NOLA Life Stories

NOLA Life Stories features first person perspectives of the individuals who have helped shape our community.

Created by The Historic New Orleans Collection with the collaboration of WWNO, the show features excerpts from oral history interviews conducted as part of THNOC’s Oral History Program, an ongoing effort to record and archive the voices and experiences of the people that have made New Orleans what it is today.

Sarah Holtz, Producer

Mark Cave, Executive Producer

The Historic New Orleans Collection

Activism is often assumed to be a project of young people, an activity with an expiration date. For Stewart Butler, it’s the exact opposite. He joined the LGBTQ rights movement in the 1980s at the age of 50. Today, Mr. Butler is considered by many to be a leader in the gay rights community, and in 2013 the ACLU recognized his efforts with an achievement award. In this edition of NOLA Life Stories, Mr. Butler charts his path to becoming an activist. The story begins in San Francisco. 

Danger And Resistance At Pontchartrain Beach: A Civil Rights Story

Feb 15, 2019
The Historic New Orleans Collection

Katrena Jackson Ndang came of age at a time when the phrase "the personal is political" was reaching new heights. While she was enrolled at Southern University, Ms. Ndang became a civil rights activist, and she used non-violent resistance in protests across the city, including on one fateful day at Pontchartain Beach. She eventually ex-patriated to Cameroon, but her civil rights years are ingrained in her memory, which she shared for this edition of NOLA Life Stories.


The Katrina Season: Tom Benson's Oral History

Jan 18, 2019
Keely Merritt, The Historic New Orleans Collection

Saints fans across the city are gearing up for the NFC Championship Game this Sunday. Last year, the Saints family lost longtime team owner Tom Benson. He served as owner starting in 1985, through the difficult aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and during the team’s Super Bowl victory in 2010. In this edition of NOLA Life Stories, we’ll hear an interview with Tom Benson from the archives, when he shared memories of the pivotal year in Saints football that would come to be known as the Katrina Season. 

No Easy Games: An Oral History Of The 1957 Sugar Bowl

Dec 28, 2018
The Historic New Orleans Collection

The Sugar Bowl will return to the Superdome on New Year’s Day. To mark the occasion, we turn to star player and legendary coach Johnny Majors. Mr. Majors was an All-American halfback, finishing second in line for the Heisman Trophy in 1956. In this edition of NOLA Life Stories, Mr. Majors reflects on his experiences playing for the Tennessee Volunteers in the 1957 Sugar Bowl.

This NOLA Life Stories interview was conducted by Mark Cave for The Historic New Orleans Collection and produced for WWNO by Sarah Holtz.

The New Orleans Sniper Incident: An Oral History

Nov 16, 2018
The Historic New Orleans Collection

In the decade following the civil rights movement, social tensions in American cities were far from resolved, and New Orleans was no exception. Many of these tensions came to a tragic head in 1973. Mark James Essex was an African American Navy veteran who mounted a sniper attack at the Howard Johnson Hotel, killing nine people. John Calico was an NOPD officer deployed to the Howard Johnson, and he lived to tell the tale. 

The Historic New Orleans Collection

George Dunbar is a contemporary artist from New Orleans whose work has graced the walls and halls of exhibits around the world. In the 1950s, he banded together with several other contemporary artists who identified with the abstract movement known as the New York School. Together, they opened a co-op gallery on Royal Street. In this edition of NOLA Life Stories, Mr. Dunbar describes this moment in contemporary art, which found its nexus at the Orleans Gallery.

Trappers, Gunslingers, And The War On Delacroix Island

Sep 21, 2018
The Historic New Orleans Collection

On upper Decatur Street in the French Quarter, there's a unique mint green building with the words "Delacroix Corporation" displayed across the facade. Little do most New Orleanians know, but the origins of the Delacroix Corporation can be traced back to the Isleños people of Saint Bernard Parish, who were once muskrat trappers. On this edition of NOLA Life Stories, Dorothy Benge, who serves as the current president of the Delacroix Corporation, traces her family history back to those days, when the muskrat trappers went to war.

How To Spell Solidarity: The Freedom Ride Of '61

Aug 17, 2018
The Historic New Orleans Collection

The Historic New Orleans Collection has put together a wealth of oral histories from the civil rights movement as part of their NOLA Resistance Project. The latest story belongs to Claude Reese, who played a vital role in the New Orleans chapter of CORE, the Congress of Racial Equality. Claude traces his civil rights activism back to one extraordinary leader, Oretha Castle Haley. You’re about to hear Claude’s firsthand account in this edition of NOLA Life Stories.

On Camera With The Carrs: An Oral History

Jul 20, 2018
The Historic New Orleans Collection

New Orleans had its very own golden age of television in the 1960s, and celebrity couple Bob and Jan Carr were at the center of it. Bob and Jan graced the airwaves of WWL and broadcasted a TV show for WDSU from the rooftop of the Royal Orleans Hotel, only blocks from their Bourbon Street home. Bob and Jan tell their tale from the very beginning in this edition of NOLA Life Stories.

The Shotgun House, Reimagined: Portrait Of The Artist Robert Tannen

Jun 22, 2018
The Historic New Orleans Collection

Decades ago, the New Orleans artist Robert Tannen recognized something emblematic in one of the city's most common forms: the shotgun house. Since then, he's created artistic renderings of the shotgun for galleries and public spaces throughout New Orleans. In this edition of NOLA Life Stories, Mr. Tannen tells historian Mark Cave about the origin of this body of work.