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Museum highlighting Black Catholic slave rebellion reopens in Louisiana

A historic Creole property serving as a dual museum of Black Catholic histories has reopened after a three-week closure and new nonprofit partnership.

The 1811 Kid Ory Historic House in LaPlace, Louisiana. (Creative Commons)

The 1811 Kid Ory Historic House, a South Louisiana museum covering twin Black Catholic histories—including the largest slave rebellion in US history—has reopened this month after a three-week closure.

A press conference held on the property in Laplace on Wednesday morning detailed plans to transition to nonprofit status under the care of Bonnet Carre Historical Center, a plan first announced on October 4. The museum is reopening to visitors on Thursday morning.

“We are so proud to partner with the 1811 Kid Ory Historic House to help them reopen,” said Tanisha Marshall of Greenfield Louisiana, an agribusiness firm that donated $25,000 to help finance the new venture.

“A central part of our mission at Greenfield is honoring and preserving the extraordinary heritage of communities in St. John the Baptist Parish.”

The museum, founded in 2020, showcases both the 1811 German Coast Uprising—the largest slave revolt in US history, which began with a surprise attack at the property by Charles Deslondes—and Edward “Kid” Ory, a famed Black Creole bandleader born in the house in 1886, who later helped define New Orleans jazz with his unique trombone techniques.

The rebellion was led by Catholic slaves, and Ory was baptized at St Peter Catholic Church in nearby Reserve, Louisiana (roughly 30 miles west of New Orleans).

The Bonnet Carre Historical Center, named after a spillway bordering Laplace, was founded in October 2021 by a group of local scholars and professionals connected to the museum and its histories.

Among them is John Andry, a descendant of Manuel Andry, the owner of the house—then part of a plantation—at the time of the 1811 revolt. He, alongside Ory’s great-grandniece Leah Sulony, were on hand for the reopening event this week.

(Front row, from left): Tanisha Marshall, Tiffany Riley, and Pastor Elmo Perrilloux. (Back row, from left): St. John Parish President Jaclyn Hotard, John Andry, and Leah Sulony. (1811 Kid Ory Historic House/Facebook)

Local slavery historian and genealogist Ja’el Gordon, who serves as president of the nonprofit, sang the praises of the Historic House museum this week.

“The relentless care and dedication that has been put into this museum shows in its result, a safe space for uncovering and sharing corrective narratives of those who came before—the ancestors,” she said.

“Without the help of Greenfield, this mission would have ended.”

The initial announcement of the reopening came just days after the museum held its last official visits on October 1, following financial difficulties exacerbated by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Museum founder John McCusker had noted that, despite support from local residents, tourists, and others, the museum had not regained its financial footing after a yearlong closure due to health concerns and storm damage repairs. The property owner, Timothy Sheehan, was reportedly ready to sell.

The new partnerships and the donation from Greenfield, however, have brought new life to the Historic House and its storied legacies. As a 501(c)(3), the museum is also now eligible to receive tax-deductible donations and grant funding.

“We appreciate the outpouring of support from the community over the last two months before the closure, and Greenfield stepping up to help us may allow us to become a long-term institution,” he said this week.

The Historic House is open to visitors Thursday through Sunday, 10am to 3pm CT. Tickets are $18 for adults ($10 for children under 10) and can be purchased on the museum website.

Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder and editor of Black Catholic Messenger, a seminarian with the Josephites, and a ThM student with the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University of Louisiana (XULA).

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