The University of New Orleans Midlo Center for New Orleans Studies has received a donation from the Holley Pavy DeBlois and John M. DeBlois Foundation to conduct a new oral history project that centers on multi-generational family owned businesses in New Orleans.
The oral histories gathered for the project will be housed on the New Orleans Historical website, and made available for downloads via the mobile walking tour application.
“All of these are family stories but they are also stories of labor and economic mobility,” said UNO history professor Mary Niall Mitchell, who is co-director of the Midlo Center. “By mapping these on our New Orleans Historical tour app, we are also literally mapping the economic and social history of the city.”
The businesses will include bakeries, clothiers, transportation, funeral homes, grocers, and newspapers, among others, Mitchell said. The project also will include interviews and documents from families that have been prominent in the fields of law, politics, medicine and music, she said.
Work is already underway and some stories have been published on the website, Mitchell said, including Mark Roudané's history of his family’s newspaper The New Orleans Tribune, the country’s first African American-owned daily newspaper.
In a few months, some oral histories will be available on Midlo’s YouTube channel. Videos created from the full interviews will be part of the New Orleans Historical tours and should be available by early summer, Mitchell said.
“We are so grateful to the Holley Pavy DeBlois and John M. DeBlois Foundation for supporting this initiative,” Mitchell said. “The focus on family businesses really illuminates the rich ethnic history of this city. We plan to include as much of this rich tapestry as we can.”
The project, "The Family Business: An Oral History Project on the history of family businesses in New Orleans," will be produced by Mitchell and Midlo co-director Connie Atkinson, with UNO alumna Kathryn O'Dwyer serving as project manager.
"The mission of the Midlo Center includes helping to circulate information on the city’s history to the city’s people,” Atkinson said. “This public history project is a great opportunity for the stories of families and neighborhoods to circulate back to the University, making some of these rich histories available to our students and scholars as well as the people of New Orleans."
O’Dwyer, who is the managing editor of New Orleans Historical website, said the business-focus oral histories are an important addition to the site.
“By highlighting the histories of local, multi-generational family businesses on New Orleans Historical's walking tour app, tourists and locals alike will learn about the significant cultural, political, and economic impact that family-run businesses have had on our city for generations,” O’Dwyer said.