Tremé was the largest and most prosperous community of free people of color in America that was founded in 1810.
African American master craftsmen of the building trades greatly influenced the design and aesthetics of the ironwork, plastering, specialty carpentry, and brick and stone masonry that make the world-renowned architecture of New Orleans so unique.
The cradle of New Orleans African American culture is Congo Square where enslaved people were allowed to congregate on Sundays during antebellum times and preserve their African music, dance, and food traditions.
Cultural innovations of Tremé include the birth of jazz, social aid and pleasure clubs, Mardi Gras Indians, brass bands with second line parading, and distinctive forms of African American Christianity, both Roman Catholic and Protestant.
New Orleans was a French and Spanish city before it was incorporated into the United States as part of the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. Latin and urban attitudes towards slavery tended to be more relaxed than in the plantation South; slaves were allowed to walk freely through the city, to work for themselves and hence often to buy their freedom. New Orleans had the largest number of free people of color in the South, a dangerous anomaly in a slave society.
As the city outgrew its walls, a new district, Faubourg (suburb in French) Treme was constructed, a mixed neighborhood, a majority of whose residents were free people of color. The district developed its own institutions, for example, St. Augustine’s Church, the oldest predominantly black Catholic parish in the country. The district grew up around Congo Square where African American commerce flourished and a unique Creole culture emerged. Even today when Treme’s children go ‘second lining’ behind one of the city’s storied brass bands, their dances immediately reveal their African origins.