state of Mississippi; and to the south by the Gulf of Mexico. Louisiana's French and Spanish history endowed the state with a rich and unique cultural heritage, while its geographic location at the mouth of the Mississippi River profoundly affected its historical development.

The Colonial Period

Humans reached present-day Louisiana some ten thousand years ago, at the end of the last ice age. By approximately 1,000 b.c., the area's Paleo-Indian peoples had constructed systems of large, earthen mounds that still exist at Poverty Point and elsewhere in the state. At the time of European contact, Louisiana's Indian population included the Caddos, Attakapas, Muskegons, Natchez, Chitimachas, and Tunicas. During the eighteenth century, other Indian groups from the British colonies to the east, such as the Choctaws, relocated in Louisiana.

During the sixteenth century, Spanish conquistadores, including Hernando De Soto, explored present-day Louisiana but did not settle it. European colonization of Louisiana began as an extension of French Canada, established as a fur-trading center in the early seventeenth century. As the century progressed, French control extended throughout the Great Lakes region. In 1672, Father Jacques Marquette explored the Mississippi River as far south as Arkansas, heightening interest in a Gulf Coast colony. By the early 1680s, the French nobleman René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, attempted to realize the French vision of a colony at the mouth of the Mississippi River anchoring a central North American empire. Retracing Marquette's route in spring 1682, La Salle arrived at the river's mouth in early April. He claimed the entire Mississippi basin for France and named the area Louisiana for King Louis XIV. In 1684, La Salle attempted to establish a permanent colony, but his ill-fated expedition failed to locate the Mississippi River from the open sea and landed in present-day Texas. The settlement foundered, and in 1687 La Salle's own men murdered him.

Not until the late 1690s did France again attempt to establish a colony in Louisiana. This time the leader was the Canadian nobleman and French military officer Pierre Le Moyne, Sieur d'Iberville. Joined by his brother Jean Baptiste Le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville, and succeeding where La Salle had failed, Iberville located the Mississippi River from the open sea in spring 1699 and established a series of coastal settlements during the next several years. Whereas Iberville did not spend much time in Louisiana, succumbing to yellow fever in 1706, Bienville participated in colonial affairs for the next forty years, serving as military governor several times and founding New Orleans in 1718.

Initially a royal colony, Louisiana soon burdened the treasury and in 1712 became a proprietary colony under Antoine Crozat, who failed to make the colony profitable and in 1717 relinquished his charter. The crown then selected the Scotsman John Law as the new proprietor. An innovative financier, Law devised a plan in which the Royal Bank of France would underwrite Louisiana through Law's Company of the Indies. This Mississippi Bubble burst in the early 1720s, and Law fled France. A reorganized Company of the Indies led Louisiana to modest growth, but prosperity eluded the colony. The company surrendered its charter in 1731, and Louisiana remained a royal colony until French rule ended.

Louisiana's relatively late founding, semitropical climate, and undeserved reputation as a refuge for undesirables inhibited population growth. The oldest permanent European settlement in present-day Louisiana, Natchitoches, was founded in 1714. During the 1720s, several hundred German and Swiss immigrants settled along what is still called the Mississippi River's "German Coast." Baton Rouge was also founded in the 1720s but languished until the 1760s. Despite slow demographic growth, a distinct group of Creoles—native-born descendants of European settlers—eventually emerged, but by the 1760s, only about 5,000 whites inhabited Louisiana.

Problems of government compounded those of population. Louisiana chronically suffered from neglect by France and from lack of regular communication. Unclear lines of authority led to frequent quarrels among officials. Most importantly, as the product of an absolute monarchy, Louisiana failed to develop representative institutions, such as a colonial legislature, that could limit either the prerogatives or the abuses of royal appointed officials. Consequently, corruption and centralized power have historically characterized Louisiana government.

The 1763 Peace of Paris ended the French and Indian War and compelled France to relinquish its North American empire. France surrendered Louisiana east of the Mississippi River to England, and land west of the river to Spain, a French ally. Word of Spanish rule prompted discontent in New Orleans, a situation worsened by delay and confusion over the formal transfer of power. Resentment increased until 1768, when New Orleans revolted against Spanish rule. Authorities suppressed the insurrection the next year and executed several leaders.

Despite this difficult transition, Spanish Louisiana enjoyed stability and progress. Effective governors provided strong leadership, and generous land grants encouraged immigration. The free white population increased to more than 20,000 by 1800 and displayed much ethnic diversity, as Spaniards, Canary Islanders, Britons, Americans, Acadian exiles (today's Cajuns), and refugees from the French Revolution of the 1790s settled in Louisiana. The Spanish colony also enjoyed economic growth. The main crops during French rule had been tobacco and indigo, which brought little profit. During the 1790s, invention of the cotton gin and production of sugar in Louisiana precipitated an economic revolution.

Slave labor drove the new economic prosperity. Under French rule the colony's slave population had been small, about 4,000 by the early 1760s, and ethnically unified, as most slaves originated from West Africa's Sene-gambia region. Under Spanish rule the slave population increased to more than 16,000 and displayed ethnic complexity, as slaves were imported from various points throughout Africa. By the late eighteenth century, a distinct "Afro-Creole" culture combining African, Indian, and European influences had developed.

