No one documented black life like Harold Baquet. See 9 of his extraordinary photos.

New Orleans is a city rich in tradition, history, and heart. And few knew that better than Harold Baquet.

Harold Baquet was a black photographer and seventh generation New Orleanian who spent much of his career documenting the ordinary lives of the city's African-American communities. Before his death in 2015, Baquet captured the character and resilience of black New Orleanians by photographing everyone from children and families to blue-collar workers and city officials.

He's best known for his work capturing life in the Desire neighborhood, a largely African-American area in the city's upper 9th Ward.


1. At the time of its construction, Desire was one of the largest housing projects in the country.

"Desire Fence," from the "Eyes of Desire" series, between 1985 and 1990. All photographs courtesy of The Historic New Orleans Collection, Harold F. Baquet and Cheron Brylski.

2. It was big, bland, and essentially built to fail.

Built on a landfill-turned-swamp between 1949 and 1956,  Desire was segregated on all sides by canals and railroad tracks. The isolated area was home to 262 buildings and just over 1,800 apartments built with brick veneer and wood to keep costs down.

"Trampoline, Desire Housing Project."

3. By the 1960s, there were close to 13,000 people living on approximately 100 acres.

It housed so many people that two elementary schools were included in the construction of the housing project.

"After School."

4. But decades of unlivable conditions and broken promises led Desire and its residents to an unsurprising fate.

First came wear and tear on the shoddy buildings, followed by Hurricane Betsy and decades of empty promises from the federal government to improve conditions.

As buildings fell apart, crime increased and residents left. Desire was torn down in waves, beginning in 1996 and ending in 2001.

"Eyes of Desire."

In addition to documenting life in housing projects, Baquet captured seemingly ordinary slices of black life in New Orleans.

5. There were sweet haircuts at black-owned barbershops.

"Dix's Barber Shop, 342 S. Rampart St."

6. And fresh new wheels, from gentlemen at the tire shop.

"Tire Service."

7. There were plenty of second line parades, offering the chance to play, dance, and celebrate.

"Second Line."

8. But there were sad days too.

"St. Thomas Drainage."

9. Sobering reminders that few things are ever certain.

"Graveside services for Mayor Ernest N. 'Dutch' Morial," December 28, 1989.

Though life has a few inevitabilities: Time marches on. Kids grow tall. Buildings crumble. Families move away.

But thanks to artists like Harold Baquet, these testimonies are well-preserved.

After his untimely passing in 2015, Baquet's widow donated his massive archive of images to The Historic New Orleans Collection. It's the organization's first complete collection by a black photographer.

The gift ensures Baquet's work and the stories of a community will live on for generations to come.

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On an old episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in July 1992, Oprah put her audience through a social experiment that puts racism in a new light. Despite being nearly two decades old, it's as relevant today as ever.

She split the audience members into two groups based on their eye color. Those with brown eyes were given preferential treatment by getting to cut the line and given refreshments while they waited to be seated. Those with blue eyes were made to put on a green collar and wait in a crowd for two hours.

Staff were instructed to be extra polite to brown-eyed people and to discriminate against blue-eyed people. Her guest for that day's show was diversity expert Jane Elliott, who helped set up the experiment and played along, explaining that brown-eyed people were smarter than blue-eyed people.

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Young people today are facing what seems to be greater exposure to complex issues like mental health, bullying, and youth violence. As a result, teachers are required to be well-versed in far more than school curriculum to ensure students are prepared to face the world inside and outside of the classroom. Acting as more than teachers, but also mentors, counselors, and cheerleaders, they must be equipped with practical and relevant resources to help their students navigate some of the more complicated social issues – though access to such tools isn't always guaranteed.

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Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience, says it can be difficult to create engaging course work that's applicable to the challenges students face. "I think that sometimes, teachers don't know where to begin. Teachers are always looking for ways to make learning in their classrooms more relevant."

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Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience.

A new program for teachers that offers this network along with other resources is the WE Teachers Program, an initiative developed by Walgreens in partnership with ME to WE and Mental Health America. WE Teachers provides tools and resources, at no cost to teachers, looking for guidance around the social issues related to poverty, youth violence, mental health, bullying, and diversity and inclusion. Through online modules and trainings as well as a digital community, these resources help them address the critical issues their students face.

Jessica Mauritzen, a high school Spanish teacher, credits a network of support for providing her with new opportunities to enrich the learning experience for her students. "This past year was a year of awakening for me and through support… I realized that I was able to teach in a way that built up our community, our school, and our students, and supported them to become young leaders," she says.

With the new WE Teachers program, teachers can learn to identify the tough issues affecting their students, secure the tools needed to address them in a supportive manner, and help students become more socially-conscious, compassionate, and engaged citizens.

It's a potentially life-saving experience for students, and in turn, "a great gift for teachers," says Dr. Sanderlin.

"I wish I had the WE Teachers program when I was a teacher because it provides the online training and resources teachers need to begin to grapple with these critical social issues that plague our students every day," she adds.

In addition to the WE Teachers curriculum, the program features a WE Teachers Award to honor educators who go above and beyond in their classrooms. At least 500 teachers will be recognized and each will receive a $500 Walgreens gift card, which is the average amount teachers spend out-of-pocket on supplies annually. Teachers can be nominated or apply themselves. To learn more about the awards and how to nominate an amazing teacher, or sign up for access to the teacher resources available through WE Teachers, visit walgreens.com/metowe.

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