Mardi Gras Indians

Louisiana State Univ. (Louisiana True). Oct. 2022. 160p. ISBN 9780807178706. $21.95. SOC SCI
One of New Orleans’s most remarkable subcultures, with eye-catching parades and handcrafted beaded and feathered suits, are the Mardi Gras Indians (also known as Black Masking Indians or Black Indians, all generational terms that pay tribute to the Indigenous peoples who provided refuge to freedom-seeking enslaved African Americans). Drawing on previous studies, documentaries, and her own research, Williams (host of the podcast Black & Published) examines the history and current practices of Mardi Gras Indians, writing that the tradition represents a continual act of joy and defiance for Black New Orleanians. Fusing elements from the central African Kingdom of Kongo, Indigenous peoples in the Mississippi River Delta, and Carnival revelry in Europe and South America, the Mardi Gras tribes are multi-stranded groups born of resistance to enslavement and colonization. Williams’s interviews with Mardi Gras tribe members demonstrate how the evolving tradition has indelibly shaped and been shaped by New Orleans’s cultural landscape.
VERDICT Williams’s concise book effectively synthesizes numeral primary and secondary sources into an excellent overview of the origins of Mardi Gras tribes and the reasons for their continued endurance. Particularly recommended for libraries looking to add to collections on Black American cultural traditions.
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