Mardi Gras Indians room at the Backstreet Cultural Museum


Mardi Gras Indians room at the Backstreet Cultural Museum
Memorialization of Urban Slavery in Southern Coastal Cities


slavery; memorials


The Backstreet Cultural Museum, located in the Treme, is dedicated to preserving New Orleans' African American community-based masking and processional traditions. These include Mardi Gras Indians, jazz funerals, and social aid and pleasure clubs. Founder Sylvester Francis opened the Backstreet's doors in 1999, and was himself a member of the Gentlemen of Leisure Social Aid & Pleasure Club.
This project was funded by Bernard and Anne Spitzer Travel Fellowship for research projects involving travel abroad and incorporating the study of architecture, landscape architecture, or urbanism.
My goal was to research, witness, and record how each of my chosen Southern port cities has dealt with its past in regards to urban slavery, and to begin making a record of this history. Although all of the locations I visited were major hubs of the American slave trade, these cities remain mostly lacking in admitting their full and complete history. The inaccurate and incomplete narratives, lack of memorials, and white-washed histories designed to appeal to the tourist industry do not tell the stories of the slaves in an unbiased and forthright way. So much of what I witnessed revolved around a very racially divided tourist industry, but I know that change is possible. The story of urban slavery is not just the story of African Americans in the United States, but the story of all of us, and the more we can understand this, the better off we all will be.


Whang, Maura


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Whang, Maura


Architecture and City Planning




New Orleans, LA




Whang, Maura, “Mardi Gras Indians room at the Backstreet Cultural Museum,” Spitzer School of Architecture, accessed December 9, 2023,

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