Established in 1850, Lafayette Cemetery #2 provides a fascinating window into the social and racial history of New Orleans. Located at 2100 Washington Ave. between Loyola St. & Saratoga St. in the Central City neighborhood of New Orleans, the cemetery contains 85 family tombs, over 350 copings, and – most relevant to this project—approximately 23 large vaults built by (mostly) African-American benevolent societies dating back to the 1880s. Due to Segregation, the Benevolent Association (BA) vaults are primarily concentrated in the northwest corner (at 6th & Loyola).
Historically, BA’s were an integral part of life for both black and white New Orleanians, acting as mutual aid societies to meet members’ needs, including funerals. While many of the vaults in LC2 belong to associations that no longer exist, such as the Coachman’s, Butcher’s, Cotton Yard Men, and Ladies Pride of Louisiana, a select few belong to clubs that to this day secondline past the cemetery. The Young Men Olympians is an example of an active club whose original vault lies in LC2—and a club that remains active in the surrounding neighborhood. Though Social Aid and Pleasure clubs today are perhaps more “Pleasure” than “Aid,” their endurance into the 21st century speaks to the resilience and resourcefulness of the communities that produced them. Other BA’s that no longer exist, such as the “Ladies Pride of Louisiana” invite research opportunities for scholars of history. The cemetery of LC2 holds a treasure trove of stories and historical secrets waiting to be revealed through preservation and research. Yet... Despite this richness, LC2 has been neglected and disparaged in the pages of New Orleans cemetery history, described in one reference book as surrounded by a “slum” and laying “very little claim to good or even interesting monumental architecture.”