During the American Revolution, with Spain aiding the colonies, Governor Bernardo de Galvez led attacks against British East and West Florida that secured Spanish control of the lower Mississippi Valley and the Gulf of Mexico. After American independence, tensions grew between Spain and the United States over American access to the Mississippi River and the northern border of West Florida. These issues were resolved in 1795 with Pinckney's Treaty, in which Spain acquiesced to American demands.

Napoleon Bonaparte's 1799 ascension to power in France revived dreams of a French New World empire, and the following year Napoleon forced Spain to retro-cede Louisiana. News of this development prompted President Thomas Jefferson to initiate negotiations for the purchase of New Orleans. Talks went slowly, but by April 1803, Napoleon decided to sell all of Louisiana to the United States, resulting in the Louisiana Purchase Treaty.

The Nineteenth Century

American acquisition of Louisiana provoked Creole resentment and confronted the United States with the challenge of incorporating territory and people from outside the British tradition. Jefferson appointed W. C. C. Claiborne territorial governor and granted him broad powers to handle this unprecedented situation. Americans and their slaves swarmed into Louisiana: between 1803 and 1820 the white population increased from 21,000 to 73,000, and the slave population from 13,000 to 34,000. This migration transformed the Creoles into a distinct minority and sparked Anglo-Creole conflict over language, legal traditions, religion, and cultural practices. Although the Creoles eventually became reconciled to American rule, tensions lingered for many years.

In 1804, Congress created the Territory of Orleans—the future state of Louisiana—and later authorized election of a territorial legislature, which divided the territory into parishes (counties) and created local government. In 1810, the overwhelmingly American residents of Spanish West Florida rebelled and petitioned for U.S. annexation. Congress granted the request, and the area west of the Pearl River became part of the Territory of Orleans. The next year, Congress authorized a constitutional convention, half the delegates to which were Creoles, indicating their accommodation to American rule and republican government. Louisiana's 1812 constitution was a conservative document, reflecting its framers' suspicion of direct democracy and their belief in private property as the basis for citizenship. Congress admitted Louisiana as the eighteenth state on 30 April 1812, and Claiborne was elected the first governor, demonstrating further Creole reconciliation. Louisiana's geographical boundaries were finalized with the 1819 Adams-Onís Treaty, which set the boundary between the United States and Spanish Mexico and defined Louisiana's western border.

Soon after Louisiana's statehood, the United States declared war on Britain. The War of 1812 culminated with General Andrew Jackson's victory in the Battle of New Orleans, which occurred before news of an armistice arrived from Europe. Jackson's triumph made him a national hero and guaranteed American westward expansion, but many New Orleanians resented Jackson for his declaring martial law and for his enlisting free black men to fight. Nonetheless, the Place des Armes was later renamed Jackson Square in his honor.

Before the Whig and Democratic parties emerged nationally during the late 1820s, state politics revolved around Louisiana's cultural, geographic, and economic divisions: Anglo-Creole, north-south, cotton-sugar, city-country. Organized parties partially redefined political alignments. Sugar planters, New Orleans professionals, and personal opponents of Jackson supported the Whigs, while cotton planters, the New Orleans working classes, and small farmers endorsed the Democrats. Louisiana's economic and demographic growth between 1820 and 1840 exacerbated political divisions and made the 1812 constitution obsolete. The white population grew from 73,000 to 158,000, while the slave population jumped from nearly 70,000 to more than 168,000. Much of northern Louisiana—previously sparsely populated—was settled, cotton and sugar production mushroomed, and New Orleans became a major commercial center. These changes, combined with the nationwide advance of Jacksonian Democracy, prompted Democratic calls for political reform, which the Whigs initially resisted but assented to by the early 1840s. The 1845 constitution heralded Jacksonian Democracy by inaugurating universal manhood suffrage, reining in the power of banks and corporations, and moving the capital from New Orleans to Baton Rouge, which was closer to the state's geographic center.

Before the Civil War, free African Americans further enhanced Louisiana's uniqueness. Resulting from Spanish manumission law, miscegenation, and the arrival of several thousand free-black refugees fleeing the Haitian slave revolt of the 1790s, Louisiana's free-black population was the Deep South's largest, peaking in 1840 at more than 25,000. Although relegated to second-class citizenship and largely impoverished, the free people of color nonetheless included a racially mixed elite, also called "Creoles," many of whom were French-speaking, wealthy, educated, and active in cultural and intellectual circles. After 1840, legal restrictions on manumission caused a decline in the number of free black people, who nonetheless would provide important leadership within the black community after the abolition of slavery.

The question of slavery consumed the nation during the 1850s, and, following Abraham Lincoln's election as president in 1860, Louisiana seceded on 26 January 1861, the sixth state to do so. By late April 1862, federal forces had captured New Orleans, and the city became a Unionist and Republican stronghold during the Civil War and Reconstruction. The Union triumph also prompted thousands of slaves to flee from nearby plantations and to seek protection from occupying federal forces, thereby helping to redefine the Civil War as a war against slavery. Under Lincoln's wartime Reconstruction plan, a Unionist state government was formed in early 1864 that formally abolished slavery. However, Confederate troops defeated a Union attempt to capture the Confederate state capital at Shreveport in 1864, and Louisiana remained politically and militarily divided until the war ended.

