Louisiana Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

One of the most culturally diverse of all American states, Louisiana is well known for its French colonial heritage, which has remained evident in the southern parts of the state, especially in New Orleans. However, immigrants from many other countries have also contributed to the state’s rich heritage, and the northern part of the state is noted for its Scotch-Irish heritage.

Located at the mouth of the Mississippi River, which would become a major trade and transportation route into the heartland of the United States, Louisiana originated as a French immigrants;Louisianacolony of France. In 1699, Iberville, Pierre le Moyne, Sieur d’Pierre le Moyne, Sieur d’Iberville, and his brother, Bienville, Jean Baptiste, Sieur deJean Baptiste, Sieur de Bienville, built Fort Maurepas, near the mouth of the Mississippi River, and brought in Canadian settlers to develop a colony. However, the place proved to be so unhealthy that it had to be abandoned. In 1717, Bienville began to developed another post at what would eventually become the city of New Orleans.LouisianaLouisiana[cat]STATES;Louisiana[03300]

At first, the French government forced convicts, vagrants, and prostitutes to go to Louisiana, but many of these people were too unhealthy, too unwilling to work, or too unfamiliar with agriculture to make satisfactory colonists. The government then tried offering generous grants, but the French farmers they hoped would go to Louisiana would not French immigrants;Louisianaemigrate. However, so many German immigrants;LouisianaGerman and Swiss immigrants;LouisianaSwiss peasants were willing to seize this opportunity that an area along the Mississippi River north of New Orleans became known as the German Coast. The name survived, even though the descendants of these immigrants adopted French culture and made French their language.

During the early years of French colonization, Native American tribes often attacked new settlements. Eventually, however, tribal infighting and European diseases reduced their numbers until they were no match for the superior military strength of the invaders. Nevertheless, some communities of the Houma, Koasati (Coushatta), Choctaw, and Apalachee peoples still survived in Louisiana in the early twenty-first century.

After Spain acquired Louisiana in 1762, new land grant policies attracted large numbers of European immigrants to the colony, but few of them were from Spain. Thousands were French-speaking Acadian immigrantsAcadians who had been driven out of Nova Scotia. Some of these people, who became known in Louisiana as CajunsCajuns, have maintained their distinctive language and customs.

U.S. Occupation

The United States purchased the vast Louisiana Territory from France in 1803, and the state of Louisiana entered the union shortly afterward. These developments attracted more Anglo-American settlers. Many immigrants with Scotch-Irish immigrants[Scotch Irish immigrants];LouisianaScotch-Irish backgrounds became small farmers in the northern part of the state, while those whose ancestries were Scottish and English became merchants and planters in the south. Development of the state’s agricultural plantation system began the importation of slaves from Africa and the West Indies. However, since the period of French rule, there had always been free blacks in Louisiana; most of them lived in New Orleans.

During the 1840’s and 1850’s, many Irish immigrants;LouisianaIrish and German immigrants;LouisianaGerman immigrants came to Louisiana to work as manual laborers. Later in the nineteenth century, Americans from midwestern states relocated to Cajun Louisiana to raise rice and to work on the railroads; many of them were quickly absorbed into the CajunsCajun way of life. However, the Croatian immigrantsCroatians who established the oyster industry in Plaquemines Parish retained their distinct identity, as did Italian immigrants;LouisianaItalians, primarily from Sicily, who would begin immigrating into Louisiana during the early twentieth century.

During the mid-twentieth century, thousands Honduran immigrants;Louisianaof Honduran immigrants from all levels of society arrived in New Orleans. Some came to acquire convent educations, others to work in casinos and restaurants. During the 1970’s, Vietnamese immigrants;LouisianaVietnamese immigrants began settling in the coastal areas, where they worked in the fishing industry, and in New Orleans, where they opened small businesses. Louisiana also became home to immigrants from India, China, and the Philippines. Meanwhile, increasing numbers of Latin Americans were moving into the state. By 2006, almost one-half of all foreign-born residents in Louisiana were Hispanic. About 17 percent of these immigrants had been born in Mexican immigrants;LouisianaMexico. One reason for the influx of Mexicans into the state was that after hurricane Katrina, there were good jobs in the construction industry. Since many of these workers were undocumented, it was unclear how many would remain in the state permanently.Louisiana

Further Reading
  • Brasseaux, Carl A. French, Cajun, Creole, Houma: A Primer on Francophone Louisiana. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2005.
  • Garvey, Joan B., and Mary Lou Widmer. Beautiful Crescent: A History of New Orleans. Rev. ed. New Orleans: Garmer Press, 1997.
  • Lowe, John, ed. Louisiana Culture from the Colonial Era to Katrina. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2008.
  • Taylor, Joe Gray. Louisiana: A History. New York: W. W. Norton, 1984.

African Americans and immigrants


Disaster recovery work

French immigrants

German immigrants

Honduran immigrants

Irish immigrants

Italian immigrants

Linguistic contributions


Mississippi River

Vietnamese immigrants

Categories: History