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Louisiana

La Louisiane  (Cajun French)
State of Louisiana
État de Louisiane (French)
Flag of Louisiana Official seal of Louisiana
Nickname(s): 
  • Pelican State (official)
  • Bayou State
  • Creole State
  • Sportsman's Paradise
  • The Boot
Motto(s): 
Union, Justice, Confidence
Anthem:
  • "Give Me Louisiana"
  • "You Are My Sunshine"
  • State march song:
  • "Louisiana My Home Sweet Home"
  • Environmental song:
  • "Gifts of the Earth"
Map of the United States with Louisiana highlighted
Map of the United States with Louisiana highlighted
Country United States
Before statehood Territory of Orleans
Admitted to the Union April 30, 1812 (18th)
Capital Baton Rouge
Largest city New Orleans
Largest metro Greater New Orleans
Legislature State Legislature
 • Upper house State Senate
 • Lower house House of Representatives
Area
 • Total 52,069.13 sq mi (135,382 km2)
 • Land 43,601 sq mi (112,927 km2)
 • Water 8,283 sq mi (21,455 km2)  15%
Area rank 31st
Dimensions
 • Length 379 mi (610 km)
 • Width 130 mi (231 km)
Elevation
100 ft (30 m)
Highest elevation 535 ft (163 m)
Lowest elevation −8 ft (−2.5 m)
Population
 (2020)
 • Total 4,657,757
 • Rank 25th
 • Density 106.9/sq mi (41.3/km2)
 • Density rank 23th
 • Median household income
$49,973
 • Income rank
47th
Demonym(s) Louisianian
Louisianais (Cajun or Creole heritage)
Luisiano (Spanish descendants during rule of New Spain)
Language
 • Official language No official language
 • Spoken language As of 2010
Time zone UTC−06:00 (Central)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−05:00 (CDT)
USPS abbreviation
LA
ISO 3166 code US-LA
Trad. abbreviation La.
Latitude 28° 56′ N to 33° 01′ N
Longitude 88° 49′ W to 94° 03′ W
Louisiana state symbols
Flag of Louisiana.svg
Seal of Louisiana.svg
Living insignia
Bird Brown pelican
Dog breed Catahoula Leopard Dog
Fish White perch
Flower Magnolia
Insect Honeybee
Mammal Black bear
Reptile Alligator
Tree Bald cypress
Inanimate insignia
Beverage Milk
Fossil Petrified palmwood
Gemstone Agate
Instrument Diatonic accordion
State route marker
Louisiana state route marker
State quarter
Louisiana quarter dollar coin
Released in 2002
Lists of United States state symbols
Louisiana welcome sign at Madison Parish visitor center IMG 7059
Louisiana entrance sign off Interstate 20 in Madison Parish east of Tallulah

Louisiana (Standard French: État de Louisiane or La Louisiane [/lwi.zjan/]; Spanish: [Luisiana] Error: {{Lang}}: text has italic markup (help)) is a state in the Deep South and South Central regions of the United States. It is the 20th-smallest by area and the 25th most populous of the 50 U.S. states. Louisiana is bordered by the state of Texas to the west, Arkansas to the north, Mississippi to the east, and the Gulf of Mexico to the south. A large part of its eastern boundary is demarcated by the Mississippi River. Louisiana is the only U.S. state with political subdivisions termed parishes, which are equivalent to counties, making it one of only two U.S. states not subdivided into counties (the other being Alaska and its boroughs). The state's capital is Baton Rouge, and its largest city is New Orleans.

Much of the state's lands were formed from sediment washed down the Mississippi River, leaving enormous deltas and vast areas of coastal marsh and swamp. These contain a rich southern biota; typical examples include birds such as ibises and egrets. There are also many species of tree frogs, and fish such as sturgeon and paddlefish. In more elevated areas, fire is a natural process in the landscape and has produced extensive areas of longleaf pine forest and wet savannas. These support an exceptionally large number of plant species, including many species of terrestrial orchids and carnivorous plants. Louisiana has more Native American tribes than any other southern state, including four that are federally recognized, ten that are state recognized, and four that have not received recognition.

