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This information is pre-Katrina.
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Lower Ninth Ward Neighborhood Snapshot

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

The Lower Ninth Ward consists of two distinct neighborhoods, Holy Cross and this neighborhood, the Lower Ninth Ward, called by some, The Lower 9.

Slow but sure growth

The Lower Ninth Ward was among the very last of the city's neighborhoods to be developed. Bordered by the Industrial Canal to the west, the Southern Railway railroad and Florida Avenue Canal to the north, the parish line to the east and St. Claude Avenue to the south, isolation from the rest of the city and lack of adequate drainage systems contributed to its slow growth.


Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division. (


1897 Southern Railway map showing routes and connections through New Orleans


Originally a cypress swamp, the area was the lower portion of plantations that stretched from the river to the lake. Poor African Americans and immigrant laborers from Ireland, Germany and Italy desperate for homes but unable to afford housing in other areas of the city risked flooding and disease to move here. In the 1870s, several African American benevolent associations and mutual-aid societies organized to assist scores of struggling freedmen (formerly-enslaved Africans) in the area.

Although legislation was passed in 1899 for drainage and pumping systems, it was not until between 1910 and 1920 that the city installed adequate drainage systems, including the Jourdan, Tupelo and Florida Avenue Canals, in preparation for construction of the Industrial Canal. The Industrial Canal, built to connect the Mississippi River to Lake Ponchartrain, was completed in 1923, and further isolated the neighborhood from the city proper.

The lack of sewerage, continual drainage and water distribution problems did not deter desperate immigrant and African American workers from moving to the Lower Ninth Ward in search of a place to live and employment in nearby industries. The area continued to maintain a rural feel and the Lower Ninth Ward's reputation for neighborliness actually attracted some New Orleanians from other crowded city neighborhoods.

By 1950, only half of the Lower Ninth Ward had been developed. Industrial development during this time was along the dry docks of the Industrial Canal with a few scattered uses appearing in predominately residential sectors at the north end of the neighborhood. In the late 1950s, the second bridge between the city and the Lower Ninth Ward, The Judge William Seeber Bridge, known locally as the Claiborne Avenue Bridge, was built across the Industrial Canal at Claiborne Avenue. Retail development along St. Claude Avenue became notable during this period and the trend of corner stores continued. By 1965 commercial activity along St. Claude continued to grow and industrial development accelerated in the strip bordering the Industrial Canal between Claiborne and Florida Avenues. Scattered industrial and commercial uses throughout residential areas of the district continued as well.


© GNO Community Data Center.
  Artwork at the Martin Luther King Branch of the Library on Claiborne & Caffin  

History of activism

Due to the Ninth Ward's geographic separation and working-class inhabitants, residents have developed a history of activism encouraged by seeming neglect by city officials. Civic groups established in the neighborhood fought diligently to obtain funds and services for the Lower Ninth Ward.

As a result of the activism of residents (particularly from the Lower Ninth Ward) that emerged with the fight for civil rights, and the expertise of the NAACP legal team, the school desegregation movement marked New Orleans as the first deep-South school district to open its all-white doors to black children.

One of those first schools was McDonogh #19, now called Louis D. Armstrong Elementary, on St. Claude Avenue. This 1960 historical event spurred violent white protest and attracted media attention from around the world. After the crisis subsided, white Lower Ninth Warders began a decade-long exodus eastward into St. Bernard Parish.

Hurricane Betsy

In September 1965, Hurricane Betsy struck New Orleans with a vengeance. The storm took a total of eighty-one lives. Eighty percent of the Lower Ninth Ward district was under water. At that time, the levee was eight feet high, but Betsy's storm surge was ten. Following the storm, people walked through water that for some was above their waists, holding children in their arms, to escape the water. Others had to be rescued from their rooftops. Many residents believe this tragic disaster was the beginning of the downward turn for the neighborhood. Some say that residents did not receive sufficient financial assistance in the form of loans and other support to revitalize the area and longtime residents and commercial and industrial businesses began moving out of the Lower Ninth Ward.

Help from Model Cities

In 1966, Congress passed the Demonstration Cities and Metropolitan Development Act that initiated an assistance program to rebuild facilities and services necessary to improve the general welfare of those who lived in such areas. Services included educational and social services vital to health and welfare. Through the Model Cities program, employment in the Lower Ninth Ward increased and revitalization occurred as agencies were established to assist and encourage metropolitan development. The Lower Ninth Ward was one of three New Orleans neighborhoods affected. Out of those agencies established between 1969 and 1975, a few still remain in operation today, including the Lower Ninth Ward Neighborhood Council, Total Community Action's Lower Ninth Ward Head Start Program, the Lower Ninth Ward Housing Development Corporation and the Lower Ninth Ward Health Clinic.

