|State of Louisiana
État de Louisiane (French)
|Nickname(s): Bayou State • Child of the Mississippi
Creole State • Pelican State (official)
Sportsman's Paradise • Sugar State • The Boot
|Motto(s): Union, Justice, Confidence|
|Official language||No official language|
As of 2007
|Largest city||New Orleans|
|Largest metro||Greater New Orleans|
|- Total||50,000 sq mi
|- Width||130 miles (210 km)|
|- Length||379 miles (610 km)|
|- % water||15|
|- Latitude||28° 56′ N to 33° 01′ N|
|- Longitude||88° 49′ W to 94° 03′ W|
|Number of people||Ranked 25th|
|- Total||4,681,666 (2015 est)|
|- Density||93.6/sq mi (34.6/km2)
|- Average income||$45,992 (45th)|
|Height above sea level|
|- Highest point||Driskill Mountain
535 ft (163 m)
|- Average||100 ft (30 m)|
|- Lowest point||New Orleans
−8 ft (−2.5 m)
|Became part of the U.S.||April 30, 1812 (18th)|
|Governor||John Bel Edwards (D)|
|Time zone||Central: UTC −6/−5|
|Abbreviations||LA, La. US-LA|
|Louisiana state symbols|
|Dog breed||Catahoula Leopard Dog|
|Motto||Union, Justice, Confidence|
|Song||"Give Me Louisiana"
"You Are My Sunshine"
"State March Song"
"Gifts of the Earth"
|State route marker|
Released in 2002
|Lists of United States state symbols|
Louisiana is a state in the Southern United States of America. It had a population of about 4,533,372 people in 2010. The state has a total area of about 51,885 sq mi (134,382 km2). Louisiana is the 25th largest state by population and the 31th largest state by area. Louisiana is also known by its nickname, The Pelican State. The land that would become Louisiana was bought in the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. Louisiana became a state on April 30, 1812. It was the 18th state to become part of the United States. The people who live in the state are known as Louisianans. The state's capital is Baton Rouge, and its largest city is New Orleans.
Louisiana has coastal plains, marshs, and low ridges. All of the state is in the Sun Belt. Louisiana is in a sub tropical region, and has a diverse ecosystem. The climate of Louisiana Louisiana has a humid subtropical climate (Köppen climate classification Cfa). It has long, hot, humid summers and short, mild winters.
One third of the adults in Louisiana are obese. This is the highest rate in the United States.
Louisiana was settled by France and the influence of French culture is still a big part of Louisiana today. The French Quarter in New Orleans is one of the best known attractions in the state. It is known today for its special culture, unique food, as well as the holiday Mardi Gras which is most famous in New Orleans.
Louisiana was very badly damaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Much of the New Orleans area lies below sea level making flooding a serious problem.
- Protected areas
- Images for kids
Louisiana was named after Louis XIV, King of France from 1643 to 1715.
The Gulf of Mexico did not exist 250 million years ago when there was but one supercontinent, Pangea. As Pangea split apart, the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico opened. Louisiana slowly developed, over millions of years, from water into land, and from north to south. The oldest rocks are exposed in the north, in areas such as the Kisatchie National Forest. The oldest rocks date back to the early Tertiary Era, some 60 million years ago. The history of the formation of these rocks can be found in D. Spearing's Roadside Geology of Louisiana.
The youngest parts of the state were formed during the last 7,500 years as successive deltas of the Mississippi River: the Maringouin, Teche, St. Bernard, Lafourche, the modern Mississippi, and now the Atchafalaya. The sediments were carried from north to south by the Mississippi River.
In between the Tertiary rocks of the north, and the relatively new sediments along the coast, is a vast belt known as the Pleistocene Terraces. Their age and distribution can be largely related to the rise and fall of sea levels during past ice ages. In general, the northern terraces have had sufficient time for rivers to cut deep channels, while the newer terraces tend to be much flatter.
Salt domes are also found in Louisiana. Their origin can be traced back to the early Gulf of Mexico, when the shallow ocean had high rates of evaporation. There are several hundred salt domes in the state; one of the most familiar is Avery Island. Salt domes are important not only as a source of salt; they also serve as underground traps for oil and gas.
