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Rex

Rex (founded 1872) is a New Orleans Carnival Krewe which stages the city's largest parade on Mardi Gras Day. Rex is Latin for "King", and Rex is known locally as "The King of Carnival".


Rex Parade - 1906
Photo provided by wikipedia.org


Rex

Rex was organized by New Orleans business men in part to put on a spectacle in honor of the New Orleans visit of Grand Duke Alexis of Russia during the 1872 Carnival season. Also in the minds of the founders of Rex was the desire to lure tourism and business to post American Civil War New Orleans.

The Rex parade is put on by an organization called The School of Design. The organization is related to the private New Orleans men's club The Boston Club. In addition to the famous parade, Rex also holds a private ball for the membership on Mardi Gras night.

One member of the Rex organization is each year chosen to be the monarch of the organization; he is often referred to by the (technically redundant) phrase "King Rex". The identity of the King is made public on Lundi Gras, the day before Mardi Gras. The Mayor of New Orleans traditionally hands over a symbolic Key to the City of New Orleans to Rex for Mardi Gras Day.

While historically restricted to people of European ancestry for most of its history, Rex had no trouble complying with the 1991 anti-segregation ordinances which ended the parades of the Mystick Krewe of Comus (see). The first King of Rex (businessman Louis Solomon) was Jewish, although for a number of years in the early 20th century Rex prohibited entrance into the organization of any new Jewish members.

Rex is categorized as one of the four New Orleans "Super Krewes" for the very large size of the parade; the others (Endymion, Baccus, and Orpheus) were all founded in the 2nd half of the 20th century and parade during nights in the days leading up to Mardi Gras. Rex is the only 19th century krewe and the only "super krewe" to parade during the daytime.

The Rex parade has long been known for very finely and artistically built floats. Many consider the Rex parade to be the highlight and most beautiful sight of New Orleans carnival.

Zulu Social Aid & Pleasure Club

The Zulu Social Aid & Pleasure Club (founded 1916) is a New Orleans Carnival Krewe which puts on the Zulu parade each Mardi Gras Day. Zulu New Orleans' largest predominently African American carnival organization.

The Zulu parade grew out of an older small working-class African American marching club called The Tramps in 1916. The members decided to satirize the conventions of white New Orleans Mardi Gras, particularly the Rex parade. Zulu also satirized white society's attitudes towards and stereotypes of blacks. While Rex arrived at the foot of Canal Street in a yacht, the early versions of King Zulu arrived on Carondolet Canal in a coal barge, wearing a tin crown made from a lard can and holding a ham-bone, in parody of Rex's jeweled crown and scepter. Members of the Zulus used black and white makeup on their face in an even more highly exagerated style than the blackface makeup of the minstrel show performers of the era. The Zulu court wore grass skirts. Back when the New Orleans police force was exclusively white, a contingent of Zulus paraded wearing accurate duplicates of New Orleans police uniforms.

Zulu was not the first African American carnival organization in New Orleans, however it was the first to stage a sizable public parade. Older organizations restricted themselves to private balls and small marching clubs. In its early years, the membership of Zulu was largely working class, and often looked down on by more well to do and educated New Orleans blacks. In addition to the carnival parade, Zulu also arranged for funerals with a brass band for deceased members.

As late as the mid 20th century Zulu had no pre-publicised set route, but would wind around predominantly black neighborhoods with stops at various clubs and bars, in addition to a procession in front of city hall where the Mayor of New Orleans and various dignitaries were in reviewing stands waiting for Rex. By the 1920s Zulu had become enough of a tradition that King Zulu and the Mayor exchanged toasts on Mardi Gras morning. After the swing by old city hall, individual Zulu floats would sometimes make their own way around the city as Zulu broke apart into numerous mini-parades. Since the 1960s Zulu has been required to hold to a set route like all the other large parades.

As the race and identity of individuals could be hidden by the blackface makeup, a small number of whites joined Zulu even in the days of the Jim Crow laws, making Zulu New Orleans' first racially integrated carnival krewe even before this was legal.

In the early days the Zulu floats were decorated wagons, later Zulu took to renting floats floats already used early in the carnival season by other Krewes. This tradition continues. Zulu does a rapid customization of these used floats before the parade, so that in the Zulu parade one might see floats depicting the likeness of such figures as Napoleon or The Beatles in blackface.

In 1949 Zulu had the first celebrity carnival king when Louis Armstrong reigned as King of the Zulus.

In the 1960s Zulu enured presure from various civil rights organizations to disband because of its use of the negative stereotype of blackface. Zulu continued none the less, and is today one of the favorite parades of the Carnival season.

Zulu coconuts, coconuts which have been custom painted and decorated by Zulu riders, are perhaps the most prized of all the hand outs given to the crowds by New Orleans parades.

In 1993 the Zulus began their annual public Lundi Gras festivities the day before Mardi Gras, in Woldenburg Park on the banks of the Mississippi River beside the French Quarter. This quickly became a popular event, and since the first one climaxes when the kings of Rex and Zulu ceremonially greet each other.




Information provided by wikipedia.org