Wednesday 7 September 2011

The America project - Louisiana

Louisiana (LA) size 52,271 sq.m population 4.5 million

Bordering states Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi (3)
State capital Baton Rouge
Most populous city New Orleans
Other notable places Lafayette, Shreveport, Alexandria, Monroe
Notable landmarks and natural features Mississippi River; Red River; The French Quarter, New Orleans

Statehood 30th April 1812 (18th)

Ten famous Louisianais
Louis Armstrong (musician and singer; born New Orleans, 1901-1971)
Truman Capote (writer; born New Orleans, 1924-1984)
Fats Domino (musician, singer and songwriter; born New Orleans, 1928 -)
Dorothy Lamour (actress; born New Orleans, 1914-1996)
Paul Morphy (chess grandmaster; born New Orleans, 1837-1884)
Lee Harvey Oswald (Presidential assassin; born New Orleans, 1939-1963)
Pauley Perrette (actress and singer; born New Orleans, 1969 -)
Britney Spears (singer and actress; born McComb, Mississippi (raised Kentwood), 1981 -)
Tony Joe White (musician and songwriter; born Oak Grove, 1943 -)
Reece Witherspoon (actress; born New Orleans, 1976 -)

Three important events

1. Louisiana Purchase (1803)
Referring to the territory, rather than just the State, the Louisiana Purchase is one of the more impressive territorial acquisitions in US history. The territory had belonged to Spain up until 1800, when it had been sold back to France with little fanfare. However, in 1801 Napoleon sent an armed force to New Orleans and that great motivating factor in so much of early American history - slavery - reared its ugly head. Fearing that Napoleon would free the slaves in Louisiana and create a chain reaction in other States, the new President Thomas Jefferson began negotiations with France. The territory was eventually exchanged on April 30th at a cost of US$11.25 million plus an additional cancellation of US$3.75 million of French debts. The huge territory - 828,800 square miles and encompassing 15 current US States (Arkansas, Iowa, Missouri, Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska, plus parts of North and South Dakota, Louisiana, Minnesota, New Mexico, Texas, Wyoming, Colorado and Montana) plus small parts of the now-Canadian provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan - worked out at a very reasonable per-acre price of 3 cents.

2. Jim Garrison (1969)
New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison is still the only man to have brought a legal trial in the case of the murder of President John F. Kennedy. Sadly for him, his case was significantly more shaky than the film it inspired - JFK - would have you believe. Believing the Warren Commission report into the assassination to be wanting, Garrison began investigating a conspiracy in New Orleans in 1966. It centred around Lee Harvey Oswald - born in New Orleans and an occasional resident throughout his life - and a noted businessman from the city, Clay Shaw. Garrison's case hinged on the testimony of Perry Russo, an insurance salesman from Baton Rouge, who claimed that he had seen Oswald, a man he claimed was Shaw and David Ferrie, a fanatical anti-communist and some-time military man, discuss the assassination of Kennedy at a party in Shaw's house in the summer of 1963. However, Russo's account failed countless tests, including an FBI polygraph and questioning whilst under the influence of the Sodium Pentathol "truth serum" and Garrison's case was dismissed within an hour of jury deliberation.

3. Hurricane Katrina (29th August 2005)
Hurricane Katrina is the costliest natural disaster ever to befall the United States, as well as one of the most violent on record. It formed on August 23rd 2005, peaking around the 28th and 29th before dissipating a day later. Of all the States affected, the impact on Louisiana was the most deadly as it caused a collapse of the levee system and massive flooding of the low-lying State, causing death and devastation for weeks after the storm. New Orleans was evacuated on 28th August, then decimated by flood waters and winds which peaked at 175 mph. Overall, over 1800 people died as a result of Katrina, nearly 1600 of them in Louisiana. The overall bill for the damage caused is estimated at US$81.2 billion, more that twice the previous high.

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