© GNO Community Data Center.
  Andrew P. Sanchez, Sr. Multi-Service Center from Caffin Street

Around the Andrew P. Sanchez, Sr. Multi-Service Center

The Andrew P. Sanchez, Sr. Multi- Service Center serves as a hub of community services. It houses the Total Community Action Lower Ninth Ward Head Start Program, the Lower Ninth Ward Health Clinic, a Great Expectations site, the Lower Ninth Ward Neighborhood Council's office, and the 5th District New Orleans Police Department sub-station. Adjoining the Sanchez Center is the E. J. Morris Senior Citizens Center, and the Reverend Noah Copelin, Mr. & Mrs. John Thompson, Daniel Byrd Memorial Gymnasium.

Across the street is the Martin Luther King Elementary School for Science and Technology, where the New Orleans Public Library Martin Luther King Branch is housed, the first full-service library in the Lower Ninth Ward. One of three New Orleans Public Library adult learning centers is located at this branch and offers classes in literacy, GED preparation, commercial driver's license preparation, reading, math and language arts enrichment and computer-assisted instruction, and test-taking skills training.

Other institutions in the neighborhood

© GNO Community Data Center.
  Sam Bonart Playground  

The neighborhood is rich with small businesses, barber and beauty shops, corner stores, eateries, gasoline stations, day care centers, as well as public schools and some say, far too many churches. Three Head Start programs operate in the Lower Ninth Ward.

At Alfred Lawless High School, the Allison Chapital School-Based Health Center has offered a wide range of physical and mental healthcare services for students since 1994.

Jackson Barracks

In 1834-35, the U.S. government constructed the Jackson Barracks, which today is on the National Register of Historic Places. Some say that Andrew Jackson, who did not trust New Orleans Creoles, planned the army barracks as a defense against attack from inside as well as outside the city. The barracks now serves as headquarters for the Louisiana National Guard and houses the Jackson Barracks Military Museum. The Barracks are also in the Holy Cross neighborhood.

Read more about Jackson Barracks

The "Official" Jackson Barracks Military Museum site

More information from Frommer's travel site.

Present-day issues

The Industrial Canal Lock Replacement Project, an U.S. Corps of Engineers project to expand the canal and replace the locks with larger facilities, has been a controversial issue between the area's residents and the Corps since the 1970s. The Lower Ninth Ward stands to be the neighborhood most affected by the Industrial Canal Lock Project since the actual facilities replacement will occur between Claiborne and Florida Avenues and changes will be made to the bridges that flank the area.

The recent battle involved motions filed by the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (A.C.O.R.N.), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and All Congregations Together (A.C.T.) to delay or halt the project. All motions were denied. The Corps established the Community-Based Mitigation Committee (CBMC), a committee to advise the Corps on mitigation plans.

Read more about the Industrial Canal controversy

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers page

Gulf Restoration Network (GRN)'s report entitled, A Lock without Logic: The Inner Harbor Navigation Canal Lock (requires Acrobat Reader)

Advisory Council on Historic Preservation

Overview of the Makeup of & Membership Guidelines for the Community-Based Mitigation Committee (CBMC) (requires Acrobat Reader)

The famous come out of the Lower Ninth Ward

The most noted artist to come from the Lower Ninth Ward is the legendary great, Antoine Domino, Jr., known as Fats Domino, the rock-and-roll legend. Although often performing in Europe, Fats Domino still lives in the Lower Ninth Ward with his wife Rosemary. His awards have been many, including the Grammy's Lifetime Achievement and Hall Of Fame Awards.

Bio of Fats Domino

The Lastie family is one of the largest and most highly regarded musical families in New Orleans. Deacon Frank Lastie, family patriarch, played trombone and drums in Lower Ninth Ward churches. His sons, Melvin, David and Walter Lastie followed in their father's musical footsteps and became accomplished musicians in their own right.

New Orleans Magazine's article on the Lastie's

Kermit Ruffins spent his childhood years in the Lower Ninth Ward, attending the area's public schools. Kermit is an internationally known trumpeter, vocalist and bandleader. He co-founded the Rebirth Brass Band, leads his present band, the Barbeque Swingers, and occasionally performs with his "Kermit Ruffins Big Band."

Profile of Kermit Ruffins from Satchmo

Kermit Ruffins & the Barbecue Swingers at

Kalamu ya Salaam  

Kalamu ya Salaam, a prolific performance poet, dramatist, fiction writer and music critic, is founder of Nommo Literary Society, a Black writers workshop; leader of the WordBand, a poetry performance ensemble; poetry editor for QBR Black Book Review and moderator of e-Drum, a listserv for Black writers and their supporters. He also performs with the Afro-Asian Arts Dialogue.

Interview with Kalamu ya Salaam

For more information:

Sewerage, Sidewalks, and Schools: The New Orleans Ninth Ward and School Desegregation

Top Weather Events of the 20th Century within the NWSFO New Orleans/Baton Rouge Service Area

Top Weather Events of the Late 20th Century within the NWSFO New Orleans/Baton Rouge Service Area

New Orleans (La.) Office of the Mayor. City Demonstration Agency. Records, City Archives, New Orleans Public Library

OffBeat's Masters of Louisiana Music: Jessie Hill, Article by Jeff Hannusch

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

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Last modified: October 10, 2002