Some Louisiana urban environments have a multicultural, multilingual heritage, being so strongly influenced by a mixture of 18th–century French, Saint Dominican, Spanish, French Canadian, Acadian, Native American, and African cultures that they are considered to be exceptional in the U.S. Before the American purchase of the territory in 1803, the present–day U.S. state of Louisiana had been both a French colony and for a brief period a Spanish one. In addition, colonists imported various African peoples as slaves in the 18th century. Many came from peoples of the same region of West Africa, thus concentrating their culture; Filipinos also arrived during colonial Louisiana. In the post–Civil War environment, Anglo Americans increased the pressure for Anglicization, and in 1921, English was for a time made the sole language of instruction in Louisiana schools before a policy of multilingualism was revived in 1974. There has never been an official language in Louisiana, and the state constitution enumerates "the right of the people to preserve, foster, and promote their respective historic, linguistic, and cultural origins."

Based on national averages, Louisiana frequently ranks low among the U.S. in terms of health, education, development, and high in measures of poverty. In 2018, Louisiana was ranked as the least healthy state in the country.

Etymology

Louisiana was named after Louis XIV, King of France from 1643 to 1715.

Geology

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.

Geography

National-atlas-louisiana
Map of Louisiana
Louisiana wetlands aerial view
Aerial view of Louisiana wetland habitats.
Lone Oak in Saint Bernard Parish
A field of yellow wildflowers in Saint Bernard Parish, Louisiana
Honey Island Swamp, Louisiana (paulmannix)
Honey Island Swamp, Louisiana
Bald Eagle Nest Trail at South Toledo Bend State Park
Entrance to the Bald Eagle Nest Trail at South Toledo Bend State Park
Bogue Chitto River
Bogue Chitto State Park

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.

Climate

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.

Protected areas

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.

Transportation

Intracoastal Waterway Louisiana
Gulf Intracoastal Waterway near New Orleans

The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development is the state government organization in charge of maintaining public transportation, roadways, bridges, canals, select levees, floodplain management, port facilities, commercial vehicles, and aviation which includes 69 airports.

The Intracoastal Waterway is an important means of transporting commercial goods such as petroleum and petroleum products, agricultural produce, building materials and manufactured goods. In 2018, the state sued the federal government to repair erosion along the waterway.

In 2011, Louisiana ranked among the five deadliest states for debris/litter-caused vehicle accidents per total number of registered vehicles and population size. Figures derived from the NHTSA show at least 25 persons in Louisiana were killed per year in motor vehicle collisions with non-fixed objects, including debris, dumped litter, animals and their carcasses.

Mass transit

Predominantly serving New Orleans, the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority is the largest transit agency in the state. Other transit organizations are St. Bernard Urban Rapid Transit, Jefferson Transit, Capital Area Transit System, Lafayette Transit System, Shreveport Area Transit System, and Monroe Transit, among others.

During the 1984 Louisiana World Exposition, there was a gondola system built to go across the Mississippi River, called Mississippi Aerial River Transit, but was closed less than a year later.

The Louisiana Transportation Authority (under the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development), was created in 2001, was created to "promote, plan, finance, develop, construct, control, regulate, operate and maintain any tollway or transitway to be constructed within its jurisdiction. Development, construction, improvement, expansion, and maintenance of an efficient, safe, and well-maintained intermodal transportation system are essential to promote Louisiana's economic growth and the ability of Louisiana's business and industry to compete in regional, national, and global markets and to provide a high quality of life for the people of Louisiana."

History

Pre-contact history

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

Louisiana regions map
Louisiana regions

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.

Atchafalaya Basin
French Acadians, who came to be known as Cajuns, settled the swamps of southern Louisiana, especially in the Atchafalaya Basin.

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.

The rest of Louisiana, including the area around New Orleans and the parishes around Lake Pontchartrain, had become a colony of Spain by the Treaty of Fontainebleau (1762).

In 1800, France's Napoleon Bonaparte reacquired Louisiana from Spain in the Treaty of San Ildefonso, an arrangement kept secret for two years.

