Mardi Gras of 1946, was the start of something new and achievement to the people of New Orleans. After World War II, people needed a sense of celebration into the new freedom and to bring happiness into the world. The Marching Clubs in New Orleans was one of the things that held the Mardi Gras of 1946 together and made it special.
Marching clubs are a group of different people coming together and bonding over something they all have in common. This is expressed as the members’ identity among that certain group. For example, this could be their identity from sexuality and gender to them sharing the same school, which celebrate through dancing, playing an instrument, and especially by wearing costumes. This was a hard thing to do because of how they struggle just to be able to walk on the streets with elite crews and to do that they have to fight to take their place. Also how the groups came together to create this big celebration; Mardi Gras. Some clubs are still around to this day and history allows them to prosper and gain achievement.
The groups of matching bands that marched in 1946 were groups of people that were outside of the elite white men krewes of New Orleans at this time. The Women of Venus was an all-women group who came back after World War Two. They were at first a marching krewe but decided to become a parade krewe in the end. These women have suffered slurs and had food thrown at them the whole time.1
Then there was Jefferson City Buzzards which was founded in 1890, that marched down the Audubon Park and Larelle street.
In the same year of 1946, the Lyons club was founded by a group of neighborhood friends; they did not get to march until 1947 but were established and named a club. This club is made up of many people around the world and still marches on Mardi Gras today. one band that was frequently known was the Avery ‘Kid’ Howard Band that played in Mardi Gras parades and also neighborhood funerals; furthermore was a all black marching band at the time. Not all marching clubs in 1946 were people of the older generation, some were made up of the younger generation.2 Schools held marching bands and were able to show off the school pride during Mardi Gras.3 Other clubs such as the Eleanor Carnival club showed their spirit in beautiful, over the top costumes. The club was established in 1905 and first marched in Mardi Gras in 1936 in New Orleans. In 1946 the members dressed as aliens of faraway planets to show how Mardi Gras took them to another reality than their own.4 Furthermore, most of these clubs are still around and march in Mardi Gras today and still have their elaborate costumes.5 The marching bands/krewes are just one thing that makes up Mardi Gras. The Marching Krewes gave a sense of community and showed groups of people coming together in regular costumes to celebrate dresses to show pride in who they were.
Mardi Gras of 1946 was not always a happy time, many elite krewes did not want marching bands following them or being ahead of them. These were krewes such as carnival and Rex that was elite and wanted to be seen as such. Organizing a marching club was hard especially if it were a group of regular middle-class citizens. Mardi Gras was held by the power of the elite krewes and was organized by the wealthy. It was very hard to be put on the Mardi Gras schedule during this time.6
Newspapers during this time featured many articles announcing cancellation and news of marching clubs not being able to march. This was mostly due to what the members of the marching group symbolized at the time and the pigment of their skin. Black marching bands were not allowed in Mardi Gras unless they were followed by Zulu or behind Zulu. Many marching krewes and bands had to fight to keep their spot in the parade routes. Some krewes even went as far as to show up even when told not to; this was to prove a point to the elite krewe members. The message was that everyone deserves to show their pride and to be free to celebrate Mardi Gras and create a beautiful celebration of life in the city of New Orleans.
A parallel between the Mardi Gras of 1946 and the Mardi Gras of 2005 was that New Orleans was just coming back from tragic events that devastated the New Orleans economy. Katrina was a massive hurricane that hit Louisiana on August 29 2005 and devastated much of the New Orleans area and had a lot of water damage. In World War II and Katrina: both periods saw significant growth in marching krewes — for similar reasons: they were both rebuilding times for Mardi Gras and new people wanted to take part instead of just watch. Additionally, Mardi Gras, today is mostly different than it was in 1946, where now people can be who they are. Marching Clubs today either dance, play jazz music, or simply just walk holding signs and celebrating what they stand for.
Now the elite Krewes can not stop African Americans or any ethnic group from marching and celebrating Mardi Gras. Mardi Gras today still has elite krewes such as Rex and Carnival and celebrate their celebrant parties but, Mardi Gras’s central idea now is based upon freedom and to show people that New Orleans is where people come together for all backgrounds to be a committee. Today they have the 610 Stompers and the Saint Augustine Marching 100. Also, many of the LGBT community now have many marching bands/krewes that allow them to express who they are, such as Lords of Leather. Also, many all-women groups are naming one would be the Bayou Babes of New Orleans.
Written By: Gracie Elizabeth
Originally Published: December 11th, 2020 || Last Updated: February 22nd, 2020
A part of Doc Studio’s History of the New Orleans Landscape Collection
- (2017, August 14). Brave Women with Beads. Retrieved November 22, 2020, from https://www.mardigrasnewotlenase.com/news/the-first-all-female-mardi-gras)
- (A walk on the wild side. (1997, January 29). The Time-Picayune, pp. 1-171. Retrieved November 13, 2020.)
- (Carnival Throngs Acclaim Rex. (1948, February 11). The Times-Picayune, pp. 1-3. Retrieved November 13, 2020.)
- (The Times-Picayune. (1946, March 6). Marching Clubs Have Their Day, pp. 1-6. Retrieved November 13, 2020)
- (Gist Of the News. (1946, March 6). The Times-Picayune, p. 1. Retrieved November 13, 2020.)
- (Crescent City parade permits denied. (1946, February 20). The Times -Picayune, pp. 1-16. Retrieved November 13, 2020)