Norco, Louisiana

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Norco is a census-designated place (CDP) in St. Charles Parish, Louisiana, United States. The population was 3,579 at the 2000 census. The community is home to a major Shell petroleum refinery. Its name is derived from the New Orleans Refining Company.



By the late 18th century, French and European colonial settlers had established numerous sugar cane plantations. They imported enslaved Africans as laborers. As the sugar cane cultivation was labor-intensive, the concentration of slaves greatly outnumbered the European-Americans in the colony, a circumstance that continued after the Louisiana Purchase by the United States in the early 19th century..

On 8 January 1811, planters were alarmed by the German Coast Uprising led by Charles Deslondes, a free person of color from Haiti (formerly the French colony of Saint-Domingue). It was the largest slave uprising in US history, but resulted in few fatalities among whites. Deslondes and his followers had been influenced by the ideas of the French and Haitian revolutions. In 1809-1810 French-speaking refugees from the Revolution immigrated by the thousands to New Orleans and Louisiana: white planters and their slaves, and free people of color, adding to the Creole, African and free people of color populations.[1]

Deslondes led followers to the plantation of Col. Manuel André, where they had hoped to get stored arms, but these were moved. They traveled downriver, gathering more slaves for the insurrection as they marched, armed simply with handtools and accompanying themselves with drums. More than 200 men participated in the insurrection, but they killed only two white men on their march toward New Orleans. The alarm was raised, and both militias and regular troops were called out by Gov. William C.C. Claiborne to put down the short-lived insurrection. The militias and troops killed ninety-five slaves in total, many immediately and others in executions after quick trials.[2]

The community was once called "Sellers," after a wealthy family there. In 1911, the land was purchased by an agent for Royal Dutch/Shell Oil, and the New Orleans Refining Company (NORCO) was established. The community's name was officially changed from Sellers to Norco sometime after 1926.[3]

Since 1995 members of the African American History Alliance of Louisiana have gathered annually at Norco in January to commemorate the events of the German Coast Uprising, when men of color reached for freedom decades before the Civil War and Emancipation. They have been joined by descendants of the insurgents.[4]

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