Slavery

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.

Louisiane 1800
Map of Louisiana in 1800

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.

Flickr - USCapitol - Louisiana Purchase, 1803
Louisiana Purchase, 1803

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.

Statehood (1812)

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)

'Signing the Ordinance of Secession of Louisiana, January 26, 1861', oil on canvas painting by Enoch Wood Perry, Jr., 1861
'Signing the Ordinance of Secession of Louisiana, January 26, 1861', oil on canvas painting, 1861

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.

Katrina 2nd landfall
Hurricane Katrina making landfall in New Orleans, Louisiana.

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.

Demographics

Louisiana population map
Louisiana's population density
Historical population
Census Pop.
1810 76,556
1820 153,407 100.4%
1830 215,739 40.6%
1840 352,411 63.4%
1850 517,762 46.9%
1860 708,002 36.7%
1870 726,915 2.7%
1880 939,946 29.3%
1890 1,118,588 19.0%
1900 1,381,625 23.5%
1910 1,656,388 19.9%
1920 1,798,509 8.6%
1930 2,101,593 16.9%
1940 2,363,516 12.5%
1950 2,683,516 13.5%
1960 3,257,022 21.4%
1970 3,641,306 11.8%
1980 4,205,900 15.5%
1990 4,219,973 0.3%
2000 4,468,976 5.9%
2010 4,533,372 1.4%
2020 4,657,757 2.7%
Sources: 1910–2020

Louisiana is the second-most populous of the South Central United States after Texas. The majority of the state's growing population lives in southern Louisiana, spread throughout Greater New Orleans, the Florida Parishes, and Acadiana, while Central and North Louisiana have been losing population. At the 2020 United States census, Louisiana had an apportioned population of 4,661,468. Its resident population was 4,657,757 as of 2020. The United States Census Bureau estimated that the population of Louisiana was 4,648,794 on July 1, 2019, a 2.55% increase since the 2010 United States census. In 2010, the state of Louisiana had a population of 4,533,372, up from 76,556 in 1810.

According to immigration statistics in 2018, approximately four percent of Louisianians were immigrants, while another four percent were native-born U.S. citizens with at least one immigrant parent. The majority of Louisianian immigrants came from Mexico (16%), Honduras (15%), Vietnam (10%), the Philippines (5%), and Guatemala (4%). Among the immigrant population in 2014, an estimated 64,500 were undocumented; Louisiana's undocumented immigrant population earned more than a billion U.S. dollars and paid $136 million in taxes. The undocumented immigrant population increased to 70,000 in 2016 and comprised two percent of the state population. New Orleans has been defined as a sanctuary city.

The population density of the state is 104.9 people per square mile. The center of population of Louisiana is located in Pointe Coupee Parish, in the city of New Roads. According to the 2010 United States census, 5.4% of the population age 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

Racial and ethnic composition as of the 2020 census
Race and ethnicity Alone Total
White (non-Hispanic) 55.8% 55.8
 
58.7% 58.7
 
African American (non-Hispanic) 31.2% 31.2
 
32.6% 32.6
 
Hispanic or Latino 6.9% 6.9
 
Asian 1.8% 1.8
 
2.3% 2.3
 
Native American 0.6% 0.6
 
1.9% 1.9
 
Pacific Islander 0.04% 0.04
 
0.1% 0.1
 
Other 0.4% 0.4
 
1.1% 1.1
 

Several American Indian tribes such as the Atakapa and Caddo were the primary residents of Louisiana before European colonization, concentrated along the Red River and Gulf of Mexico. At the beginning of French and Spanish colonization of Louisiana, white and black Americans began to move into the area. From French and Spanish rule in Louisiana, they were joined by Filipinos and Germans, both slave and free, who settled in enclaves within the Greater New Orleans region and Acadiana.

By the 19th and 20th centuries, the state's population fluctuated between white and black Americans; 47% of the population was Black or African American in 1900. The Black or African American population declined following migration to states including New York and California in efforts to flee Jim Crow regulations.

