Asterisk denotes entries on real places.
*New Orleans. Louisiana’s largest city, in which the African musical heritage of the region’s former slaves has developed into what becomes known as Dixieland jazz, a uniquely American form based upon the melodic lines and tempos of African American funeral processions and parades. New Orleans is the principal setting of Mumbo Jumbo and an important venue throughout Ishmael Reed’s fiction, poetry, and essays. Reed is concerned with the African American tradition of the supernatural known as “HooDoo,” and New Orleans is its home. There, what appears to white people to be the devil’s work is in effect something else. There and elsewhere HooDoo steps aside a white, Anglo-Saxon, Christian tradition and looks to a different set of deities predating Christianity, extending back at least as far as the African god Osiris and the Atonists. With its wellsprings in New Orleans, HooDoo is a movement that recognizes that America is on a path that will turn it into a spiritual wasteland, and the movement means to turn that around.
*Washington, D.C. As the capital of the United States of America, Washington is virtually synonymous with the federal government. The land on which it is built was initially ground held sacred by local Native Americans. Building the young nation’s capital was an undertaking of gargantuan proportions that needed cheap labor. One advantage of its location is that it was set between Maryland and Virginia–states with large numbers of slaves. Thus, Washington has at its historical heart the dominance of powerful white men over people of color. Reed picks up on this in Mumbo Jumbo, which associates the city with Reed’s version of the military-industrial complex and the Neo-Atonists, the Bokors. These forces can only remain in power if they can destroy the sacred text of HooDoo, thereby limiting its spread to the masses. The competition to control the sacred text drives the novel’s complex plot.