Louisiana is bordered to the west by Texas; to the north by Arkansas; to the east by the state of Mississippi; and to the south by the Gulf of Mexico. The surface of the state may properly be divided into two parts, the uplands of the north, and the alluvial along the coast.
The alluvial region includes low swamp lands, coastal marshlands and beaches, and barrier islands that cover about 20,000 square miles (52,000 km2). This area lies principally along the Gulf of Mexico and the Mississippi River, which traverses the state from north to south for a distance of about 600 miles (1,000 km) and empties into the Gulf of Mexico; the Red River; the Ouachita River and its branches; and other minor streams (some of which are called bayous).
The breadth of the alluvial region along the Mississippi is from 10 to 60 miles (15 to 100 km), and along the other rivers, the alluvial region averages about 10 miles (15 km) across. The Mississippi River flows along a ridge formed by its own natural deposits (known as a levee), from which the lands decline toward a river beyond at an average fall of six feet per mile (3 m/km). The alluvial lands along other streams present similar features.
The higher and contiguous hill lands of the north and northwestern part of the state have an area of more than 25,000 square miles (65,000 km2). They consist of prairie and woodlands. The elevations above sea level range from 10 feet (3 m) at the coast and swamp lands to 50 and 60 feet (15–18 m) at the prairie and alluvial lands. In the uplands and hills, the elevations rise to Driskill Mountain, the highest point in the state at only 535 feet (163 m) above sea level.
Besides the waterways already named, there are the Sabine, forming the western boundary; and the Pearl, the eastern boundary; the Calcasieu (//), the Mermentau, the Vermilion, Bayou Teche, the Atchafalaya (//), the Boeuf (//), Bayou Lafourche, the Courtableau River, Bayou D'Arbonne, the Macon River, the Tensas (//), Amite River, the Tchefuncte (//), the Tickfaw, the Natalbany River, and a number of other smaller streams, constituting a natural system of navigable waterways, aggregating over 4,000 miles (6,400 km) long.
The southern coast of Louisiana in the United States is among the fastest-disappearing areas in the world. This has largely resulted from human mismanagement of the coast (see Wetlands of Louisiana). At one time, the land was added to when spring floods from the Mississippi River added sediment and stimulated marsh growth; the land is now shrinking.
Louisiana has a humid subtropical climate (Köppen climate classification Cfa). It has long, hot, humid summers and short, mild winters. The subtropical characteristics of the state are due in large part to the influence of the Gulf of Mexico, which at its farthest point is no more than 200 miles (320 km) away.
Rain is frequent throughout the year, although the summer is slightly wetter than the rest of the year.
In the summer, the extreme maximum temperature is much warmer in the north than in the south, with temperatures near the Gulf of Mexico occasionally reaching 100 °F (38 °C), although temperatures above 95 °F (35 °C) are commonplace. In northern Louisiana, the temperatures reach above 105 °F (41 °C) in the summer.
Temperatures are generally mildly warm in the winter in the southern part of the state. The northern part of the state is mildly cool in the winter.
Louisiana is often affected by tropical cyclones and is very vulnerable to strikes by major hurricanes, particularly the lowlands around and in the New Orleans area. The unique geography of the region, with the many bayous, marshes and inlets, can result in water damage across a wide area from major hurricanes. The area is also prone to frequent thunderstorms, especially in the summer.
The entire state averages over 60 days of thunderstorms a year, more than any other state except Florida.
Louisiana averages 27 tornadoes annually. The entire state is vulnerable to a tornado strike, with the extreme southern portion of the state slightly less so than the rest of the state. Tornadoes are more common from January to March in the southern part of the state, and from February through March in the northern part of the state.
Owing to its location and geology, the state has high biological diversity. Some vital areas, such as southwestern prairie, have experienced a loss in excess of 98 percent. The pine flatwoods are also at great risk, mostly from fire suppression and urban sprawl. There is not yet a properly organized system of natural areas to represent and protect Louisiana's biological diversity. Such a system would consist of a protected system of core areas linked by biological corridors, such as Florida is planning.
Louisiana contains a number of areas which are, in varying degrees, protected from human intervention.
