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State of Louisiana
État de Louisiane
State flag of Louisiana State seal of Louisiana
(Flag of Louisiana) (Seal of Louisiana)
State nickname: Pelican State
Map of the U.S. with Louisiana highlighted
Other U.S. States
Capital Baton Rouge
Largest city New Orleans
Governor Kathleen Blanco (D)
Senators Mary Landrieu (D)

David Vitter (R)

Official language(s) None; English and French de facto
Area 134,382 km² (31st)
 - Land 112,927 km²
 - Water 21,455 km² (16%)
Population (2000)
 - Population 4,468,976 (22nd)
 - Density 39.61 /km² (22nd)
Admission into Union
 - Date April 30, 1812
 - Order 18th
Time zone Central: UTC-6/-5
Latitude 29°N to 33°N
Longitude 89°W to 94°W
Width 210 km
Length 610 km
 - Highest point 163 m
 - Mean 30 m
 - Lowest point -2.5 m
 - ISO 3166-2 US-LA
Web site www.louisiana.gov
Louisiana State Quarter (reverse)
Louisiana State Quarter

Louisiana (pronounced /luːˌiːziˈænə/ or /ˌluːziˈænə/) (French: Louisiane, pronounced Image:ltspkr.png/lwizjan/) is a Southern state of the United States of America. It uses the U.S. postal abbreviation LA. The state is bordered to the west by the state of Texas, to the north by Arkansas, to the east by the state of Mississippi, and to the south by the Gulf of Mexico. Among the states, Louisiana has a unique culture, owing to its French colonial heritage. While the state has no declared "official language," its law recognizes both English and French. Today, English is by far the main language of everyday life, but French is spoken by nearly 5% of the population and its influence can be seen in local dialects and in many place names.


Hurricane Katrina

Main Articles: Hurricane Katrina, Effect of Hurricane Katrina on Louisiana, Effect of Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans

Southeastern Louisiana was one of the hardest hit areas when Hurricane Katrina struck on August 29, 2005. The city of New Orleans was hit particularly hard, and didn't begin to reopen until October.


Louisiana was long inhabited by Native American tribes before the arrival of Europeans. The lasting mark of the Native Americans can be seen even today in the names used in Louisiana, such as Atchafalaya, Natchitouches (now spelled Natchitoches), Caddo, Houma, Tangipahoa, and Avoyel (Avoyelles Parish).

What follows is a partial list, using current parish boundaries as rough approximations of locations.[1]

  • The Atakapa were found in southwestern Louisiana in the parishes of Vermilion, Cameron, Lafayette, Acadia, Jefferson Davis, and Calcasieu.
  • The Chitimachas occupied the southeastern parishes of Iberia, Assumption, St Mary, Lower St. Martin, Terrebone, LaFourche, St. James, St. John the Baptist, St. Bo St. Charles, Jefferson, Orleans, St. Bernard, and Plaquemines.
  • The Bayougoula, part of the Choctaw nation, were found in points directly north of the Chitimachas, in the parishes of St. Helena, Tangipahoa, Washington, East and West Baton Rouge, Livingston, and St. Tammany.
  • The Houma tribe, was found in East and West Feliciana, and Pointe Coupee parishes; Ironically about 100 miles north of current location of the town named after them.
  • Portions of Avoyelles and Concordia parishes along the Mississippi River were home to the Avoyel, part of the Natchez nation.
  • The northeastern parishes of Tensas, Madison, and East and West Carroll were occupied by the Tunica tribe.
  • The remainder of current day central and north Louisiana was home to a substantial portion of the Caddo nation.

The first European explorers to visit what is now Louisiana were a 1528 Spanish expedition (led by Panfilo de Narváez) that located the mouth of the Mississippi River. Some 13 years later Hernando de Soto's expedition crossed through the region. Thereafter the region was long neglected by the Spanish authorities, and the next explorers were French. Louisiana was named by the French explorer Robert Cavelier de La Salle in honor of Louis XIV in 1682. The first permanent settlement, Fort Maurepas at what is now Ocean Springs, Mississippi, near Biloxi, was founded by Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville in 1699.

The French colony of Louisiana originally claimed a great region of land on both sides of the Mississippi River and north to Canada. Most of the settlement concentrated along the banks of the Mississippi and its major tributaries, with trading outposts and mission settlements in the Illinois Country, as far north as Peoria, Illinois and a number of settlements in the area around near present-day Saint Louis, Missouri. See also: French colonization of the Americas

Initially Mobile, Alabama and Biloxi, Mississippi functioned as the capital of the colony; from 1722 on New Orleans fulfilled that role.

