A Brief History of Mardi Gras

mardi gras
Bettmann / Corbis

100 Years Strong
White New Orleans society wasn't the only group that celebrated Carnival. The city's significant African American community, subject to its fair share of segregation, started parading in 1909. Named Zulu, after the African tribe, it is said to have been founded in mocking response to the highfalutin Rex parades. In 1949, the Zulu Krewe was the first to crown a celebrity king, Louis Armstrong. And while it experienced a period of profound unpopularity among socially-minded African Americans in the 1960s — Zulu parade participants wore blackface — it effectively integrated Mardi Gras when its parade rolled down New Orleans' main thoroughfares. Previously, it had been limited to back streets in black neighborhoods. Today, the Zulu Krewe, which rolls on Fat Tuesday, puts on one of the season's most popular parades.

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