The Confederacy's defeat brought Reconstruction to the South. Even by the standards of the time, Louisiana was rife with violence. The New Orleans riot of 30 July 1866, in which white mobs killed black and white Republicans, helped scuttle President Andrew Johnson's restoration plan. The 1868 constitution instituted black suffrage and brought the Republican Party to power. Republicans attempted to fashion a biracial coalition that would implement economic and political reforms and achieve racial equality, but they could not overcome corruption, factionalism, and violent white opposition. The 1873 Colfax massacre, in which more than one hundred black men were slain, was the bloodiest event in the Reconstruction South and resulted in a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that undermined federal enforcement of black civil rights. By 1876, Louisiana Republicans were in retreat, and the state's electoral votes were contested in that year's presidential election, a dispute decided by the Compromise of 1877 that ended Reconstruction and returned Louisiana Democrats to power.

Reconstruction's demise inaugurated the state's Bourbon period, characterized by the rule of a wealthy, reactionary oligarchy that retained power until the 1920s and relegated Louisiana to economic underdevelopment. White supremacy, fiscal conservatism, electoral fraud, and contempt for the public good were the hallmarks of Bourbon rule, as even the modest gains of Reconstruction, such as creation of a state education system, were undone. Nothing reflected the Bourbon mindset better than the notorious Louisiana lottery, the corrupting influence of which attracted national opprobrium, and the convict-lease system, which sometimes subjected the overwhelmingly black inmates to annual mortality rates of twenty percent. The Bourbons' crowning achievements were the segregationist laws enacted during the 1890s, the blatant electoral fraud that prevented a Populist-Republican coalition from taking power in 1896, and the property and literacy requirements and poll tax provision of the 1898 constitution that deprived almost all blacks, and thousands of poor whites, of the right to vote, thus completely overturning Reconstruction. The U.S. Supreme Court's 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson decision, which sanctioned legal segregation, originated as a challenge to Louisiana's 1890 law requiring racially segregated accommodations on railroad cars in the state.

The Twentieth Century

The history of Louisiana was profoundly altered with the 1901 discovery of oil in the state. For the rest of the century, Louisiana's economic fortunes were pinned to those of the oil industry. The Progressive movement of the early twentieth century brought little change to Louisiana, dominated as it was by the Bourbon elite, except for implementation of the severance tax—a tax on natural resources that are "severed" from the earth—and creation of the white party primary system.

Louisiana experienced a political revolution with the 1928 election of Huey P. Long as governor. Long employed populistic rhetoric in appealing to the common people and in promising to unseat the entrenched elites. As governor and, after 1932, as United States senator, Long oversaw a vast expansion in public works and social services, building roads, bridges, schools, and hospitals, and providing free medical care and textbooks, all funded by increases in the severance tax and the state's bonded debt. In 1934, Long created the Share-the-Wealth movement, with its motto "Every Man a King," in which he promised to tax the wealthy in order to provide economic security for all American families. Intended as an alternative to President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal, Share-the-Wealth won over millions of impoverished Americans and raised the possibility of Long challenging Roosevelt's 1936 reelection. However, Long's undemocratic methods, which included using the state's coercive power to stifle political dissent, combined with his presidential aspirations, provoked opposition and heightened fears of his becoming an American dictator. Long was assassinated in September 1935, allegedly by a political opponent, although controversy has continued to surround this event. Long left an ambiguous legacy: he improved daily life for common people, but his dictatorial tactics, corrupt practices, and centralization of power were in keeping with Louisiana traditions, and, despite Long's successes, Louisiana remained amongst the nation's poorest states.

For the next twenty-five years, contests between Longite and anti-Longite—or reform—factions of the Democratic Party characterized Louisiana politics. In 1939, a series of exposés revealing widespread corruption sent many leading Longites to prison and brought the reformers to power. Between 1940 and 1948, the reformers continued the popular public works and social services of Longism while also implementing changes, including civil service, designed to end Longism's abuses. Military spending during World War II and, later, the expansion of the petrochemical industry along the Mississippi River financed much of the reform program. In 1940, war games known as the Louisiana Maneuvers greatly improved U.S. military preparedness, and during the war, the New Orleans businessman Andrew Jackson Higgins designed and built military transport boats that proved essential to the Allied war effort.

From 1948 to 1960, Earl K. Long, Huey's younger brother and himself a formidable historical figure, dominated Louisiana politics. Long, who finished the unexpired gubernatorial term of Richard Leche, 1939–1940, quickly became a political power in his own right. During two nonconsecutive gubernatorial terms (1948–1952, 1956–1960), Earl Long continued the public works and social services aspects of Longism; he also engaged in some of Longism's abuses but nothing near those of his brother.

Earl Long was also progressive on the question of race. As the civil rights movement gained momentum after World War II, and as the U.S. Supreme Court's 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision invalidated segregated schools, Earl Long strongly supported black civil rights by permitting black voter registration, ensuring that black people benefited from his economic programs, and trying to persuade white Louisianians to abandon segregation. Despite these efforts, white support for legal segregation remained strong, and the desegregation of public schools and of Louisiana as a whole proceeded slowly. Legal segregation had been dismantled in Louisiana by the early 1970s, but as the twentieth century ended, desegregation in certain local school systems, including Baton Rouge, remained under federal court supervision.

