The 1811 Kid Ory Historic House in Laplace Offers a Unique History of Jazz and Slavery

Photo Source: Kid Ory House

The 1811 Kid Ory Historic House, 1128 LA 628 in Laplace, is hoping for more visitors to a museum that educates people about two critical pieces of African-American and Louisiana history that took place on the property. The site was the setting of the 1811 German Coast slave uprising, the largest revolt of enslaved people in United States history, and the birthplace of jazz legend Kid Ory.

The Louisiana educational landscape is not lacking in sites that focus on the United States’ dark past. Laura Plantation opened in 1994 and became Louisiana’s first historical attraction to tell enslaved people’s stories. Whitney Plantation, which has become the standard for educating the public about the horrors of slavery, opened its museum in 2014 on a sprawling property that was once a working nineteenth-century plantation.

Photo Source: Kid Ory House

The 1811 Kid Ory Historic House adds another layer to that story. Opened last year by historian John McCusker, the 1811 Kid Ory Historic House provides important education and stories in an exhibit that links the past with the present.

How McCusker came upon the property is a bit of luck. In 2012, he wrote a biography of jazz trombonist Edward “Kid” Ory, entitled Creole Trombone: Kid Ory and the Early Years of Jazz. Kid Ory was born on the site that was also the setting of the 1811 slave rebellion. 

The plantation house, once called Andry House and later called Woodland Plantation, was bought and restored in 2016 by Timothy Sheehan. A year later, McCusker got a call asking if he wanted to turn a part of the house into a museum for Kid Ory.

Kid Ory was born in 1886 to a Louisiana French-speaking family of Black Creole descent. He was a composer, trombonist, bandleader, and pioneer of New Orleans jazz. Ory was discovered by famed musician Buddy Bolden and, in 1910, established a band with Joe “King” Oliver, Mutt Carey, Louis Armstrong, Johnny Dodds, and Jimmie Noone.

Ory and his band are credited with reviving interest in New Orleans jazz in the 1940s, playing on popular radio broadcasts.

“By learning Ory’s story, you not only see the beginnings of jazz through his eyes, you see who the pioneers were and learn about the people who were influenced by Ory’s band and the implications of that beyond New Orleans,” McCusker explained. “Ory’s band was the first Black New Orleans jazz band to make a record; he composed “Muskrat Ramble” and “Savoy Blues,” which are considered jazz standards.”

It wasn’t until McCusker began researching the property, that he discovered more to the story than initially thought.

“What we learned as we started the project was the original Andry structure where the first blood was shed in the 1811 slave rebellion is still here,” he said. “The house, as it exists now, was built out from those original two rooms.”

The plan of creating a Kid Ory museum in the space was then coupled with telling the story of the 1811 slave rebellion that happened on the property. McCusker, a former journalist, began doing research into the details of the uprising.

“This all coincided with the 2019 recreation of the rebellion,” he said. “Artist Dread Scott organized it and had hundreds of actors here recreating the rebellion. I talked to some of the people involved in that and thought it would be great to have an 1811 museum.”

On January 8, 1811, in a revolt led by Charles Deslondes, enslaved people wounded slave owner Manuel Andry and killed his son, Gilbert. The group then proceeded towards New Orleans, other enslaved people joining them along the way, until they split and were stopped by the U.S. military. Deslondes was captured and executed on January 12, 1811.

Photo Source: Kid Ory House

The museum opened in February 2021, and although the museum has had some success, bumps in the road, such as Covid surges and Hurricane Ida, have caused the museum’s revenue to take a hit. In addition, many out-of-state visitors tend to frequent plantations that offer a more romanticized story on southern history and focus more on the families that called the sprawling plantations home rather than tell the story of those enslaved there.

McCusker fears that without steady support, the museum will be forced to close.

McCusker explained, “We’re starting to get back up on our feet, but the struggle that we have is that in this sliver of the market there are people who want that Old South, Gone with the Wind, mythological version of the plantation experience.”

So far, the majority of visitors to the 1811 Kid Ory Historic House have been local. McCusker said that visitors are typically from New Orleans, have a connection to the area, or have a connection to jazz music.

McCusker is hoping that the 1811 Kid Ory Historic House will be added to the list of historic properties that honor the history of the people who were enslaved here, in the same vein as Laura Plantation and Whitney Plantation. He wants to add to the educational landscape and tell the story of the enslaved people who lived and died on the property.

“We use the house as a platform for storytelling,” he said. “We talk about specific events that happened here that had implications far beyond local history.”

Photo Source: Kid Ory House

As McCusker explained, when you visit the 1811 Kid Ory Historic House, you hear about slavery in a way you haven’t before. During tours, the team of historians is deliberate in their wording. For example, the word “slave” isn’t used. Instead, the term “people who are enslaved” describes those who lived and were forced to work here. 

“It takes the yoke of that term off of the person it’s been placed on and hands it back to the people who are responsible for it,” he said. “The purpose of the museum is to start these conversations.”

McCusker hopes to continue to welcome locals and out-of-town visitors to the 1811 Kid Ory Historic House so that he can tell the story of this small but important piece of African-American and United States history. 

The 1811 Kid Ory Historic House is open Wednesday through Sunday, 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.


Adults – $18.00 

Under 10 – $10.00

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