Mardi Gras 2013
5:05 pm
Thu January 24, 2013

African-American Tradition Returns to Carnival

The "baby dolls," an on-again, off-again Mardi Gras tradition of New Orleans' African-American community, are on again.

The troupes of women strutting and prancing in bonnets, garters and skimpy or short, ruffled dresses on Fat Tuesday also are spotlighted in a new book and museum exhibit that trace their history and rebirth.

When the Zulu krewe hits the streets on Mardi Gras — Feb. 12 — its marchers will include the Baby Doll Ladies, a troupe formed after Hurricane Katrina.

Historians say the baby doll tradition was started in 1912 by black prostitutes who worked just outside the legal red-light district called Storyville. That district was closed in 1917 as part of a crackdown on prostitution, but the tradition of the baby dolls took hold in mainstream black neighborhoods.

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