The Creole Heritage Folklife Center is located at 1113 West Vine Street in Opelousas, Louisiana. It seeks to educate the public about the traditional ways of life of African-Americans in their region from the 1900s until the 1950s. It also enlightens others on these ways’ cultural value in contemporary times.
The center was founded by Rebecca D. Henry, a Creole folklorist who is a native of St. Landry Parish. She was reared in Leonville, a small and rural community whose primary way of life was centered upon farming. Agriculture, significantly sharecropping, was a way of life for Henry and many others.
The Creole Heritage Folklife Center is contained within a home that is intentionally kept rustic in order to honor the ways of this cultural group’s past. According to LouisianaTravel.com, items contained within the center include “a potbelly stove in the kitchen, a dry sink on the countertop, a hand-braided rug in front of the bedroom fireplace, and shelves with hats and hatboxes of the era.”
Another way of life inherent in the founder’s upbringing includes the strong sense of collectiveness and her own ancestry. Henry creates and conducts diverse programming to engage guests on Creole heritage. She, as detailed at CajunTravel.com, defines “Creole” as “family, culture, heritage, and tradition which embodies all that connects the inner and outer families with their ancestral past, not a racial confusion.”
Thus, the outreach of the center includes preserving, teaching and developing the vast, vibrant and vital African-American component of Creole culture. It also provides educational programming and presents events that honor the past, respect the present and celebrate the future.
Additionally, guests to this site can learn about African-American Creole culture from the various materials and ephemera curated and exhibited by Rebecca D. Henry. There, they may experience, as per Louisiana Travel, items gifted to her from others as well as “family records, photographs, and personal effects in order to relate the lives of her parents and grandparents, who worked as tenant farmers in the region. The personal effects on display at the Creole Heritage Folklife Center thoughtfully represent not only history, but a way of life.” Topics indigenous to this cultural group are highlighted and they range from domestic life and work duties to creative art and traditional healing practices.
The center is open from noon until 4 pm on Tuesday through Friday; from 1 pm until 4 pm on Saturday; and only by appointment on Sunday. Tours are primarily self-led; guided tours are available but must be arranged prior.
To commemorate your time and experience, the gift shop makes available for purchase handcrafted items such as dolls, potpourri, preserves, quilts and soaps. Guests are sure to enjoy their encounter!
For its unique mission and outstanding work, the Creole Heritage Folklife Center has been installed as a member site on the Louisiana African-American Heritage Trail. Other sites on this trail include the Arna Bontemps African American Museum in Alexandria; and the Amistad Research Center, Congo Square, Le Musée de F.P.C. and The George and Leah McKenna Museum of African American Art, all in New Orleans. Also on this trail are member sites such as the Black Heritage Gallery in Lake Charles; Cane River Creole National Historical Park in Natchitoches; River Road African American Museum in Donaldsonville; The Eddie G. Robinson Museum in Grambling; St. Augustine Church in Natchez; and Tangipahoa African American Heritage Museum in Hammond.