One of Louisiana's largest natural areas is Kisatchie National Forest. It is some 600,000 acres in area, more than half of which is vital flatwoods vegetation, which supports many rare plant and animal species. These include the Louisiana pine snake and Red-cockaded woodpecker. The system of protected cypress swamps around Lake Pontchartrain provides another large and important natural area, with southern wetland species including egrets, alligators, and sturgeon.
Natural and Scenic Rivers
The Louisiana Natural and Scenic Rivers System provides a degree of protection for 51 rivers, streams and bayous in the state. It is administered by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.
Apart from highways and airports Louisiana has an Intracoastal Waterway which is an important means of transporting commercial goods such as petroleum and petroleum products, agricultural produce, building materials and manufactured goods.
Louisiana was inhabited by Native Americans for many millennia before the arrival of Europeans in the 16th century. During the Middle Archaic period, Louisiana was the site of the earliest mound complex in North America and one of the earliest dated, complex constructions in the Americas, the Watson Brake site near present-day Monroe. An 11-mound complex, it was built about 5400 BP (3500 BCE). The Middle Archaic sites of Caney and Frenchman's Bend have also been securely dated to 5600–5000 BP, demonstrating that seasonal hunter-gatherers organized to build complex constructions in present-day northern Louisiana. The Hedgepeth Site in Lincoln Parish is more recent, dated to 5200–4500 BP.
Many current place names in the state, including Atchafalaya, Natchitouches (now spelled Natchitoches), Caddo, Houma, Tangipahoa, and Avoyel (as Avoyelles), are transliterations of those used in various Native American languages.
Exploration and colonization by Europeans
The first European explorers to visit Louisiana came in 1528 when a Spanish expedition led by Panfilo de Narváez located the mouth of the Mississippi River. In 1542, Hernando de Soto's expedition skirted to the north and west of the state (encountering Caddo and Tunica groups) and then followed the Mississippi River down to the Gulf of Mexico in 1543. Spanish interest in Louisiana then faded away for a century and a half.
In the late 17th century, French and French Canadian expeditions, which included sovereign, religious and commercial aims, established a foothold on the Mississippi River and Gulf Coast. With its first settlements, France laid claim to a vast region of North America and set out to establish a commercial empire and French nation stretching from the Gulf of Mexico to Canada.
In 1682, the French explorer Robert Cavelier de La Salle named the region Louisiana to honor France's King Louis XIV.
Louisiana's French settlements contributed to further exploration and outposts, concentrated along the banks of the Mississippi and its major tributaries, from Louisiana to as far north as the region called the Illinois Country, around present-day St. Louis, Missouri.
In the 1720s, German immigrants settled along the Mississippi River, in a region referred to as the German Coast.
France ceded most of its territory to the east of the Mississippi to Great Britain in 1763, in the aftermath of Britain's victory in the Seven Years' War.
Bienville brought the first two African slaves to Louisiana in 1708, transporting them from a French colony in the West Indies.
Starting in 1719, traders began to import slaves in higher numbers; two French ships, the Du Maine and the Aurore, arrived in New Orleans carrying more than 500 black slaves coming from Africa. Previous slaves in Louisiana had been transported from French colonies in the West Indies. By the end of 1721, New Orleans counted 1256 inhabitants, of which about half were slaves.
When the United States purchased Louisiana in 1803, it was soon accepted that enslaved Africans could be brought to Louisiana as easily as they were brought to neighboring Mississippi, though it violated U.S. law to do so.
The United States adapted Louisiana law by adding parts of US or southern state laws. The Louisiana Black Code of 1806 made the cruel punishment of slaves a crime, but masters and overseers were seldom prosecuted for such acts.
Purchase by the United States (1803)
Napoleon's ambitions in Louisiana involved the creation of a new empire centered on the Caribbean sugar trade. By the terms of the Treaty of Amiens of 1802, Great Britain returned ownership of the islands of Martinique and Guadaloupe to the French.
When the army led by Napoleon's brother-in-law Leclerc was defeated, Napoleon decided to sell Louisiana.
Thomas Jefferson authorized Robert R. Livingston, U.S. Minister to France, to negotiate for the purchase of the City of New Orleans, portions of the east bank of the Mississippi, and free navigation of the river for U.S. commerce.
By April 30, they closed a deal for the purchase of the entire Louisiana territory of 828,000 square miles (2,100,000 km2) for 60 million Francs (approximately $15 million).