During the last third of the twentieth century, Louisiana experienced some of the same trends that affected the rest of the South, including the reemergence of the Republican Party, suburbanization, and cultural homogenization, but the state also continued to be plagued by many of its traditional difficulties, including political corruption and economic underdevelopment. Louisiana's fortunes during these years were greatly reflected in those of Edwin W. Edwards, who served an unprecedented four full gubernatorial terms (1972–1980, 1984–1988, 1992– 1996). The charismatic Edwards followed in the populistic, big-government traditions of Longism while involving himself in many legally questionable activities. Edwards's first two terms witnessed major increases in state spending, financed by oil revenues, but the 1980s oil bust had devastating consequences for Louisiana's economy and for Edwards's third term. Edwards won a fourth term in 1992, but only because his opponent was David Duke, a former member of the Ku Klux Klan and the American Nazi Party whose meteoric political rise was propelled by economic distress and white resentment. After the 1980s, the state government slowly weaned itself off oil as its primary source of revenue, a process helped by the adoption of a state lottery and legalized gambling during the early 1990s and by the national economic growth of the following years. Nonetheless, the state's regressive tax system—sales taxes became the main sources of revenue while the popular homestead exemption enables most homeowners to pay little or no property taxes—resulted in chronic funding problems. Louisiana's 2000 population of 4,468,976 marked only a 5.9 percent increase from 1990, less than half the national increase of 13.1 percent, and the early twenty-first century witnessed a continuing "brain drain," as many of the state's younger, educated residents pursued better economic opportunities elsewhere.


Hair, William Ivy. Bourbonism and Agrarian Protest: Louisiana Politics, 1877–1900. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1969.

Hall, Gwendolyn Midlo. Africans in Colonial Louisiana: The Development of Afro-Creole Culture in the Eighteenth Century. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1992.

Kurtz, Michael L., and Morgan D. Peoples. Earl K. Long: The Saga of Uncle Earl and Louisiana Politics. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1990.

Sanson, Jerry Purvis. Louisiana during World War II: Politics and Society: 1939–1945. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1999.

Sitterson, J. Carlyle. Sugar Country: The Cane Sugar Industry in the South, 1753–1950. Lexington: University of Kentucky Press. 1953.

Taylor, Joe Gray. Negro Slavery in Louisiana. Baton Rouge: Louisiana Historical Association, 1963.

———. Louisiana Reconstructed, 1863–1877. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1974.

———. Louisiana: A Bicentennial History. New York: Norton, 1976.

Tregle, Joseph G. Louisiana in the Age of Jackson: A Clash of Cultures and Personalities. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1999.

Wall, Bennett H., ed. Louisiana: A History. 4th ed. Wheeling, Ill.: Harlan Davidson, 2002.

Williams, T. Harry. Huey Long. New York: Knopf, 1969.

Winters, John D. The Civil War in Louisiana. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1963.


See alsoBourbons ; New Orleans ; Orleans, Territory of ; Share-the-Wealth Movements ; andvol. 9:Police Regulations of Saint Landry Parish, Louisiana .

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Louisiana (ləwē´zēăn´ə, lōōē´–), state in the S central United States. It is bounded by Mississippi, with the Mississippi River forming about half of the border (E), the Gulf of Mexico (S), Texas (W), and Arkansas (N).

Facts and Figures

Area, 48,523 sq mi (125,675 sq km). Pop. (2010) 4,533,372, a 1.4% increase since the 2000 census. Capital, Baton Rouge. Largest city, New Orleans. Statehood, Apr. 30, 1812 (18th state). Highest pt., Driskill Mt., 535 ft (163 m); lowest pt., New Orleans, 5 ft (2 m) below sea level. Nickname, Pelican State. Motto, Union, Justice and Confidence. State bird, Eastern brown pelican. State flower, magnolia. State tree, cypress. Abbr., La.; LA


A low country on the Gulf coastal plain and the Mississippi alluvial plain, Louisiana rises in uplands near Arkansas only to some 535 ft (163 m). The rainy coast country contains marshes and fertile delta lands; inland are rolling pine hills and prairies. The Mississippi dominates the many waterways, but there are other rivers (e.g., the Red River, the Ouachita, the Atchafalaya, and the Calcasieu) and the coast is threaded by many slow-moving bayous (e.g., the Teche, the Macon, and the Lafourche). There are lagoons such as Lake Ponchartrain, oxbow lakes made by Mississippi River cutoffs, and other lakes where the slow streams are clogged. A variety of recreational facilities makes the state an excellent vacationland; some of its lakes (e.g., Pontchartrain) have been highly developed as resort areas, and there is superb hunting and fishing throughout much of the region.


Louisiana's climate (subtropical in the south and temperate in the north) and rich alluvial soil make the state one of the nation's leading producers of sweet potatoes, rice, and sugarcane. Other major commodities are soybeans, cotton, and dairy products, and strawberries, corn, hay, pecans, and truck vegetables are produced in quantity. Fishing is a major industry; shrimp, menhaden, and oysters are principal catches. Louisiana is a leading fur-trapping state; its marshes (7,409 sq mi/19,189 sq km of the state's area is underwater) supply most of the country's muskrat furs. Pelts are also obtained from mink, nutria, coypus, opossums, otter, and raccoon.

The state has great mineral wealth. It leads the nation in the production of salt and sulfur, and it ranks high in the production of crude petroleum (of which many deposits are offshore), natural gas, and natural-gas liquids. Timber is plentiful; forests cover almost 50% of the land area. The state rapidly industrialized in the 1960s and 70s and has giant oil refineries, petrochemical plants, foundries, and lumber and paper mills. Other industries produce foods, transportation equipment, and electronic equipment. Four of the ten busiest U.S. ports—New Orleans, South Louisiana, Baton Rouge, and Plaquemines—line the lower Mississippi River.

