National Geographic : 1971 Feb
Portents of a stormy night, thickening clouds scud above a farm and a petrochemical com plex on facing banks of the Mississippi. Flaming waste gas brightens the sky at the Taft plant pealed, higher and higher, and the echo came bouncing down: "Didn't they roll? Yeah! Didn't they ram ble? Yeah!" Didn't they bury Melie well? Man, you know they did. Poverty Darkens Life for Many But life is not all jazz and jumping for New Orleans's teeming black population, a full 40 percent of the total. The streets leading off North Claiborne are dismal, muddy lanes, furnished with abandoned automobiles, and the lower Ninth Ward is as miserable a slum as one is apt to find anywhere. The unemployment rate for blacks is twice 176 that for white workers; 70 percent of black families live in all-black strips in which most homes were built before 1939. In 1967, Ernest "Dutch" Morial became the first black elected to the Louisiana House of Representatives in 71 years (page 157). An articulate, intellectual man of soft good humor, Mr. Morial welcomed me to his law offices on Orleans Avenue. "You can begin to understand this city's problems by examining its unique historical legacies," he said. "We have, for example, the legacy of Huey Long in the governor appointed boards that actually run things in Louisiana. Their membership is overwhelm ingly from the existing white power structure.