Image: Evergreen Plantation
Zave Smith  /  AP file
The slave quarters at the Evergreen Plantation in Wallace, La. The plantation is on the list of places that Louisiana tourism officials recently unveiled as the first 26 sites on an African American Heritage Trail running from New Orleans to Northern Louisiana.
updated 3/14/2008 1:50:43 PM ET 2008-03-14T17:50:43

Louisiana tourism officials have unveiled the first 26 sites on an African American Heritage Trail running from New Orleans to northern Louisiana.

"It will tell the stories of African Americans who have made contributions to Louisiana, to America and to the world," said Chuck Morse, assistant secretary of the Louisiana Office of Tourism. "It makes us proud, but it's not about pride totally. It's also about the economy."

There are 26 stops on the trail to begin with, although that will be expanded. Included are the expected — plantations with details about slaves' lives, and the early roots of jazz — and the unexpected — such as Melrose Plantation, built and owned and operated by a former slave, who in turn became a slave owner.

Heritage tourism trails are routes that lead visitors to specialty points of interest. They constitute a fast-growing type of tourism, Morse said. Louisiana is in the process of developing a series of such trails, ranging from a Culinary Trail to a Civil War Trail.

According to the Travel Industry Associations of America, more and more travelers are seeking the authentic American experience offered through cultural and heritage tourism. The organization said 81 percent of the 146.4 million U.S. adults who took a trip of 50 miles or more away from home in the past year included historical or cultural activities on at least one of their trips.

"People are looking for authentic places and the stories that go with them," Morse said. "Trails help them find them easily.'"

An old-time black-and-white photograph of two young black men, one holding an accordian, serves as the "face" of the trail.

Image: Laura Plantation
Zave Smith  /  AP file
A room and tools shown inside of a slave cabin at the Laura Plantation in Vacherie, La.
Places on the trail include the Hermione Museum in Tallulah, which is currently hosting an exhibit on the famously successful hair-care entrepreneur Madam C.J. Walker, who was born in Delta, La., in 1867, shortly after slavery ended; the state capitol in Baton Rouge, where, in the 1870s, P.B.S. Pinchback briefly served as the first black governor in U.S. history; and Congo Square, in New Orleans, where slaves were permitted to assemble on Sundays. The St. Augustine Catholic Church in Natchez, La., and the St. Augustine Church in New Orleans' Treme neighborhood have both been spiritual centers for the black community for generations. Grambling State University in Grambling, and Southern University in Baton Rouge, both traditionally black colleges, are also on the list. The schools celebrate their rivalry at an annual football game called the Bayou Classic.

Some of the sites on the trail are associated with prominent individuals, such as the great gospel singer Mahalia Jackson's grave in Providence Park Cemetery in Metairie; and the Arna Bontemps African American Heritage Museum in Alexandria, the family home for a writer who went on to become important in the Harlem Renaissance.

Other places on the trail in New Orleans are the New Orleans African American Museum, St. Louis Cemeteries No. 1 and No. 2, the French Market and the Amistad Research Center. Elsewhere in the state, the list also includes Laura Plantation, Vacherie; Evergreen Plantation, Wallace; River Road African American Museum, Donaldsonville; Tangipahoa African American Heritage Museum, Hammond; Port Hudson Battlefield, Jackson; the African American Museum, St. Martinville; the Black Heritage Art Gallery, Central School Arts and Humanities Center, Lake Charles; the Creole Heritage Folk Life Center, Opelousas; the Cane River Creole National Historic Park-Creole Center, Natchitoches; the Multicultural Center of the South, Shreveport; Southern University Museum of Art, Shreveport; and the Northeast Louisiana Delta African American Heritage Museum, Monroe.

For more information, click here, or call 800-474-8626.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Photos: Big Easy returns

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    A junked car lies near empty houses in the Lakeview neighborhood near the site of the levee breach on the 17th Street Canal, August 29, 2005. More than five months after caused by Hurricane Katrina made landfall, there was little progress in some areas of New Orleans. Today, tours are offered to visitors to have a better understanding of events pre and post Katrina. (David Rae Morris / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Big Easy blues

    Costumed revelers dressed as blue roof tarps pose at the annual MOMs Ball, thrown each year by the Krewe of Misfits, Orphans and Mystics in New Orleans. Many of this years Mardi Gras floats and costumes reference the blue tarps that still protect broken roofs across the city after Hurricane Katrina. (Matthew Cavanaugh / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Soul sounds

    Jen Pearl (L) and Michelle Loughnane stand under an umbrella with a reference to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, April 2006. Jazz Fest '07 will be held on April 27-29 and May 4-6. (Lee Celano / Reuters via Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Dancing in the streets

    A member of the Young Olympia Aide and New Look Social Aid and Pleasure Club dances in a second line parade at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. (Lee Celano / Reuters via Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Jeweled celebration

    Members of the Krewe of Thoth throw beads as they travel down St. Charles Avenue where thousands of revelers showed up to enjoy 2006 Mardi Gras festivities. Mardi Gras (French for "Fat Tuesday") is the day before Ash Wednesday, and a celebration of the last the day before the beginning of the Christian season of Lent. Mardi Gras 2007 will be observed on Feb. 20. (Lucas Jackson / Reuters via Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Eye candy

    Revelers ogle a woman exposing herself on Bourbon St. during Mardi Gras festivities in the French Quarter of New Orleans. (Lucas Jackson / Reuters via Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Closing time

    Orleans Parish mounted Police Officers march down Bourbon Street in the French Quarter announcing the official end of Mardi Gras 2006. (Sean Gardner / Reuters via Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. A shout for freedom

    "Big Chief" Victor Armstrong wears an elaborate Mardi Gras Indian costume. The Indian tradition of Mardi Gras pays homage to the relationship between Native Americans and escaped African slaves of the 1700s. (Lucas Jackson / Reuters via Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
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