What Pralines Mean To New Orleans Black History

the candy lady in new orleans
Briona Lamback
June 21, 2024

On a hot summer day in 1930s New Orleans, women adorned in freshly starched plaid and white aprons and hair wrapped in colorful tignons glided through the French Quarter. They carried palmetto leaves to fend off the heat, trying to keep their hard work from melting away. “Belles pralines!” they called out to passersby. They had the sweetest job in the city because they bet on themselves.

French colonists brought pralines, candies made with nuts coated in brown sugar, to Louisiana. While initially made with almonds, pecans grew abundantly around the city, so a group of entrepreneurial women began making the candy with pecans instead.

Businesses started booming for the “pralinières, enslaved and free Black women trying to make their way for at a time when economic advancement wasn’t a reality for many of them. Pralines ultimately became synonymous with New Orleans, but that’s not the best part of the story.

They envisioned a new reality and worked collectively to achieve it. Many enslaved women used their earnings to secure their and their loved ones’ freedom.

We have always been able to create beautiful new possibilities for ourselves just by leaning into our natural talents and embracing the environments around us. And that’s a sweet legacy worth preserving.