Tourism is increasingly important to the state economy; New Orleans is the major attraction with its history, nightlife, and Old World charm. The largest city in Louisiana, it is especially noted for its picturesque French quarter, which has many celebrated restaurants, and for the Mardi Gras—perhaps the most famous festival in the United States—held annually since 1838.

Baton Rouge is the capital and the second largest city. Other major cities are Shreveport, Lake Charles, Kenner, and Lafayette. Louisiana is rich in tradition and legend. Four different groups have contributed to its unique heritage: the Creoles, descendants of the original Spanish and French colonists; the Cajuns, whose French ancestors were expelled from Acadia (Nova Scotia and New Brunswick) by the British in 1755; the American cotton planters; and the African Americans who worked to create much of Louisiana's wealth and whose music, especially, has swept the world. Along the rivers and bayous overhung with Spanish moss, some old mansions remain, recalling the elegance and splendor of antebellum days. Plantation tours from Baton Rouge and Natchitoches are popular, while the Cajun country west of New Orleans also attracts visitors—most particularly to the area around St. Martinville and Lafayette.

Government, Politics, and Higher Education

Louisiana has had 11 constitutions since it was admitted to the union in 1812. Its present constitution (1975) replaced the constitution of 1921, which had been amended more than 500 times. The state's executive branch is headed by a governor elected for a four-year term and allowed one reelection. Louisiana's bicameral legislature has a senate with 39 members and a house of representatives with 105 members, all elected for four-year terms. Louisiana is the only state to call its counties parishes, a holdover from the Spanish religious divisions. The state elects two senators and six representatives to the U.S. Congress and has eight electoral votes.

Almost solidly Democratic between 1877 and the 1990s, Louisiana has had a more turbulent political climate in recent years; in 1990 former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke made a strong showing as an unsuccessful Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate. In 1987, Edwin E. Edwards was defeated in his reelection bid by a conservative Democrat (who later switched to the Republican party), Buddy Roemer. Before Roemer's conversion, all but one of Louisiana's governors since 1877 had been Democratic. In the 1991 gubernatorial election, Roemer finished behind Edwards and Duke, who faced each other in a runoff, which Edwards won. He retired in 1995 and was succeeded by conservative Republican Mike Foster, who was reelected in 1999. Kathleen Blanco, a conservative Democrat, became the first woman to be elected governor in 2003. Politically damaged by the post-Katrina turmoil she did not run in 2007, and Bobby Jindal, a Republican and the son of Indian immigrants, was elected governor, becoming the first nonwhite to win the post.

Among the state's more prominent institutions of higher learning are Tulane Univ., the Univ. of New Orleans, Dillard Univ., Southern Univ., and Loyola Univ., all at New Orleans; Louisiana State Univ. and Agricultural and Mechanical College, mainly at Baton Rouge; the Univ. of Louisiana at Lafayette; Grambling State Univ., at Grambling; and Louisiana Tech Univ., at Ruston.


Early Louisiana

Louisiana has a long and varied history. The region was possibly visited by Cabeza de Vaca and his fellow survivors of a Spanish expedition of 1528, and it was certainly seen by some of De Soto's men (1541–42). In 1682, La Salle reached the mouth of the Mississippi and claimed for France all of the land drained by that river and its tributaries, naming it Louisiana after Louis XIV. Europeans did not permanently settle there until 1699, when Pierre le Moyne, sieur d'Iberville, founded a settlement near Biloxi. This settlement became the seat of government for Louisiana, an enormous territory embracing the entire Mississippi drainage basin.

In 1702, Iberville's brother, the sieur de Bienville, was appointed governor and moved the territorial government to Fort Louis on the Mobile River. This colony was later moved (1710) to the present site of Mobile (Alabama), and Mobile became the capital of Louisiana. French missionaries and fur traders explored some of the vast territory, and Natchitoches (the oldest settlement within the present boundaries of the state of Louisiana) grew from a French military and trading post established (c.1714) to protect the Red River area from the Spanish.

In order to increase the value of the colony, France granted (1712) a monopoly of commercial privileges, which in 1717 passed to a company organized by John Law. The promise of riches under Law's Mississippi Scheme brought many settlers to Louisiana, and a large number of them remained even after his scheme had collapsed. New Orleans was founded in 1718, and in 1723 the capital was transferred there. Large numbers of Africans were brought in as slaves, and the Code Noir, adopted in 1724, provided for the rigid control of their lives and the protection of the whites.

Spanish Louisiana

The last conflict (1754–63) of the French and Indian Wars was ending disastrously for the French, and in order to keep the entire Louisiana territory from falling into the hands of the British, the French secretly ceded (by the Treaty of Fontainebleau in 1762) the area W of the Mississippi and the "Isle of Orleans" to Spain. By the Treaty of Paris (1763; see Paris, Treaty of), Great Britain gained control of all Louisiana E of the Mississippi except the "Isle of Orleans" ; these changes were announced in 1764.

The French colonists resisted the new Spanish rule, but were subdued and finally Spanish mercantilistic monopoly of trade was instituted. During the Spanish years agriculture flourished with the cultivation of rice and sugarcane, and New Orleans grew as a major port and trading center. The Spanish government welcomed thousands of Acadians (see Acadia), known there as Cajuns, and they settled what came to be known as the Cajun country. During the American Revolution, New Orleans was a center for Spanish aid to the colonies. After Spain declared war on Great Britain in 1779, Louisiana's governor, Bernardo de Gálvez, became an active ally of the revolutionists, capturing Baton Rouge and Natchez (1779), Mobile (1780), and Pensacola (1781).

