"Congo Square: African Roots in New Orleans" comprises the first comprehensive study of one of the New World’s most sacred sites of African American memory and community. Beginning in the eighteenth century, enslaved Africans and free people of color gathered in Congo Square on Sunday afternoons discontinuously for well over one hundred years. This book presents accounts and descriptions of the songs, dances, musical instruments, religious beliefs, and marketing traditions that typified those gatherings. Also included are examples of similar practices that existed in Haiti, Cuba, and other parts of the West Indies, reflecting New Orleans’ relationship with Caribbean countries and shedding light on its role in extending and perpetuating African music and dance in North America. The amalgamation of those practices influenced indigenous New Orleans performance styles as well as performance forms on the national level.
Written in a language accessible to the general pubic and students on the undergraduate as well as secondary level, this book includes an innovative timeline, maps, graphic images, extensive endnotes, and bibliographic references which distinguishes it as an exceptional teaching resource for Louisiana history, culture, literature, and geography.
About the Author
Freddi Williams Evans is also the author of award-winning books for young readers including "A Bus of Our Own," "The Battle of New Orleans – the Drummer’s Story," and "Hush Harbor – Praying in Secret." Her work for general audiences has appeared in local newspapers, "The Storytelling Classroom," and poetry anthologies including "From a Bend in the River: 100 New Orleans Poets" and "Kente Cloth: Southwest Voices of the African Diaspora."
Freddi is a native of Madison, Mississippi, and holds degrees in music and psychology from Tougaloo College, Tougaloo, MS, and a graduate degree in creative arts therapy (music) from Hahnemann University, Philadephia, PA. She has worked with children of all ages and exceptionalities in various public and private settings as a music therapist, arts educator, and arts administrator. In addition to coordinating a public school arts education program, Freddi works as an independent arts education consultant and conducts author visits. She resides in New Orleans.
Praise for Congo Square: African Roots in New Orleans…
"While drumming in Congo Square and forming the Congo Square Foundation in 1989. I met a brilliant writer, historian, and musician named Freddi Evans. I have had the pleasure of witnessing her patiently and thoroughly research the history of Congo Square in New Orleans. She has spent over 15 years uncovering the rich and deep history of this sacred place. This book traces the African and Caribbean rhythms, dances, and customs that were performed in Congo Square over the last 250 years and follows their evolution to contemporary New Orleans and American cultural practices. As a result of her perseverance and scholarly research, Freddi Evans has written the definitive work on Congo Square!"
--Luther Gray, Congo Square Foundation, Bamboula 2000
"A truly outstanding, original book. It is well conceived, impressively interpreted, exhaustively researched, beautifully and clearly written. It is by far the best work on this fascinating subject.”
--Gwendolyn Midlo Hall, author of "African in Colonial Louisiana"
"Freddie Evans' work is a masterpiece. Her tireless research has finally answered a lot of questions and addressed many issues regarding Congo Square and New Orleans history. This book should be of great value to researchers, writers, historians, musicians, dancers, artists, and anyone interested in the unique culture and traditions of the Crescent City. Personally, she has brought me miles closer to an historical and spiritual connection with the musical heritage of my ancestors. It allows me to view all of jazz history, social club parades, jazz funerals, and every jazz performance in another light."
--Dr. Michael White
"Congo Square is iconic in African American cultural history. The music and dance of the gathering place transformed the art forms of this country while the commerce evidenced entrepreneurial skills that are still untapped. In Congo Square, her exhaustive study of the square, scholar Freddi Williams Evans deftly presents the fascinating history and development of the hallowed New Orleans gathering place."
--Jessica B. Harris, Ph.Dm author of "High on the Hog: A Culinary Journey from Africa to America"
"'Congo Square: African Roots in New Orleans' is rich and wonderful. The author sheds light on the important site of Africanizing happening in North America. Want to witness strong precedents for handclapping circles surrounding poets of the street--early Brooklyn rap--this is your book. For Freddi Evans establishes that Congo Square is not only a place but a state of mind where defiant African descendants kept dignity and spirit alive. There are insights galore but I ain’t telling you more. You have to buy this book. Find out."
--Robert Farris Thompson, author of "Tango: The Art History of Love and Aesthetic of the Cool"
"It is always good for us, as Africans, to see what we call “survivals,” for lack of a better word, because they are indications of African culture as it was—its distinct characteristics. When you have that reinforced after many years of exodus, it means that there is something in the culture that can survive in spite of the changes taking place and it brings into our consciousness the importance of making sure that what we have continues and forms the basis of the new culture. Congo Square is evidence of what happened."
--J. H. Kwabena ‘NKetia, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, Univ. of Ghana, Legon-Accra
"The bloodlines of all important modern American music can be traced to Congo Square. Freddi Evans’ book is the defining history of this national landmark."
--Wynton Marsalis, Artistic Director, Jazz at Lincoln