For much of its early history, Tremé was the largest and most prosperous community of free people of color in America. It is one of the oldest African-American urban communities in the United States. Founded in 1810, Tremé’s history is unique in the progression of the African-American experience. It has been a key incubator for many of the most well-known forms of African-American performance art and popular culture. African American master craftsmen of the building trades greatly influenced the design and aesthetics of the ironwork, plastering, specialty carpentry, and brick and stone masonry that make the world renowned architecture of New Orleans so unique.
The cradle of New Orleans African American culture is Congo Square where enslaved people were allowed to congregate on Sundays during antebellum times and preserve their African music, dance, and food traditions. Cultural innovations of Tremé include the birth of jazz, social aid and pleasure clubs, Mardi Gras Indians, brass bands with second line parading, and distinctive forms of African-American Christianity, both Roman Catholic and Protestant. Furthermore, prominent African-Americans from various fields have either made their homes or lived significant portions of their lives in Tremé.
The neighborhood's historic figures include Mother Henriette Delille, who founded the Sisters of the Holy Family, an African-American order of Roman Catholic nuns in the 1840s, Armand Lanusse and the Les Cenelles poets who published the first volume of poetry by African Americans in 1845, and Homer Plessy of the landmark Plessy versus Ferguson case. Louis Armstrong and Sidney Bechet pioneered jazz solo traditions that have spread jazz, America’s only original art form, throughout the world. The New Orleans African American Museum is the only museum dedicated to presenting the renowned architecture, culture, and artistic production of the African American legacy of New Orleans, with a special emphasis on Tremé.