At the end of the 20th century, Louisiana's population has experienced diversification again, and its non-Hispanic or Latino American white population has been declining. Since 2020, the Black or African American population have made up the largest non-white share of youths. Hispanic and Latino Americans have also increased as the second-largest racial and ethnic composition in the state, making up nearly 7% of Louisiana's population at the 2020 census. As of 2018, the largest single Hispanic and Latino American ethnicity were Mexican Americans (2.0%), followed by Puerto Ricans (0.3%) and Cuban Americans (0.2%). Other Hispanic and Latino Americans altogether made up 2.6% of Louisiana's Hispanic or Latino American population. The Asian American and multiracial communities have also experienced rapid growth, with many of Louisiana's multiracial population identifying as Cajun or Louisiana Creole.

At the 2019 American Community Survey, the largest ancestry groups of Louisiana were African American (31.4%), French (9.6%), German (6.2%), English (4.6%), Italian (4.2%), and Scottish (0.9%). African American and French heritage have been dominant since colonial Louisiana. As of 2011, 49.0% of Louisiana's population younger than age 1 were minorities.

Religion

Religion in Louisiana (2020)
Religion Percent
Protestant
  
53%
Catholic
  
22%
Other Christian
  
1.5%
Unaffiliated
  
19%
Jewish
  
1%
Other faith
  
4%

Christians made up 84% of the adult population in 2014, making Louisiana one of the most predominantly-Christian states in the United States; at the 2020 Public Religion Research Institute study, 76.5% of the total adult population were Christian. In 2010, the largest Christian denominations by number of adherents 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 churches had 195,903 members.

As in other southern U.S. states, the majority of Louisianians, particularly in the north of the state, belong to various Protestant denominations, with Protestants comprising 57% of the state's adult population at the 2014 Pew Research Center study, and 53% at the 2020 Public Religion Research Institute's study. Protestants are concentrated in North Louisiana, Central Louisiana, and the northern tier of the Florida Parishes. According to the 2014 study, Louisiana's largest Protestant Christian denominations were the Southern Baptist Convention, National Baptist Convention USA, National Baptist Convention of America, Progressive National Baptist Convention, American Baptist Churches USA, non/interdenominational Evangelicals and mainline Protestants, the Assemblies of God USA, Church of God in Christ, African Methodist Episcopal and Christian Methodist Episcopal churches, and the United Methodist Church.

Because of French and Spanish heritage, and their descendants the Creoles, and later Irish, Italian, Portuguese and German immigrants, southern Louisiana and the Greater New Orleans area are predominantly Catholic; according to the 2020 study, 22% of the population were Catholic. Since Creoles were the first settlers, planters and leaders of the territory, they have traditionally been well represented in politics. For instance, most of the early governors were Creole Catholics. Because Catholics still constitute a significant fraction of Louisiana's population, they have continued to be influential in state politics. The high proportion and influence of the Catholic population makes Louisiana distinct among Southern states. The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans, Diocese of Baton Rouge, and Diocese of Lafayette in Louisiana are the largest Catholic jurisdictions in the state, located within the Greater New Orleans, Greater Baton Rouge, and Lafayette metropolitan statistical areas.

Jewish communities are established in the state's larger cities, notably New Orleans and Baton Rouge. The most significant of these is the Jewish community of the New Orleans area. In 2000, before the 2005 Hurricane Katrina, its population was about 12,000. Louisiana was among the southern states with a significant Jewish population before the 20th century; Virginia, South Carolina, and Georgia also had influential Jewish populations in some of their major cities from the 18th and 19th centuries. The earliest Jewish colonists were Sephardic Jews who immigrated to the Thirteen Colonies. Later in the 19th century, German Jews began to immigrate, followed by those from eastern Europe and the Russian Empire in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Dominant Jewish movements in the state include Orthodox and Reform Judaism.