Part of this sum, $3.5 million, was used to forgive debts owed by France to the United States.
Despite Federalist objections, the U.S. Senate ratified the Louisiana treaty on October 20, 1803.
By statute enacted on October 31, 1803, President Thomas Jefferson was authorized to take possession of the territories ceded by France and provide for initial governance. A transfer ceremony was held in New Orleans on November 29, 1803.
The Louisiana Territory, purchased for less than 3 cents an acre, doubled the size of the United States overnight, without a war or the loss of a single American life, and set a precedent for the purchase of territory. It opened the way for the eventual expansion of the United States across the continent to the Pacific.
Shortly after the United States took possession, the area was divided into two territories along the 33rd parallel north on March 26, 1804, thereby organizing the Territory of Orleans to the south and the District of Louisiana to the north.
Louisiana became the eighteenth U.S. state on April 30, 1812; since the Territory of Orleans became the State of Louisiana, the District of Louisiana was simultaneously renamed the Missouri Territory. Additional land, known as the Florida Parishes, was soon annexed into the state of Louisiana on April 14, 1812.
By 1840 New Orleans had the biggest slave market in the United States, which contributed greatly to the economy. It had become one of the wealthiest cities and the third largest city in the nation. The ban on the African slave trade and importation of slaves had increased demand in the domestic market. During these decades after the American Revolutionary War, more than one million enslaved African Americans underwent forced migration from the Upper South to the Deep South, two thirds of them in the slave trade. Others were transported by their masters as slaveholders moved west for new lands.
With changing agriculture in the Upper South as planters shifted from tobacco to less labor-intensive mixed agriculture, planters had excess laborers. Many sold slaves to traders to take to the Deep South. Slaves were driven by traders overland from the Upper South or transported to New Orleans and other coastal markets by ship in the coastwise slave trade. After sales in New Orleans, steamboats operating on the Mississippi transported slaves upstream to markets or plantation destinations at Natchez and Memphis.
Secession and the Civil War (1860–1865)
According to the 1860 census, 331,726 people were enslaved, nearly 47% of the state's total population of 708,002. Enfranchised elite whites' strong economic interest in maintaining the slave system contributed to Louisiana's decision to secede from the Union in 1861. It followed other Southern states in seceding after the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States. Louisiana's secession was announced on January 26, 1861, and it became part of the Confederate States of America.
The state was quickly defeated in the Civil War, a result of Union strategy to cut the Confederacy in two by seizing the Mississippi. Federal troops captured New Orleans on April 25, 1862. Because a large part of the population had Union sympathies (or compatible commercial interests), the Federal government took the unusual step of designating the areas of Louisiana under Federal control as a state within the Union, with its own elected representatives to the U.S. Congress.
Post-Civil War (1865–)
Following the Civil War and emancipation of slaves, violence rose in the South as the war was carried on by paramilitary and private groups.
African Americans began to live as citizens with some measure of equality before the law. Both freedmen and people of color who had been free before the war began to make more advances in education, family stability and jobs. At the same time, there was tremendous social volatility in the aftermath of war, with many whites actively resisting defeat. White insurgents mobilized to enforce white supremacy.
The state population in 1900 was 47% African-American: a total of 652,013 citizens, of whom many in New Orleans were descendants of Creoles of color, the sizeable population of free people of color who had been established long before the Civil War.
In the early decades of the 20th century, thousands of African Americans left Louisiana in the Great Migration north to industrial cities for jobs and education.
Mobilization for World War II created jobs in the state. Thousands of other workers, black and white alike, migrated to California for better jobs in its burgeoning defense industry.
In August 2005, New Orleans and many other low-lying parts of the state along the Gulf of Mexico were hit by the catastrophic Hurricane Katrina. It caused widespread damage due to breaching of levees and large-scale flooding of more than 80% of the city. Officials issued warnings to evacuate the city and nearby areas, but tens of thousands of people, mostly African Americans, stayed behind, many of them stranded, and suffered through the damage of the widespread floodwaters.
In August 2016, an unnamed storm dumped trillions of gallons of rain on southern Louisiana, including the cities of Denham Springs, Baton Rouge and Lafayette, causing catastrophic flooding. An estimated 110,000 homes were damaged and thousands of residents were displaced.
