Treme On A Sunday Morning Before the Second-Line

Before Treme was a TV show, Treme was a neighborhood, named for Claude Treme, the owner of the plantation back of New Orleans’ ramparts, which were located on Rampart Street, of course. Treme decided to subdivide his holdings into a faubourg (or suburb), so he planned streets and platted lots. As he named the streets, he conferred sainthood upon himself, naming one of the streets Saint Claude Avenue, which it remains today. This Faubourg Treme soon became a community primarily of what were termed “free people of color.” Many of them were artisans, skilled craftsmen, professionals, writers, poets and musicians. Treme has been called “the oldest Black neighborhood in America.” Prior to Hurricane Katrina, the community had a vibrant cultural life of neighborhood clubs, brass bands, Black Indians and second-lines. The storm damaged buildings and displaced residents, but worse, it has opened the door to a creeping gentrification that threatens the African-American cultural practices that have long been a tradition in Treme. While the TV show and increased tourism (both the Backstreet Cultural Museum and the African American History Museum are located in the neighborhood) have brought welcome awareness of Treme and its legacy, only time will tell if the community’s traditions can be preserved.

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