Prominent Jews in Louisiana's political leadership have included Whig (later Democrat) Judah P. Benjamin (1811–1884), who represented Louisiana in the U.S. Senate before the American Civil War and then became the Confederate secretary of state; Democrat-turned-Republican Michael Hahn who was elected as governor, serving 1864–1865 when Louisiana was occupied by the Union Army, and later elected in 1884 as a U.S. congressman; Democrat Adolph Meyer (1842–1908), Confederate Army officer who represented the state in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1891 until his death in 1908; Republican secretary of state Jay Dardenne (1954–), and Republican (Democrat before 2011) attorney general Buddy Caldwell (1946–).

Other non-Christian religions are also primarily established in the metropolitan areas of Louisiana, including Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism. In the Shreveport–Bossier City metropolitan area, Muslims made up an estimated 14% of Louisiana's total Muslim population as of 2014. The largest Islamic denominations in the major metropolises of Louisiana were Sunni Islam, non-denominational Islam and Quranism, Shia Islam, and the Nation of Islam. In the state's irreligious community, 2% affiliated with Atheism and 13% claimed no religion as of 2014; an estimated 10% of the state's population practiced nothing in particular at the 2014 study.

Economy

MSC Marina docked at Port of New Orleans
Cargo ship at the Port of New Orleans

Louisiana's population, agricultural products, abundance of oil and natural gas, and southern Louisiana's medical and technology corridors have contributed to its growing and diversifying economy. In 2014, Louisiana was ranked as one of the most small business friendly states, based on a study drawing upon data from more than 12,000 small business owners. 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. Among its energy and other industries, chemical products, petroleum and coal products, processed foods, transportation equipment, and paper products have contributed to a significant portion of the state's GSP. Tourism and gaming are also important elements in the economy, especially in Greater New Orleans.

The Port of South Louisiana, located on the Mississippi River between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, was 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 U.S. in 2004. The Port of South Louisiana continued to be the busiest port by tonnage in the U.S. through 2018. South Louisiana was number 15 among world ports in 2016.

Tabasco-varieties
Tabasco varieties produced in Louisiana

New Orleans, Shreveport, and Baton Rouge are home to a thriving film industry. State financial incentives since 2002 and aggressive promotion have given Louisiana the nickname "Hollywood South." Because of its distinctive culture within the United States, only Alaska is Louisiana's rival in popularity as a setting for reality television programs. In late 2007 and early 2008, a 300,000-square-foot (28,000 m2) film studio was scheduled to open in Tremé, with state-of-the-art production facilities, and a film training institute. Tabasco sauce, which is marketed by one of the United States' biggest producers of hot sauce, the McIlhenny Company, originated on Avery Island.

From 2010 to 2020, Louisiana's gross state product increased from $213.6 billion to $253.3 billion, the 26th highest in the United States at the time. As of 2020, its GSP is greater than the GDPs of Greece, Peru, and New Zealand. Ranking 41st in the United States with a per capita personal income of $30,952 in 2014, its residents per capita income decreased to $28,662 in 2019. The median household income was $51,073, while the national average was $65,712 at the 2019 American Community Survey. In July 2017, the state's unemployment rate was 5.3%; it decreased to 4.4% in 2019.

Louisiana has three personal income tax brackets, ranging from 2% to 6%. The state sales tax rate is 4.45%, and parishes can levy additional sales tax on top of this. The state also has a use tax, which includes 4% to be distributed to local governments. Property taxes are assessed and collected at the local level. Louisiana is a subsidized state, and Louisiana taxpayers receive more federal funding per dollar of federal taxes paid compared to the average state. Per dollar of federal tax collected in 2005, Louisiana citizens received approximately $1.78 in the way of federal spending. This ranks the state fourth highest nationally and represents a rise from 1995 when Louisiana received $1.35 per dollar of taxes in federal spending (ranked seventh nationally). Neighboring states and the amount of federal spending received per dollar of federal tax collected were: Texas ($0.94), Arkansas ($1.41), and Mississippi ($2.02). Federal spending in 2005 and subsequent years since has been exceptionally high due to the recovery from Hurricane Katrina.

Culture

CreoleFood
Dishes typical of Louisiana Creole cuisine.

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.

African culture

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.

Acadian culture

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.

Isleño culture

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.