The United States Census Bureau estimates that the population of Louisiana was 4,670,724 on July 1, 2015.
According to the 2010 United States Census, 5.4% of the population aged 5 and older spoke Spanish at home, up from 3.5% in 2000; and 4.5% spoke French (including Louisiana French and Louisiana Creole), down from 4.8% in 2000.
Race and ethnicity
According to the US census estimates, the population of Louisiana in 2014 was:
- White Americans – 63.4% (59.3% non-Hispanic white, 4.1% White Hispanic)
- Black or African American – 32.5%
- Asian – 1.8%
- Multiracial American – 1.5%
- Native American – 0.8%
- Hispanic or Latino of any race – 4.8%
Louisiana's largest cities
Largest cities or towns in Louisiana
The state's principal agricultural products include seafood (it is the biggest producer of crawfish in the world, supplying approximately 90%), cotton, soybeans, cattle, sugarcane, poultry and eggs, dairy products, and rice.
Industry generates chemical products, petroleum and coal products, processed foods and transportation equipment, and paper products. Tourism is an important element in the economy, especially in the New Orleans area.
The Port of South Louisiana, located on the Mississippi River between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, is the largest volume shipping port in the Western Hemisphere and 4th largest in the world, as well as the largest bulk cargo port in the world.
Tourism and culture are major players in Louisiana's economy, earning an estimated $5.2 billion per year. Louisiana also hosts many important cultural events, such as the World Cultural Economic Forum, which is held annually in the fall at the New Orleans Morial Convention Center.
Louisiana is home to many, especially notable are the distinct culture of the Louisiana Creoles, typically people of color, descendants of free mixed-race families of the colonial and early statehood periods.
The French colony of La Louisiane struggled for decades to survive. Conditions were harsh, the climate and soil were unsuitable for certain crops the colonists knew, and they suffered from regional tropical diseases. Both colonists and the slaves they imported had high mortality rates. The settlers kept importing slaves, which resulted in a high proportion of native Africans from West Africa, who continued to practice their culture in new surroundings.
At the turn of the 18th century and in the early 1800s, New Orleans received a major influx of white and mixed-race refugees fleeing the violence of the Haitian Revolution, many of whom brought their slaves with them. This added another infusion of African culture to the city, as more slaves in Saint-Domingue were from Africa than in the United States. They strongly influenced the African-American culture of the city in terms of dance, music and religious practices.
Louisiana Creole culture
Creole culture is an amalgamation of French, African, Spanish (and other European), and Native American cultures. Creole comes from the Portuguese word crioulo; originally it referred to a colonist of European (specifically French) descent who was born in the New World, in comparison to immigrants from France. The oldest Louisiana manuscript to use the word "Creole," from 1782, applied it to a slave born in the French colony. But originally it referred more generally to the French colonists born in Louisiana.
The ancestors of Cajuns immigrated from west central France to New France, where they settled in the Atlantic provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, known originally as Acadia. After the British defeated France in the French and Indian War (Seven Years' War) in 1763, France ceded its territory east of the Mississippi River to Britain. The British forcibly separated families and evicted them from Acadia because they refused to vow loyalty to the new British regime. The Acadians were deported to England, New England, and France. Some escaped the British remained in French Canada.
Others scattered, to France, Canada, Mexico, or the Falkland Islands. Many Acadian refugees settled in south Louisiana in the region around Lafayette and the LaFourche Bayou country. They developed a distinct rural culture there that was different from that of the French Creole colonists in the New Orleans area. Intermarrying with others in the area, they developed what was called Cajun music, cuisine and culture. Until the 1970s, the term "Cajun" was considered somewhat derogatory.
A third distinct culture in Louisiana is that of the Isleños, descendants of Spanish Canary Islanders who migrated from the Canary Islands of Spain under the Spanish crown beginning in the mid-1770s. They developed four main communities, but many relocated to what is modern-day St. Bernard Parish. This is where the majority of the Isleño population is still concentrated. An annual festival called Fiesta celebrates the heritage of the Isleños.