After the war Louisiana's control of the great inland trade route, the Mississippi, led to heated controversy with the Americans. In the secret Treaty of San Ildefonso (1800), Napoleon I forced the retrocession of the territory to France. Revelation of this treaty caused profound concern in the United States. President Jefferson attempted to purchase the "Isle of Orleans" from France. To the surprise of the American representatives in France, Napoleon decided to sell all of Louisiana to the United States (see Louisiana Purchase).


The United States took possession in 1803, and in 1804 the territory was divided into two parts. The southern part, which was called the Territory of Orleans, was admitted to the Union in 1812 as the state of Louisiana. In 1811 a brief slave uprising upriver from New Orleans was brutally crushed. Settlement (1819) of the West Florida Controversy gave Louisiana the area between the Mississippi and Pearl rivers, which formerly had been part of Florida. After statehood French and Spanish influence remained, not only in the Creole and Cajun societies but also in the civil law (based on French and Spanish codes) and in the division of the state into parishes rather than counties. In the early years of the 19th cent. the diverse people of Louisiana—the French, the Spanish, the Germans, and Isleños brought by Gálvez from the Canary Islands—united behind Andrew Jackson to defeat (1815) the British at the Battle of New Orleans during the War of 1812. (The battle site is contained in Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve; see National Parks and Monuments, table.)

With settlers pouring in from other Southern states, great sugar and cotton plantations developed rapidly in the fertile lowlands, and the less productive uplands were also settled. The state capital was moved several times, finally to Baton Rouge in 1849. The advent of steam propulsion on the Mississippi (the first steamboat to navigate the river arrived in New Orleans in 1812) was a boon to the state's economy; by 1840, New Orleans was the nation's second largest port. Plantation owners, with their large landholdings and many slaves (more than half the population) dominated politics and largely controlled the state.

The Civil War and Its Aftermath

On Jan. 26, 1861, Louisiana seceded from the Union and six weeks later joined the Confederacy. The fall of New Orleans to David G. Farragut in 1862 prefaced the detested military occupation under Gen. B. F. Butler. Occupied Louisiana was a proving ground for Lincoln's moderate restoration program, but after Lincoln's assassination radical Republicans seized control and Louisiana suffered greatly during Reconstruction. The Ku Klux Klan was particularly active from 1866 to 1871. In the election of 1872 the radical Republican candidate for governor lost but was installed with the help of federal troops. Reconstruction in Louisiana finally ended with the disputed presidential election of 1876, when Louisiana's electoral votes were "traded" to the Republicans (whose candidate was Rutherford B. Hayes) in exchange for the withdrawal of federal troops from the state. Francis R. T. Nicholls, a Democrat, became governor of Louisiana, and white control of the state was reestablished.

Economic recovery was slow. The disrupted plantation system was largely replaced by farm tenancy and sharecropping. The decline of steamboat traffic was offset somewhat by new railroad building and the opening of the Mississippi River for oceangoing vessels from New Orleans to the sea (a feat accomplished by James B. Eads). Mississippi floods constituted a serious problem, and levee building increased after the flood of 1882; it was only after the disastrous flood of 1927, however, that the federal government undertook a vast control system. The water resources development program encompasses flood control, navigation, drainage, and irrigation.

The pattern of Louisiana's economy was changed by the discovery of oil and natural gas in the early 1900s, and industries began to grow on the basis of cheap fuel and cheap labor. Medical advances helped to curb the yellow-fever epidemics that had periodically disrupted the state.

Huey Long and His Legacy

Industrial growth and the continuing woes of the tenant farmers did not alter control of the state by "Bourbon" Democrats, but in 1928 a virtual revolution occurred when Huey P. Long was elected governor. His almost dictatorial rule, detested by liberals across the nation, brought material progress at the cost of widespread official corruption. Long withstood all outside pressures, including the opposition of President F. D. Roosevelt's administration. After his assassination in 1935 (he had resigned the governorship in 1931 to become a U.S. Senator but had retained control over the state), his political heirs made their peace with the New Deal, and federal funds, withheld during Long's last years, poured into the state.

In 1948, Huey's brother, Earl Long, invoking the memory of his dead brother (still regarded by many as a savior and a martyr), gained the governorship. In addition, Huey's son Russell was elected to the U.S. Senate and served for 38 years until he retired in 1986. In 1956, Earl Long was again elected governor, but his second term was marked by scandal and controversy.

Civil Rights, Disasters, and Diversification

About one third of Louisianans are African American, and their struggle for civil rights has been long and bitter. The move toward integration following the 1954 Supreme Court ruling against racial segregation in public schools was difficult, and continuing resistance to social change is reflected in the careers of David Duke and others.

Hurricanes and flooding are recurrent dangers for the state. In 1965, Hurricane Betsy killed 74 and caused property damage in excess of $1 billion. In 1969, Hurricane Camille was even more destructive, ravaging Louisiana and neighboring states and killing 256 people. In Apr., 1973, the Mississippi River rose to its highest level recorded in Louisiana and, with its tributaries, flooded more than 10% of the state.

Louisiana enjoyed an oil boom in the early 1980s but then suffered following the 1986 collapse of oil prices. The state's unemployment rate rose to the highest in the nation, and economic distress grew. The slump placed a great burden on the tourist industry and led to increased efforts to diversify the economy. The state's recent environmental woes have largely arisen from the fact that natural erosion, oil exploitation, and river control projects have severely degraded its freshwater marshlands, especially in the delta of the Mississippi.

