Updated: Sep 25, 2019
Congo Square was once the only place in New Orleans where slaves were allowed to congregate. And it was here that they gathered for the musical exchanges that gave birth to jazz. African rhythms met European songs– and eventually became jazz, blues, and rock. The newly arrived brought their rhythms and dances from Africa, the second or third-generation slaves sang their own culturally adapted versions of European folk songs.
That was under French rule, when slaves could gather, trade, and raise money to purchase their freedom. But when harsher American slavery practices took over, they suppressed congregation and put an end to the gatherings at Congo Square.
During a later resurgence of "Creole brass band" music, city leaders renamed "Beauregard Square," after a Confederate general; but residents still called it Congo Square. It wasn't officially changed back until 2011, thanks in large part to the efforts of author and historian Freddi Williams Evans.
Bless this place— for its pain, for its defiant jubilance, and for its divine spark in music history.