Languages

Native Languages of Louisiana
The languages of historic Native American tribes that occupied what is now Louisiana include: Tunica, Caddo, Natchez, Choctaw, Atakapa, Chitimacha and Houma.

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.

Louisiana
Louisiana's bilingual state welcome sign, recognizing its French heritage

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.

Religion

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.

Music

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.

The region's location, bordered by Texas on the west and the Mississippi Delta on the east has not led to a development of a "local" music. Traditional and modern country music has been dominant.

Shreveport September 2015 109 (Elvis Presley Avenue)
Elvis Presley Avenue in Shreveport

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.

The city also has a rich tradition of gospel music and spirituals; Mahalia Jackson was the most famous of New Orleans' gospel singers.

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.

Sports

Mercedes Benz SuperDome and Smoothie King Arena, New Orleans LA
Caesars Superdome and Smoothie King Center in New Orleans.

Louisiana is nominally the least populous state with more than one major professional sports league franchise: the National Basketball Association's New Orleans Pelicans and the National Football League's New Orleans Saints.

Louisiana has 12 collegiate NCAA Division I programs, a high number given its population. The state has no NCAA Division II teams and only two NCAA Division III teams. As of 2019, the LSU Tigers football team has won 12 Southeastern Conference titles, six Sugar Bowls and four national championships.

Each year New Orleans plays host to the Bayou Classic, and the New Orleans Bowl college football games, while Shreveport hosts the Independence Bowl. Also, New Orleans has hosted the Super Bowl a record eleven times, as well as the BCS National Championship Game, NBA All-Star Game and NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship.

The Zurich Classic of New Orleans, is a PGA Tour golf tournament held since 1938. The Rock 'n' Roll Mardi Gras Marathon and Crescent City Classic are two road running competitions held at New Orleans.

As of 2016, Louisiana was the birthplace of the most NFL players per capita for the eighth year in a row.

Education

Louisiana State University (aerial view)
Aerial view of Louisiana State University's flagship campus

Louisiana is home to over 40 public and private colleges and universities including Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette in Lafayette, and Tulane University in New Orleans. Louisiana State University is the largest and most comprehensive university in Louisiana; the University of Louisiana at Lafayette is the second largest by enrollment. The University of Louisiana at Lafayette became an R1 university in December 2021. Tulane University is a major private research university and the wealthiest university in Louisiana with an endowment over $1.1 billion. Tulane is also highly regarded for its academics nationwide, consistently ranked in the top 50 on U.S. News & World Report's list of best national universities.

Louisiana's two oldest and largest HBCUs (historically black colleges and universities) are Southern University in Baton Rouge and Grambling State University in Grambling. Both these Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) schools compete against each other in football annually in the much anticipated Bayou Classic during Thanksgiving weekend in the Superdome.

Of note among the education system, the Louisiana Science Education Act was a controversial law passed by the Louisiana Legislature on June 11, 2008 and signed into law by Governor Bobby Jindal on June 25. The act allowed public school teachers to use supplemental materials in the science classroom which are critical of established science on such topics as the theory of evolution and global warming.

In 2000, of all of the states, Louisiana had the highest percentage of students in private schools. Danielle Dreilinger of The Times Picayune wrote in 2014 that "Louisiana parents have a national reputation for favoring private schools." The number of students in enrolled in private schools in Louisiana declined by 9% from circa 2000–2005 until 2014, due to the proliferation of charter schools, the 2008 recession and Hurricane Katrina. Ten parishes in the Baton Rouge and New Orleans area had a combined 17% decline in private school enrollment in that period. This prompted private schools to lobby for school vouchers.

Louisiana's school voucher program is known as the Louisiana Scholarship Program. It was available in the New Orleans area beginning in 2008 and in the rest of the state beginning in 2012. In 2013, the number of students using school vouchers to attend private schools was 6,751, and for 2014 it was projected to be over 8,800. As per a ruling from Ivan Lemelle, a U.S. district judge, the federal government has the right to review the charter school placements to ensure they do not further racial segregation.

Notable people

Images for kids

See also

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