In 2005 Hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated parts of the state, especially around New Orleans and along the Gulf Coast; as a result, it was estimated that some 240,000 people subsequently left Louisiana, largely from New Orleans, and the state and the city have only gradually regained those losses. A blowout of a deep offshore oil well in 2010 led to the largest oil spill in U.S. history and polluted portions of the state's E Gulf Coast, in most cases affecting areas that had been hit hard by Katrina.


Louisiana's distinctive life and customs have been portrayed in the works of G. W. Cable, L. Hearn, C. E. A. Gayarré, and G. King. See also J. D. Winters, The Civil War in Louisiana (1963); S. H. Lockett, Louisiana As It Is (1969); P. H. Howard, Political Tendencies in Louisiana (1971); P. Lewis, New Orleans (1976); C. E. O'Neill, Louisiana: A History (1984); E. A. Davis, Louisiana (1985); C. Word, Ghosts Along the Bayou (1988); F. B. Kniffen and S. B. Hilliard, Louisiana: Its Land and People (1988).

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Baton Rouge . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 277

New Orleans . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 289

The State in Brief

Nickname: Pelican State

Motto: Union, justice, and confidence

Flower: Magnolia

Bird: Eastern brown pelican

Area: 51,839.7 square miles (2000; U.S. rank: 31st)

Elevation: Ranges from eight feet below sea level to 535 feet above sea level

Climate: Subtropical and humid, with long, hot summers and short, mild winters

Admitted to Union: April 30, 1812

Capital: Baton Rouge

Head Official: Governor Kathleen Blanco (D) (until 2008)


1980: 4,206,000

1990: 4,220,164

2000: 4,468,976

2004 estimate: 4,515,770

Percent change, 19902000: 5.9%

U.S. rank in 2004: 24th

Percent of residents born in state: 79.4% (2000)

Density: 102.6 people per square mile (2000)

2002 FBI Crime Index Total: 228,528

Racial and Ethnic Characteristics (2000)

White: 2,856,161

Black or African American: 1,451,944

American Indian and Alaska Native: 25,477

Asian: 54,758

Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander: 1,240

Hispanic or Latino (may be of any race): 107,738

Other: 31,131

Age Characteristics (2000)

Population under 5 years old: 317,392

Population 5 to 19 years old: 1,050,637

Percent of population 65 years and over: 11.6%

Median age: 34 years (2000)

Vital statistics

Total number of births (2003): 65,020

Total number of deaths (2003): 42,676 (infant deaths,596)

AIDS cases reported through 2003: 7,592


Major industries: Chemicals, construction, mining, transportation equipment, trade, government, manufacturing

Unemployment rate: 5.5% (December 2004)

Per capita income: $26,048 (2003; U.S. rank: 44th)

Median household income: $34,307 (3-year average,2001-2003)

Percentage of persons below poverty level: 16.9% (3-year average, 2001-2003)

Income tax rate: Ranges from 2.0% to 6.0%

Sales tax rate: 4.0% (food sales exempt)

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Louisiana State on the Gulf of Mexico, s central USA; the capital is Baton Rouge. In 1699 the French colony of Louisiana was founded. It was later ceded to Spain but regained by France in 1800. In the Louisiana Purchase (1803) Napoleon sold the state to the USA. In 1861, it joined the Confederacy, being readmitted to the Union in 1868. The discovery of oil and natural gas in the early 20th century provided a great boost to the economy. Racial discrimination left the large African-American community (32% of the population) politically powerless until the 1960s. Louisiana consists of two main regions: the Mississippi alluvial plain and the Gulf coastal plain. The Mississippi Delta in the se covers c.33,700sq km (13,000sq mi), about 25% of the state's total area. The tidal shoreline is 12,426km (7721mi) long. Nearly 15% of the state is marshland. North of the marshes, prairies stretch to the Texas border. Almost half the state is forested. Louisiana has a subtropical climate. Low-lying land and heavy rainfall make it prone to flooding. It is a leading producer of soya beans, sweet potatoes, rice, and sugar cane. Fishing is a major industry, particularly shrimps and crayfish. Louisiana is second only to Texas in US mineral production. Petroleum and coal account for more than 95% of mining income. Area: 125,674sq km (48,523sq mi). Pop. (2000) 4,468,976.

Statehood :

April 30, 1812

Nickname :

Pelican State

State bird :

Brown pelican

State flower :


State tree :

Bald cypress

State motto :

Union, Justice and Confidence

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Natural resources and farming hold a significant place in Louisiana's economic history. However, the cultural spice of New Orleans has added to the state's economic base by setting the city apart from any other cities in the world and, over the years, making it a unique tourist attraction.

Indians were the first known inhabitants within Louisiana, living in small pockets. Spanish and French explorers navigated the Gulf of Mexico even before Robert Cavelier, Sieur de la Salle named the land at the mouth of the Mississippi River Louisiana. He did so in honor of King Louis XIV, claiming the land for France in 1682. In the 1700s the French began developing settlements in Louisiana and in 1722 New Orleans was established as Louisiana's capital. These early French settlers started tobacco and indigo farms and brought in slaves from Africa and the West Indies to work them.

