Claiborne Street Is Rockin’: North Claiborne Avenue Tour

For much of the 20th century, this stretch of North Claiborne Avenue was Main Street for people of color in downtown New Orleans. The Specialty Records Branch Office operated here, in the same building as the black musicians’ union. The All For One (AFO) Records Office, which included an informal record store, was on the same strip.

Claiborne has been a parade route for generations of Social Aid and Pleasure Clubs and Mardi Gras Indians, and the center of black Carnival celebrations. St. Louis Cemetery No. 2–where some of the city’s best-loved musicians have been laid to rest–and the Charbonnet-Labat-Glapion funeral home have made jazz funerals a frequent spectacle along the avenue.

The construction of the I-10 overpass in 1966 set the stage for years of divestment from the area. In the 1990s, Ernie K-Doe’s Mother-in-Law Lounge, with its colorful murals, was a literal and figurative bright spot. Today, parades still concentrate around Orleans and Claiborne, and public arts projects have turned the overpass into a monument to the culture of the neighborhood.

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