Title page for ETD etd-06102008-101538

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Sumpter, Amy Rhiannon
Author's Email Address asumpt1@lsu.edu
URN etd-06102008-101538
Title Environment, Labor, and Race: An Historical Geography of St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana, 1878-1956
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
Department Geography & Anthropology
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Craig E. Colten Committee Chair
Dydia DeLyser Committee Member
Helen Regis Committee Member
Kent Mathewson Committee Member
Frederick Weil Dean's Representative
  • lumber
  • violence
  • health resort
  • African American
Date of Defense 2008-05-12
Availability unrestricted
St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana, is known as a white suburb of New Orleans. It also has a well-known history as a health resort for wealthy New Orleanians during the summer months, particularly during yellow fever outbreaks in the late nineteenth- and early twentieth centuries. This research investigates the historical geography of this parish in terms of race and attempts to answer the question of how St. Tammany became an attractive place for the development of white subdivisions in the 1950s. I uncover the connections between race, labor, the environment, and political culture of the parish from 1878—the year Reconstruction ended—to 1956, the year of the construction of the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway. Using archival materials, local government documents, and federal census schedules, I show that until the 1940s, St. Tammany Parish had a significant Black population comprising one-third of the total population and concentrated in the southern wards of the parish. After 1878, agriculture became closely tied with a white racial identity within the parish; the lumber, brick manufacturing, and shipbuilding industries became associated with Black racial identities. Perceptions of the environment as healthful and restorative helped establish a health and resort industry on the North Shore, the benefits of which were reserved for whites. These economic and environmental connections to racial identity depended on the legal and political definitions of people of African descent as “Black,” and whites enforced racial divisions with political maneuvers, violence, and access to educational opportunities.
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