Louisiana was not particularly prosperous under French rule, however French culture did take hold. In 1762 France ceded Louisiana to Spain during the French and Indian War (17541763). The area fared very well under Spanish rule as American settlers and immigrants from Spain and the Canary Islands relocated to the area. The Spaniards also brought black slaves, but there were also many "free people of color" in Louisiana. However the largest number of immigrants were French-speaking Acadian refugees from Nova Scotia who were driven from their homes by the British during the war with France. Their descendants are now known as Cajun. The mixture of these early Spanish, French, and black cultures became the unique and colorful Louisiana of today.

In 1800 Napoleon Bonaparte forced Spain to return Louisiana to France. Three years later Napoleon sold Louisiana to the United States for $15 million. President Thomas Jefferson's (18011809) real estate deal doubled the size of the United States with a cash outlay of about 3 cents per acre.

In the early 1800s Louisiana saw an influx of immigrants from surrounding southern states. On April 30, 1812, Congress approved Louisiana's bid for state-hood. Between 1815 and 1861 Louisiana's sugar and cotton production made it one of the most prosperous states in the south. The state was also an important location on the inland north and south water route. Steamboats traveling the Mississippi River transported goods such as cotton, grain, and sugarcane to New Orleans, where it was trans-shipped on ocean-going vessels. This assured the city's commercial and strategic importance.

Wealthy planters in Louisiana depended on slave labor. In 1860 there were more than 330,000 black slaves, nearly half of Louisiana's total population. At that time the north no longer allowed slavery and when Abraham Lincoln (18611865) became president of the United States in 1861, southerners feared he would outlaw slavery in the south as well. The planters in Louisiana held the majority of economic and political power. Their influence led the state to secede from the union with ten other states and form a separate country called the Confederate States of America, thus beginning the American Civil War (18601865). In 1865 the South surrendered having suffered disastrous losses; the war ended, and all slaves were freed. When the Civil War was over, however, opportunities for freed blacks were limited, and former slaves returned as laborers to sugar plantations and cotton fields, which they farmed "for shares," (they rented the land and paid in shares of the crop) along with poor whites.

In the 1880s irrigation systems allowed farmers to plant rice, and midwestern farmers migrated to southwestern Louisiana to become rice farmers. In the meantime, lumber and flour mills were started; oil and natural gas were discovered; and railroads were built.

However, in 1898 a new constitution was drawn up that took voting rights away from blacks as well as many poor whites. Large landowners, businessmen, and politicians controlled the government and resisted social reform, which meant that the small farmers and the urban working class, both white and black, did not share in the general prosperity.

In the late 1920s the Great Depression (19291939) caused banks and factories to close around the country and many people lost their jobs. When Huey Long was elected governor of Louisiana in 1928 he based his campaign on the problems in the economy and the growing inequality between the state's citizens. He also campaigned against the Standard Oil Company's high-handed dealings. Although he did not really challenge the racial segregation of the South, he did talk more about class than about race, and he advocated social and economic reforms, such as some improvements in education and health care, for African Americans. Huey Long was an ambitious, talented, and very popular politician who initially supported Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal program of governmental aid to victims of the Depression. However, he turned against Roosevelt and would probably have split the Democratic vote in the 1936 election had he not been assassinated in 1935.

The state's economy gradually pulled out of the Depression with the development of offshore drilling, reforesting, and soybean farming. Many residents were put to work building roads and bridges. Louisiana became one of the world's leading petrochemical manufacturing centers with oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. After World War II (19391945) started, additional jobs were created as ships were built for the Navy in New Orleans.

In the 1970s much of the revenue from the high oil prices was put to work to improve the state's schools and highways. But in the mid-1980s world oil prices dropped, which hurt Louisiana's economy. Energy-related industries, such as machinery manufacturing, also suffered. In 1986 unemployment in the state, especially for women, was the highest in the nation at 13 percent. In the 1990s Louisiana had more people living in poverty than any other state.

In 1992 Louisiana tried to revitalize its economy by legalizing riverboat and casino gambling. This effort created thousands of jobs and also helped attract more than 20 million tourists annually. In the 1990s the service industry was the leading employer. While chemicals were the leading product in Louisiana in 1995, others, such as fertilizer, soap, paint, plastic, ships, airplanes, paper, and praline candy, were also growing. At the same time crops grown in Louisiana included soybeans, rice, cotton, sugarcane, and sweet potatoes. Shipping and transportation was also significant because the Port of South Louisiana, the busiest port in the United States in 1995, handled nearly 400 billion pounds of cargo annually.

While the average household income in 1997 was $34,400, the distribution of that income was skewed. In 1995 nearly 20 percent of Louisiana residents were below the federal poverty level, while eight percent had a disposable income greater than $75,000, including 1.7 percent whose disposable incomes were greater than $125,000.

See also: Huey Long, New Orleans, Plantations, Petroleum Industry, Sharecropping


Davis, Edwin A. Louisiana, the Pelican State. Baton Rouge, LA: State University Press, 1975.

Dryer, Edward, Lyle Saxon, and Robert Tallant. Gumbo Ya-Ya. New York: Crown Publishers, Inc, 1984.

Thompson, Kathleen. In "Louisiana." Portrait of America. Austin, TX: Steck-Vaughn Publishers, 1996.

Wall, Bennett H. Louisiana, A History. Arlington Heights, IL: Forum Press, 1990.

Worldmark Encyclopedia of the States. Detroit, MI: Gale Research, 1998, s.v. "Louisiana."

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