Narrated by New Orleans native and Grammy and Emmy-winner Harry Connick, Jr., the documentary highlights the major events that have occurred during the last two centuries since Louisiana became a state on April 30, 1812.
From the actual decision to join the Union to the present, Louisiana has had a lively history featuring colorful politicians, great musicians and athletes and a cuisine like no other state.
Louisiana has also had a rich military history starting with the Battle of New Orleans on January 8, 1815.
“I don't think there was a more important battle in the War of 1812 than the Battle of New Orleans for this reason: it brought America together,” Historian Douglas Brinkley said. “By holding onto New Orleans and by thwarting the British on the Plain of Chalmette, the United States now had full control of the Mississippi River.”
Other important military contributions from Louisiana included the state hosting the largest war games in American history to prepare troops for World War II and Andrew Higgins creating the boats that were used in D-Day and other major amphibious assaults during the war.
“Every American soldier who went ashore in an invasion in World War II did so in a boat built in New Orleans at Higgins Industries,” Award-winning historian and author Stephen Ambrose (1936-2002) said. “If Andy Higgins had not designed and then built those landing craft, we never could’ve gone in over an open beach. The whole strategy of the war would’ve been different “
Louisiana has also had a long list of charismatic and sometimes controversial political figures like former Governors Huey and Earl Long and Edwin Edwards. Huey Long served as Governor and U.S. Senator before he was gunned down in the new State Capitol that he had gotten constructed.
“Huey Long became the mouthpiece for a lot of people around this state. Poor people, people who had felt disenfranchised either politically or economically, “ author Bob Mann said. “He recognized their frustration, their fear, their anger, their estrangement from society, and their desire to play a greater role in Louisiana government, to speak for themselves. And he gave voice to them.”
Earl Long was also a champion for the poor and black citizens in the state, but he is mainly remembered for a profanity-laced tirade on the Louisiana House floor that led to him being committed to a mental institution. Edwin Edwards is the only man to serve four terms as governor. One of his major accomplishments was spearheading the efforts to get a new state constitution. After his fourth term as governor, he served eight years in prison.
With the recent elections of Kathleen Blanco, the first woman governor in the state’s history, and Bobby Jindal, the nation’s first Indian American governor, the state has entered a new era of politics.
From the creation of Jazz to Cajun, Zydeco, blues, New Orleans Rhythm and Blues and country music, the musical diversity in the state is reflective of the state’s population and culture. It’s a culture that has produced such music legends as Louis Armstrong and Fats Domino.
Louisiana has also been fertile ground for world-renowned writers like playwrights Tennessee Williams and Robert Harling and authors like Anne Rice, Ernest J. Gaines, James Lee Burke, Kate Chopin and Pulitzer Prize-winner Shirley Anne Grau.
“One thing about a Louisiana locale is that it always contains some element of surprise. You can’t take anything for granted in Louisiana. And I think writers love that - people here really love language. They love to talk. They love stories,” novelist and LSU English Professor James Wilcox said.
The documentary was produced by LPB’s Tika Laudun and Al Godoy, who led the team that created the duPont Columbia Award-winning six-part series Louisiana: A History. Major funding for the documentary was provided by the Louisiana Bicentennial Commission, the Louisiana Office of Culture Recreation and Tourism, The Reilly Family Foundation, Entergy Louisiana and the Louisiana Propane Dealers. Additional funding was provided by ExxonMobil-Baton Rouge and the Foundation for Excellence in Louisiana Public Broadcasting, The Louisiana Bicentennial Commission, the Propane Dealers and LUBA Worker's Comp are underwriting the 18 Louisiana Then & Now Bicentennial minutes hosted by Faith Ford that are currently airing on LPB.
For more information, contact Bob Neese at 1-800-272-8161, ext. 4274.