Before Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans was a majority-black city. It also was a poor one, and most of the people hardest hit by the storm were both....
It is also a place where French, Spanish, American Indians and West Africans intermarried as far back as the 18th Century. This resulted in a rich cultural heritage and a multiracial, sometimes inequitable society organized along color and class lines.
Now the city's native sons and daughters are speculating on how that complex culture will change in the wake of hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Some even question whether it will survive at all.
"I don't know that you're going to be able to capture the past," said Arnold Hirsch, a historian at the University of New Orleans. "You may come up with something new. You might be able to help the poverty and the problems that became so manifest during the hurricane, and that might be to the good. But it wouldn't be the historical New Orleans."
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