LaPlace Neighborhood Celebrates History with Heritage Walk

Marina Prestenbach

@tmarinalee

The LaPlace neighborhood in Lafayette celebrated its significant role in black history with a heritage walk February 21, 2020.

The neighborhood located between Congress and Cameron Street was created in 1856, and at the time was placed right on the outskirts of the Lafayette city limits.

It became home to St. Paul Catholic Church and St. Paul School, which was the first school to offer academic classes for black people and have the first all-black baseball team in Lafayette.

 LaPlace, short for La Place des Creoles is also home to the Block, an area of the neighborhood that served as the center of black social life and was often the epicenter of festivals and Mardi Gras parades.

“This is one of the richest histories of LaPlace in my 10 years of doing this work. St. Paul Catholic Church was the first African-American Catholic church in Lafayette. St. Paul school was started right here on this property in 1903,” said Roxanna Usner from the Lafayette Consolidated Government.

The heritage walk began at the St. Paul Church and passed the St. Paul Church Rectory building, the Bell of St. Paul, the school property and the Block. Before the walk, attendees watched as Usner unveiled a plaque in front of the church that tells the history of the bell.

The heritage walk was attended by members of the community, attendees of St. Paul Church and students from Holy Family Catholic Church, formerly St. Paul School.

Carlos Harvin, the Chief of Minority Affairs for the Lafayette Consolidated Government said to the students attending, “Our ancestors did a great thing to build St. Paul Catholic Church. This is why we celebrate black history month. To show that African-American people have done great things all over the world, in the United States and right here in Lafayette.”

Members of the community, like Anthony Navarre, a lifelong resident of LaPlace, were grateful to see LaPlace getting the recognition it deserves.

“I think it informs and educates the young people today who really don’t know very much about their history, their families history and as a people, our contributions to what make this city and this state and this nation what it is,” said Navarre.

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