Soul Of America

 

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SHREVEPORT

 

 



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P.B.S. Pinchback and C.C. Antoine mural in the Red River District

 

BLACK GENESIS - SHREVEPORT


    Shreveport, along the banks mighty Red River, is based on land first inhabited by the Caddo Indians. Founded in 1839, the City of Shreveport was named for Captain Henry Miller Shreve, a steamboat captain credited with transforming the region from a mere rural stop along the Texas Trail to a flourishing riverbank commerce area.

    Shreve was charged with clearing a 165 mile-long logjam along the Red River known as the “Great Raft,” which prevented cotton shipments from traveling north after passing through the port of New Orleans. It took him over a decade to open the waterway, and today he is hailed as the hero who forever changed the fate of the area.

    Prior to 1839, the original inhabitants--the Caddo Indians--were persuaded by an early businessman to sell 16 tracts of land that eventually became downtown Shreveport.  The fertile soil along the Red River was another major contributing factor in establishing a successful agricultural industry here, followed by lumber, manufacturing and oil.

    As the city grew, so did the population and by the 19th century it was comprised a diverse mix of peoples including native Indians, riverboat men, multifarious merchants, trappers, traders and others.

    On the other side of the Red River, a small trading post known as Cane’s Landing opened, later becoming Bossier City. Spurned on by the success and popularity of its adjacent “sister city,” Bossier really gained notoriety when the U.S. Air Force dedicated Barksdale Air Force Base in 1933. Barksdale is significant because it served as a bombing and gunnery range, and was the largest bombardment organization in the Air Force.

    During the Civil War, Shreveport was the capitol of Confederate Louisiana.  Yet this did not dissuade Blacks from coming and settling here. The majority could be found in the Blue Goose neighborhood, as well as along Texas Street. Filled with nightclubs, barbershops, restaurants and other businesses, the Blue Goose was the happening place for African American community. It also encompassed part of Shreveport’s “Red Light District,” which thrived from 1902 to about 1917.

    Today’s Texas Street was formally known as “The Avenue.” Dating from 1899 to 1917 it was once the business center and local social point for Shreveport’s Blacks and those from the surrounding communities. The street has been wonderfully preserved and is still home to historic churches, turn-of-the-century buildings and businesses.

    Churches continue to play a significant role in the culture landscape here.  Antioch Baptist Church, the oldest African-American Baptist Congregation in Shreveport; Little Union; Old Galilee; and Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church, the Black Catholic church back in the day, are just a few of the oldest still standing.

    Music also put Shreveport–Bossier City on the map, lead by the historic Municipal Auditorium where then unknown Elvis Presley, Huddie “LeadBelly” Ledbetter, Bobbie “Blue” Bland, B.B. King, James  Brown, and numerous country and western stars graced the stage over the years.

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