West Feliciana African American Oral History Project

The Elders Speak: The West Feliciana Parish African American Oral History Project

By Teresa Parker Farris


Page 1


West Feliciana was established in 1824, the smallest of Louisiana's Florida Parishes. Nestled on the banks of the Mississippi River, the parish stretches east from an alluvial flood plain toward the loess bluffs of Tunica Hills and, beyond, upland mixed pine-hardwoods. Due to its rich soils and proximity to water, West Feliciana was once the site of numerous cotton and sugar cane plantations.

West Feliciana Parish

The story of the individuals who labored on these properties has only recently begun to be told. Toward this end, the West Feliciana Parish African-American Heritage was established in 2002 to recognize the significant contributions and cultural histories of the area's black community. A key component of this initiative was the collection of oral histories from local African American elders and tradition bearers.

During the summers of 2004 and 2005, five men and ten women ranging in age from 64 to 104 were interviewed. Some lived in the town of St. Francisville and others the small communities scattered across the parish. Interviewees were asked about topics ranging from farming and foodways to religion and civil rights. Sixteen sites—including schools, churches, and other structures significant to the area's black history—were also identified and documented.

Teresa Parker Farris is an instructor of folklife at Tulane University where she is also completing her doctoral studies in the Department of History. This essay originally appeared on the West Feliciana School Board website. In 2018, Farris revised it with permission for the Folklife in Louisiana website.