HISTORY

  • Cierra Chenier

Slavery on St. Louis & Chartres


St. Louis Hotel at the corner of Chartres and St. Louis Street

It is no secret that New Orleans has a rich history. While we like to dwell on our city's positive contributions to America, it is important that we acknowledge our troubled past as well.

Many people are unaware of the fact that New Orleans was once the largest slave market in the country, with over 50 slave sites across the city. Enslaved people were held in "pens" until it was time to be sold at auction. The condition of these pens were disturbing -- hundreds of men and women were piled on top of each other and the environment smelled of waste. These human beings were starved until it was time for market, in which they were "bulked up" a few days before so that they looked healthy to potential buyers.

We know New Orleanians make an event out of everything; slave auctions were treated as social gatherings, where white Creoles would eat and drink in elaborate settings while simultaneously auctioning off the lives of human beings.

The most infamous setting stood at the corner of St. Louis and Chartres, named the St. Louis Hotel. Today, it is now the luxurious Omni Royal Hotel.

Rotunda of the St. Louis Hotel

Upon entering the hotel was an elaborate rotunda where enslaved people were auctioned off every Saturday. They were forced to stand on a wooden block while they were "presented" to the audience. The presenter would stress the person's physical appearance until the highest bidder made a purchase. After being sold, family dynamics were broken and mothers were separated from children, husbands from wives, etc.

The website of the Omni Royal Hotel barely touches on its horrific past.


Much like every hotel in the French Quarter, The Omni Royal Hotel is considered to be a top haunted site in the city. As an area where African people were tortured, malnourished, dehumanized, humiliated, and sold... I'm sure there's spirits of some pissed off ancestors that still hang around that rotunda. Every part of New Orleans has a story behind it. One thing about this city: if you just listen, the stories will present themselves to you. The French Quarter lingers with the scent of alcohol, the sound of music, and an unexplainable aura that dwells on you if you allow it to.

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