Dancing In The Streets : Social Aid and Pleasure Clubs of New Orleans

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The “greatest real-life free show on earth.” “Church for dancers.” “Four hours of therapy.” These are but a few ways people have described the unmistakable spectacle and energy of second line parades. Put on by New Orleans’s network of social aid and pleasure clubs, the parades have become part of the lifeblood of the city, providing a physical and symbolic gathering place for Black history and expression.

Dancing in the Streets combines archival photography with the work of 10 contemporary second line photographers to present a comprehensive survey of every social aid and pleasure club on the scene today. Essays explore the evolution of the parades from their roots in post–Civil War Black mutual aid societies; their ties to Black performance practices in Congo Square; the artistry and style of the clubs’ suits and regalia; and the brass bands and dance forms that bring the parades to life.

An epilogue presents club leaders in conversation about the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the social aid and pleasure club community. This timely addition works in concert with the historical material and images to depict a powerful tradition forged from hardship and creativity, one that shows no sign of stopping.

By Judy Cooper
Distributed for the Historic New Orleans Collection.

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