Most of the territory to the east of the Mississippi was lost to Great Britain in the French and Indian War, except for the area around New Orleans and the parishes around Lake Pontchartrain. The rest of Louisiana became a colony of Spain by the Treaty of Fountainebleau of 1762.

During the period of Spanish rule, several thousand French-speaking refugees from the region of Acadia made their way to Louisiana following British expulsion; settling largely in the southwestern bayous, they became known as the Cajuns.

In 1800, France's Napoleon Bonaparte re-acquired Louisiana from Spain in the Treaty of San Ildefonso, although this was kept secret for some two years.

In 1803, the United States purchased the French province of Louisiana (see Louisiana Purchase) and divided it into two territories: the Orleans Territory (which became the state of Louisiana in 1812) and the District of Louisiana (which consisted of all the land not included in Orleans Territory). The Florida Parishes were annexed from Spanish West Florida by proclamation of President James Madison in 1810. The western boundary of Louisiana with Spanish Texas remained in dispute until the Adams-Onís Treaty in 1819, with the Sabine Free State serving as a neutral buffer zone as well as a haven for criminals.

There are still remnants of its former status as a possession of France, including: the use of a civil law legal system, based on the Louisiana Civil Code, which is similar to (and often confused with) the Napoleonic Code (like France, and unlike the rest of the United States, which uses a common law legal system derived from England), the term "parishes" being used to describe the state's sub-divisions as opposed to "counties", etc.

In 1849 the capital moved from New Orleans to Baton Rouge. Donaldsonville, Opelousas, and Shreveport have also briefly served as the seat of governments of Louisiana.

Louisiana was a slave state. It did, however, have one of the largest free black populations in the United States. Many of the freed slaves in Louisiana in turn purchased their own slaves, which led to the state having one of the largest numbers of slave owning blacks in America, if not the largest.

In the American Civil War, Louisiana seceded from the Union on January 26, 1861. New Orleans was captured by Federal troops on April 25, 1862. As significant portions of the population had Union sympathies, the Federal government took the unusual step of recognizing the areas of Louisiana under Federal control as a state within the Union with elected representatives who were sent to the congress in Washington, D.C. throughout the rest of the war.

On August 30, 2005, Hurricane Katrina struck and devastated a vast area of the state. Estimates are that more than two million people have been displaced by the hurricane and thousands are feared dead. Widespread looting and violence has been reported, especially in New Orleans. The next month, the Southwestern corner of the state was hit by Hurricane Rita. These dual disasters will cost the state tens of billions of dollars immediately, and the long term economic repercussions can only be guessed.

Law and government

The capital of Louisiana is Baton Rouge. Its governor is Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (Democrat) and its two U.S. senators are Mary Landrieu (Democrat) and David Vitter (Republican). Louisiana has seven Members of Congress, five Republicans and two Democrats.

Louisiana is the only state whose legal system is based on Roman, Spanish, and French civil law as opposed to English common law. Technically, it is known as "Civil Law," or the "Civilian System." It is often incorrectly referred to as the "Code Napoléon" or The Napoleonic Code. It is important to note that the Louisiana Civil Code and the French Civil Code, often referred to as the Napoleonic Code, came into existence at roughly the same time. Louisiana was never governed by the Napoleonic Code.

Great differences still exist between Louisiana Civil Law and the Common Law found in her 49 sister states. While most of the differences are now found in verbiage,[2] it is important to note that the "Civilian" tradition is still deeply rooted in all aspects of Louisiana law. Property, contractual, and family law are still mostly based on traditional Roman legal thinking and have little in common with English law.

Louisiana is unique among U.S. states in its method for state, local, and congressional elections. All candidates, regardless of party affiliation, run in an open primary on Election Day. If no candidate has more than 50% of the vote, the two candidates with the highest vote total compete in a runoff election approximately one month later. This runoff does not take into account party identification; therefore, it is not uncommon for a Democrat to be in a runoff with a fellow Democrat or a Republican to be in a runoff with a fellow Republican. All other states use the First Past the Post electoral system to elect Senators, Representatives, and statewide officials.

See: list of Louisiana Governors, Napoleon Bonaparte

In 2001, Louisiana had the highest incarceration rate in the world, with 1% of the population of Louisiana imprisoned (1013 inmates per 100,000 people).


