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Charles W. Duplessis

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Overcoming Katrina

Part of the book series: Palgrave Studies in Oral History ((PSOH))

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Born in 1951 in the Seventh Ward, Charles W. Duplessis moved to the Lower Ninth Ward after the death of his mother. Charles married Thirawer, a strong, stylish woman with deep Lower Nine roots, and served in Vietnam in the early 1970s. In 1976, he felt a calling to the ministry. A graduate of New Orleans Theological Seminary, Charles started Mount Nebo Baptist Church (Mount Nebo) in makeshift quarters in Metairie. In 1988, the congregation was able to purchase a rare two-story building and four adjacent lots in the Lower Ninth Ward. Both the church and Charles’s home served as community gathering spots before the storm.

On February 15, 2008, Charles was interviewed at the home of a Mount Nebo church member, who welcomes the Duplessises into her home whenever they are in town.1 Charles is a towering, lean man with a build reminiscent of Abraham Lincoln. He was casually dressed in a navy blue, short-sleeve, rayon shirt with dress slacks. His leather church shoes were polished. Unlike those who, however reluctantly, stay away from New Orleans and are reticent to talk about its future, Charles was uninterested in discussing the pre-Katrina past. No matter what the question, he tenaciously pulled the conversation back to present-day struggles and future visions.

Before the storm, the Duplessises led thirty-six people from New Orleans to Tuskegee, Alabama and experienced some of the least hospitable responses given to Katrina victims in the rural South. His home on Tennessee Street was two blocks from the levee break. Mount Nebo was in the immediate vicinity of the two-hundred-foot barge from the Ingram Barge Company that was either drawn through an existing hole or caused a rupture in the Industrial Canal floodwall, causing tremendous property damage as it moved through the Lower Ninth Ward? From Tuskegee and Marrero, he continues to mobilize resources, protect the interests of the neighborhood, and model the principles of Martin Luther King Jr. s beloved community. Charles Duplessis is an example of the original, I-am-here-to-stay, pioneering spirit.

This chapter is dedicated to all the family members Thirawer and Charles lost as a result of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath; it is also a tribute to those family members who continue to soldier on.

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© 2009 D’Ann R. Penner and Keith C. Ferdinand

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Penner, D.R., Ferdinand, K.C. (2009). Charles W. Duplessis. In: Overcoming Katrina. Palgrave Studies in Oral History. Palgrave Macmillan, New York.

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  • Publisher Name: Palgrave Macmillan, New York

  • Print ISBN: 978-0-230-60871-9

  • Online ISBN: 978-0-230-61961-6

  • eBook Packages: Palgrave History CollectionHistory (R0)

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