Community Data & Info Share Center Banner

Home >> Pre Katrina Home >> Orleans Parish >> Bywater District >> Florida Area >> Snapshot

This information is pre-Katrina.
Although the information on this page is out-of-date, we are continuing to make it available, as it provides insight about this neighborhood pre-Katrina.

Post-Katrina, we will not be making any changes or updates to this page. As a result, you may find outdated information and broken links.

For current data about New Orleans and its neighborhoods, visit our homepage.

Florida Area Neighborhood Snapshot

Census 2000 Data Tables: People & Household CharacteristicsHousing & Housing Costs, Income & Poverty, Transportation, Employment, Educational Attainment, Immigration & Language, Disabilities, Neighborhood Characteristics

The Florida neighborhood has great significance in civil rights history because it was here in 1960 that Ruby Bridges, a 6-year-old African American child attended a “whites only” elementary school escorted by federal marshals in order to enforce the country’s new integration laws.

Early history of the neighborhood

This small, residential neighborhood, like much of the city, was originally a cypress swamp so development did not begin until the late 19th century and the early 20th century.

News photo from Ruby Bridges web site

  Ruby Bridges being escorted to school

The lake-to-river streets bear the names of early plantation owners along the river. The names of the cross streets were chosen to honor important men of the time, such as the two Spanish governors, Galvez and Miro, and Henri Tonti, an Italian soldier of fortune, who was thought very highly of by Governor Claiborne. LeBreton D’Orgenois was the first U.S. Marshal of the territorial government and was actually acting mayor of New Orleans for a short time. The mysterious choice for a street name was Rocheblave. Rocheblave, of the Swiss Guard, was the lover of the wife of M. Rochemore, an official in Governor Kerlerec’s administration. No one really understands why he was chosen to honor with a street named for him.

The Florida neighborhood was laid out in blocks by the 1860s, but development was not immediate because of the swampy land in the area. A small number of drainage canals existed in the area, but further drainage was required to encourage greater growth. Only about 15% of the neighborhood was developed by 1904. Over the next twenty years, drainage canals, sewerage lines and water service made development in the Florida area much more desirable. In the 1930s, African Americans were encouraged to purchase in the area around Law and Louisa Streets. Houses were mostly wood frame shotgun doubles and some shotgun singles. Another housing boom in the Florida area after World War II was directed toward African American homeowners. From 1920 to 1948, the famous streetcar named Desire ran through the Florida neighborhood.

Bywater Association’s webpage about the Streetcar named Desire

By the early 1940s two public schools had been built. William Frantz on Alvar Street was reserved for white students because that part of the neighborhood was white. Johnson Lockett on Law Street was designated for “colored” students because that part of the neighborhood was black.

Ruby Bridges’ story

In 1954, the United States Supreme Court made its landmark decision ordering the integration of all public schools. Still many in the state of Louisiana and New Orleans resisted, including the Governor.

Finally in 1960, a federal court ordered New Orleans schools to desegregate. Resistance continued. The school system decided that integration would start with only the youngest grades and all African American kindergarteners were told they would have to take a test to qualify to attend the white schools. The test was stacked against the children and only six passed it.

Ruby Bridges was one of the children who passed the test and had the opportunity to attend a white school. She recalls:

"My mother was all for it. My father wasn't. ‘We're just asking for trouble,’ he said. He thought things weren't going to change, and blacks and whites would never be treated as equals. Mama thought I would have an opportunity to get a better education if I went to the new school - and a chance for a good job later in life. My parents argued about it and prayed about it. Eventually my mother convinced my father that despite the risks, they had to take this step forward, not just for their own children, but for all black children.

“A federal judge decreed that Monday, November 14, 1960 would be the day black children in New Orleans would go to school with white children. There were six of us chosen to integrate the city's public school system. Two decided to stay in their old schools. The other three were assigned to McDonough. I would be going to William Frantz alone.

“The morning of November 14 federal marshals drove my mother and me the five blocks to William Frantz. In the car one of the men explained that when we arrived at the school two marshals would walk in front of us an two behind, so we'd be protected on both sides.

“Driving up I could see the crowd, but living in New Orleans, I actually thought it was Mardi Gras. There was a large crowd of people outside of the school. They were throwing things and shouting, and that sort of goes on in New Orleans at Mardi Gras. I really didn’t realize until I got into the school that something else was going on. Angry parents at that point rushed in and took their kids out of school. And my mother and I sat in ... the principal’s office. And we sat there all day because we were not able to go to class because all of this was going on. So I actually didn’t attend class until the very next day.

“The very next day upon arriving at the school the federal marshals escorted me to my classroom, and once I got there, the teacher was there. There were all these desks and no kids. ...what had happened is that all the kids were taken out of the school, and the school at that point was boycotted. Every day [for a year] I went to school. My teacher, who was actually from Boston, accepted that job not knowing that the schools were going to be integrated that day. But she taught me, and every day I would arrive. She would greet me, take me to my classroom, and it was just her and I. [The next year] everybody came back. But later on, it’s always important for me to point out that there were some families who actually felt like this was okay, white families, that their kids attend school with a black child. But you have to keep in mind that they also had to cross a picket line to do that. And so there were very, very few people that had the nerve enough to do that, to subject their child to that.”

Ruby Bridges’ Foundation official website

PBS’ special on Ruby Bridges entitled “A Class of One”

Norman Rockwell's famous painting "The Problem We All Live With"

Some information about Florida neighborhood today

© GNO Community Data Center.

St. Mary of the Angels Community Center  

Today approximately 98% of the residents in the Florida neighborhood are African American. Primarily working class, almost 60% of the residents own the homes in which they live (Census 2000).

The Florida neighborhood has a number of community stores and churches that bring community members together. St. Mary of the Angels Community Center is a particularly large facility.

Recently the residents of the area have organized to minimize the possible adverse affect the expansion of the Industrial Canal by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers may have on their neighborhood. They have succeeded in securing mitigation funds from the Army Corps.

Learn more about the Industrial Canal project at the Community Based Mitigation Committee’s website

For more information

1999 Land Use Plan New Orleans City Planning Commission

Neighborhood Profiles Project Document prepared by the City of New Orleans Office of Policy Planning and the City Planning Commission. Published December 1980. Study available at the Williams Research Center (non-circulating collection).

Census 2000 Data Tables: People & Household CharacteristicsHousing & Housing Costs, Income & Poverty, Transportation, Employment, Educational Attainment, Immigration & Language, Disabilities, Neighborhood Characteristics

Home >> Pre Katrina Home >> Orleans Parish >> Bywater District >> Florida Area >> Snapshot



The Community Data Center website is a product of Greater New Orleans Nonprofit Knowledge Works. Copyright © 2000-2. All Rights Reserved.

Last modified: October 8, 2002