Map of Louisiana
Map of Louisiana

See: List of parishes of Louisiana


The surface of the state may properly be divided into two parts, the uplands, and the alluvial and coast and swamp regions. The alluvial regions, including the low swamps and coast lands, cover an area of about 20,000 square miles; they lie principally along the Mississippi River, which traverses the state from north to south for a distance of about 600 miles and ultimately emptying into the Gulf of Mexico, the Red River, the Ouachita River and its branches, and other minor streams. The breadth of the alluvial region along the Mississippi is from 10 to 60 miles, and along the other streams it averages about 10 miles. The Mississippi flows upon a ridge formed by its own deposits, from which the lands incline toward the low swamps beyond at an average fall of six feet per mile. The lands along other streams present very similar features. These alluvial lands are never inundated save when breaks occur in the levees by which they are protected against the floods of the Mississippi and its tributaries. These floods, however, do not occur annually, and they may be said to be exceptional. With the maintenance of strong levees these alluvial lands would enjoy perpetual immunity from inundation. The uplands and contiguous hill lands have an area of more than 25,000 square miles, and they consist of prairie and woodlands. The elevations above sea-level range from 10 feet at the coast and swamp lands to 50 and 60 feet at the prairie and alluvial lands. In the uplands and hills the elevations rise to Mount Driskoll, the highest point in the state at only 535 feet above sea level, located in northwest Louisiana.

Besides the navigable rivers already named (some of which are called bayous), there are the Sabine, forming the western boundary, and the Pearl, the eastern boundary, the Calcasieu, the Mermentau, the Vermilion, the Teche, the Atchafalaya, the Boeuf, the Lafourche, the Courtableau, the D'Arbonne, the Macon, the Tensas, the Amite, the Tchefuncte, the Tickfaw, the Natalbany, and a number of other streams of lesser note, constituting a natural system of navigable waterways, aggregating over 4,000 miles in length, which is unequalled in the United States and probably in the world. The state also has 1,060 square miles of land-locked bays, 1,700 square miles of inland lakes, and a river surface of over 500 square miles.


The underlying strata of the state are of Cretaceous age and are covered by alluvial deposits of Tertiary and post-Tertiary origin. A large part of Louisiana is the creation and product of the Mississippi River. It was originally covered by an arm of the sea, and has been built up by the silt carried down the valley by the great river.

Near the coast, there are many salt domes, where salt is mined and oil is often found.

Owing to the extensive flood control measures along the Mississippi river and to natural subsidence, Louisiana is now suffering the loss of coastal land area. State and Federal government efforts to halt or reverse this phenomenon are under way; others are being sought.


See: List of Louisiana numbered highways

Interstate highways:

There are proposed plans to extend Interstate 69 to the Texas/Mexico border, which will go through north-eastern Louisiana. Also, Interstate 49 is slated to be expanded north into Arkansas and east along Interstate 10 to New Orleans, replacing part of U.S. Highway 90.

United States highways:

North-south routes East-west routes


The total gross state product in 2003 for Louisiana was $140 billion. Its Per Capita Personal Income was $26,312, forty-third in the nation. The state's principal agricultural outputs include seafood (It is the biggest producer of crawfish/crayfish in the world), cotton, soybeans, cattle, sugarcane, poultry and eggs, dairy products, and rice. Its industrial outputs include chemical products, petroleum and coal products, food processing, transportation equipment, paper products, and tourism.


See also: List of famous people from Louisiana; List of Louisiana musicians; Music of Louisiana

Historical populations

1810 76,556
1820 153,407
1830 215,739
1840 352,411
1850 517,762
1860 708,002
1870 726,915
1880 939,946
1890 1,118,588
1900 1,381,625
1910 1,656,388
1920 1,798,509
1930 2,101,593
1940 2,363,880
1950 2,683,516
1960 3,257,022
1970 3,641,306
1980 4,205,900
1990 4,219,973
2000 4,468,976

As of 2003, the state's population was 4,496,334, including approximately 215,000 native French-speakers.

The racial makeup of the state is:

The five largest ancestries in the state are: African American (32.5%), French/French Canadian (16.2%), American (10.1%), German (7.1%), Irish (7%).

Blacks, who long made up the majority of the state's population, dominate much of the southeast, central, and northern parts of the state, particularly those parishes along the Mississippi river valley. Creoles of French and Spanish ancestry and Cajuns of French-Canadian ancestry are dominant in much of the southern part of the state. Whites of Southern U.S. background predominate in the hillier areas of northern Louisiana.

As of 2000, 91.2% of Louisiana residents age 5 and older speak English at home and 4.8% speak French. Spanish is the third most spoken language at 2.5%, followed by Vietnamese at 0.6% and German at 0.2%.


Like the other Southern states, Louisiana is mostly Protestant; however there is also a large native Catholic population in the state, particularly in the southern part of the state, which makes Louisiana unique among Southern states. The current religious affiliations of the people of Louisiana are shown in the table below:

The New Orleans area has a small but significant Jewish community.

