When Judge Ernest N. "Dutch" Modal was elected "the first black mayor" of this South Coast city November 13,1977, political observers all around the country sat up to take notice.

New Orleans is the nation's fourth blackest city (relative to percent of total population), and the largest and most powerful city in the third blackest state in the country. When he took over the reins of the nation's second largest port — the Southern terminus of the mid continent grain export/oil import traffic carried by the Mississippi River — Dutch Morial became perhaps the country's most powerful elected black official.

The true significance of Morial's November victory can really be understood only in the context of the history of Afro-American involvement in the city's political and cultural life. African slaves were first imported into the state of Louisiana, then a French

colony, after Indian slavery was abolished in 1719. By 1724, colonial administrators had finished compiling the Code Noir, a document outlining the mutual rights and obligations of Louisiana's masters and slaves. By Bill Rushton's first book, on the French speaking Cajuns of South Louisiana, will be issued this fall by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. comparison to conditions in Anglo- American colonial areas, the results of the Code Noir were relatively progressive. All slaves were required to be baptized in the Catholic Church, establishing common cultural ties between blacks and whites in Louisiana that were closer than those anywhere else in the South — ties that were preserved through the Civil War until separate, black Catholic parishes began to be formed with the consent of the Archbishop of New Orleans in 1897. Colonial-era slaves were permitted to retain a good many of their own cultural traditions as well, and in New Orleans they were allowed Sunday afternoons off to gather in what was then called Congo Square to dance the bamboula to their own music, forming a unique milieu which helps explain why jazz originated here rather than in, say, Savannah or Charleston. 

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