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Congo Square: African Roots in New Orleans

Congo Square: African Roots in New Orleans

Congo Square book cover “Freddi is an outstanding speaker and she brings a lot more than just her words--musical examples, instruments, etc.--and I think she would be a wonderful addition to the SAGE series”, from Dr. Michael Martin,  Director, Center for Louisiana Studies and UL Press.

Freddi Williams Evans’ Congo Square: African Roots in New Orleans comprises the first comprehensive study of one of the New World's most sacred sites of African American memory and community. Beginning in the eighteenth century, enslaved Africans and free people of color gathered in Congo Square on Sunday afternoons discontinuously for well over one hundred years.

Her book presents accounts and descriptions of the songs, dances, musical instruments, religious beliefs, and marketing traditions that typified those gatherings. Also included are examples of similar practices that existed in Haiti, Cuba, and other parts of the West Indies, reflecting New Orleans' relationship with Caribbean countries and shedding light on Congo Square's role in extending and perpetuating African music and dance in North America. The amalgamation of those practices influenced indigenous New Orleans performance styles as well performance forms on the national level.

Freddi Williams Evans is an alumna of Tougaloo College, Tougaloo, Mississippi, where, as a music major, she began studying traditional African music on a study-travel to the University of Ghana at Accra. Evans is the award-winning author of three historically-based children's books: A Bus of Our Own (2001), The Battle of New Orleans: the Drummer's Story (2005), and Hush Harbor: Praying in Secret (2008). Her writings for general audiences have appeared in local newspapers, as well as several compilations and anthologies including The Storytelling Classroom: Applications Across the Curriculum (2006) and Kente Cloth: Southwest Voices of the African Diaspora (1998).

Evans has presented on Congo Square at schools, museums, and festivals and her essay New Orleans' Congo Square: A Cultural Landmark will appear in Ancestors of Congo Square: African Art in the New Orleans Museum of Art (2011). Her research on Congo Square has taken her to numerous archives, local and national, and back to West Africa. Evans resides in New Orleans and works as an arts educator and administrator as well as an independent scholar.