Cities and towns

See: List of cities, towns, and villages in Louisiana

Cities with a population of over 10,000:

Population > 10,000
(urbanized area)
Population > 100,000
(urbanized area)
Population > 1,000,000
(urbanized area)
New Orleans suburbs

Ten richest places in Louisiana

Ranked by per capita income

  1. Mound: $92,200 (population 12, as of the 2000 census)
  2. Oak Hills Place: $34,944
  3. Elmwood: $34,329
  4. Eden Isle: $31,798
  5. Gilliam: $30,264
  6. Shenandoah: $29,722
  7. Westminster: $28,087
  8. River Ridge: $27,088
  9. Prien: $26,537
  10. Mandeville: $26,420
For more see the complete list of places


For schools see List of school districts in Louisiana

Colleges and universities

Professional sports teams


National Football League

Arena Football League





Defunct teams

  • Shreveport Bombers - IPFL
  • Louisiana Bayou Beast - IPFL




Miscellaneous information

The ancestors of Creoles generally came to Louisiana directly from France, Spain, or from the French colonies in the Caribbean and settled in New Orleans or in South Eastern Louisiana.

The ancestors of the Cajuns are the Acadians, a French-descended people of what are now New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, Canada. When the British won the French and Indian War, the British forced all of the citizens to take a pledge of allegiance. Most Acadians declined and emigrated from Canada, most of them fleeing to the southwestern portion of Louisiana, centered in the region around Lafayette.

There is also a distinct Spanish-descended group in Louisiana. The Islenos are direct descendants of Canary Islanders forced to migrate by the Spanish King beginning in the mid-1770s. There were intended to help guard the eastern approaches to New Orleans from invasion by the British. They settled in what is modern-day St. Bernard Parish, in the river passes east of the city, along an old mouth of the Mississippi River which they named Terre aux Boeufs (literally "Land of the Cows" for the cattle living there). Many of their descendants remained insulated from the city, and continued to speak an archaic version of Spanish well into the 20th Century. They still maintain contacts with the Canary Islands, and have an annual "Caldo" festival named for a native dish.

For almost 20 years there was only one small amusement park in Louisiana, called Hamel's Amusement Park in Shreveport, which is now mostly closed. There is now a Six Flags in New Orleans East.

Since Louisiana is under constant threat from hurricanes, the Louisiana State Police are sponsoring a contraflow lane reversal program in order to evacuate the New Orleans metropolitan area as quickly as possible.

Louisiana's license plates include the motto "Sportsman's Paradise," which emphasizes the state's opportunities for hunting, fishing, and other outdoor activities. The motto is often used in state tourism campaigns.


  1. ^ Sturdevent, William C. (1967): Early Indian Tribes, Cultures, and Linguistic Stocks, Smithsonian Institution Map (Eastern United States).
  • Yiannopoulos, A.N., The Civil Codes of Louisiana (reprinted from Civil Law System: Louisiana and Comparative law, A Coursebook: Texts, Cases and Materials, 3d Edition; similar to version in preface to Louisiana Civil Code, ed. by Yiannopoulos)
  • Rodolfo Batiza, The Louisiana Civil Code of 1808: Its Actual Sources and

Present Relevance, 46 TUL. L. REV. 4 (1971); Rodolfo Batiza, Sources of the Civil Code of 1808, Facts and Speculation: A Rejoinder, 46 TUL. L. REV. 628 (1972); Robert A. Pascal, Sources of the Digest of 1808: A Reply to Professor Batiza, 46 TUL. L. REV. 603 (1972); Joseph M. Sweeney, Tournament of Scholars Over the Sources of the Civil Code of 1808,46 TUL. L. REV. 585 (1972).

See also

Wikimedia Commons has media related to:

External links

Flag of Louisiana

State of Louisiana


Baton Rouge


Acadiana | Florida Parishes | Greater New Orleans | Northwest Louisiana

Largest cities:

Alexandria | Baton Rouge | Bossier City | Houma | Kenner | Lafayette | Lake Charles | Metairie | Monroe | New Iberia | New Orleans | Shreveport


Acadia | Allen | Ascension | Assumption | Avoyelles | Beauregard | Bienville | Bossier | Caddo | Calcasieu | Caldwell | Cameron | Catahoula | Claiborne | Concordia | De Soto | East Baton Rouge | East Carroll | East Feliciana | Evangeline | Franklin | Grant | Iberia | Iberville | Jackson | Jefferson | Jefferson Davis | La Salle | Lafayette | Lafourche | Lincoln | Livingston | Madison | Morehouse | Natchitoches | Orleans | Ouachita | Plaquemines | Pointe Coupee | Rapides | Red River | Richland | Sabine | St. Bernard | St. Charles | St. Helena | St. James | St. John the Baptist | St. Landry | St. Martin | St. Mary | St. Tammany | Tangipahoa | Tensas | Terrebonne | Union | Vermilion | Vernon | Washington | Webster | West Baton Rouge | West Carroll | West Feliciana | Winn

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