St Bernard Parish has an Isleños museum, cemetery and church, as well as many street names with Spanish words and Spanish surnames from this heritage. Some members of the Isleño community still speak Spanish – with their own Canary Islander accent. Numerous Isleño identity organizations, and many members of Isleños society keep contact with the Canary Islands of Spain.
According to the 2000 census, among persons five years old and older, 90.8% of Louisiana residents speak only English (99% total speak English) and 4.7% speak French at home (7% total speak French). Other minority languages are Spanish, which is spoken by 2.5% of the population and Vietnamese, by 0.6%.
Historically, Native American peoples in the area at the time of European encounter were seven tribes distinguished by their languages: Caddo, Tunica, Natchez, Houma, Choctaw, Atakapa, and Chitimacha. Of these, only Caddo and Choctaw still have living native speakers, although several other tribes are working to teach and revitalize their languages. Other Native American peoples migrated into the region, escaping from European pressure from the east. Among these were Alabama, Biloxi, Koasati, and Ofo peoples.
Several unique dialects of French, Creole, and English are spoken in Louisiana. Dialects of the French language are: Colonial French and Houma French. Louisiana Creole French is the term for one of the Creole languages. Two unique dialects developed of the English language: Louisiana English, a French-influenced variety of English; and what is informally known as Yat, which resembles the New York City dialect, particularly that of historical Brooklyn. Both accents were influenced by large communities of immigrant Irish and Italians, but the Yat dialect, which developed in New Orleans, was also influenced by French and Spanish.
Colonial French was the dominant language of white settlers in Louisiana during the French colonial period; it was spoken primarily by the French Creoles (native-born). In some regions, English was influenced by French, as seen with Louisiana English. Colonial French, although mistakenly named Cajun French by some Cajuns, has persisted alongside English.
Renewed interest in the French language in Louisiana has led to the establishment of Canadian-modeled French immersion schools, as well as bilingual signage in the historic French neighborhoods of New Orleans and Lafayette.
The largest denominations by number of adherents in 2010 were the Catholic Church with 1,200,900; Southern Baptist Convention with 709,650; and the United Methodist Church with 146,848. Non-denominational Evangelical Protestant congregations had 195,903 members.
The music of Louisiana can be divided into three general regions: rural south Louisiana, home to Creole Zydeco and Old French (now known as cajun music), New Orleans, and north Louisiana. The region in and around Greater New Orleans has a unique musical heritage tied to Dixieland jazz, blues, and Afro-Caribbean rhythms. The music of the northern portion of the state starting at Baton Rouge and reaching Shreveport has similarities to that of the rest of the US South.
Rural south Louisiana's music also features very significant input from non-Creoles, most notably African Americans who are critical to the cultural/musical identity. Four main musical genres are indigenous to this area — Creole music(i.e. zydeco), swamp pop, and swamp blues. These historically-rooted genres, with unique rhythms and personalities, have been transformed with modern sounds and instruments. The southwestern and south central Louisiana areas herald many artists and songs that have become international hits, won Grammy awards, and become highly sought after by collectors.
In southwestern Louisiana in the 1800s, the fiddle was the most popular Cajun instrument and the music still carried clear influences from the Poitou region of France and the Scottish/Canadian influences of their earlier homeland.
However, northern Louisiana's lasting contribution to the world of popular music was the radio program The Louisiana Hayride, which started broadcasting in 1948 on KWKH in Shreveport. Hank Williams, George Jones, Elvis Presley and nearly every other country legend, or future country legend alive during the 1950s stepped on stage at the Shreveport Municipal Auditorium. They performed, many for the first time on radio, on a signal that covered much of the southeastern US. The original production of the show ended in 1960, but re-runs and the occasional special broadcast continued for a few years. The Louisiana Hayride was regarded as a stepping stone to The Grand Ole Opry, the legendary radio show from WSM in Nashville, Tennessee.
Probably the single most famous style of music to originate was New Orleans jazz, also known as Dixieland.
In the 1950s, New Orleans again influenced the national music scene as a center in the development of rhythm and blues. Important artists included Fats Domino, Snooks Eaglin, Dave Bartholomew, Professor Longhair, and Clarence Garlow.
Images for kids
The oil slick just off the Louisiana coast on April 30, 2010. The Deepwater Horizon oil spill is now considered the biggest environmental disaster in U.S. history.
Louisiana Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.