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What can you tell me about the Autocrat Club? 

Blake Pontchartrain: The New Orleans N.O. It All

click to enlarge The Autocrat Club has served as a gathering spot in the 7th Ward for 100 years.

Photo by Kandace Power Graves

The Autocrat Club has served as a gathering spot in the 7th Ward for 100 years.

Hey Blake,

There's a cool building on St. Bernard Avenue that has mosaic-type tiles and apparently is 100 years old, according to a banner on the building. All I could see was "Autocrat Club." Is it a social aid and pleasure club?

Denise Warren

Dear Denise,

  The Autocrat Club, with its building's distinctive design and even more important social history, has been a landmark in the 7th Ward for more than a century. It has served as a gathering spot for African-Americans, particularly those of Creole heritage, for celebrations, funerals, weddings, parades and as a headquarters for civic and legal activism.

  According to its website, the Autocrat Club opened its headquarters at 1725 St. Bernard Avenue in 1924, but the group was founded more than a decade earlier. At the time, organized social activities and recreational facilities for African-American men were not as prevalent as today. Twelve men organized and acquired a charter for a social group. Their early activities included mostly poker and card games, but the club's importance in the community grew.

  Its first gathering spot was at North Claiborne Avenue and St. Philip Street. Other early locations for the club included a two-room house on Onzaga Street and another building on Lapeyrouse Street. After moving to the current site in 1924, the club adopted a new name: the Autocrat Social and Pleasure Club. According to its bylaws, the club's mission was "to unite its members in the bond of friendship and social intercourse."

  The club established a library, orchestra, sports activities and a newsletter. The facility also became an important spot for jazz musicians (including beloved trumpeter Lionel Ferbos), who played at many balls and dances there. In addition, the club's auditorium became a gathering spot for meetings during the 1950s and 1960s, featuring members such as A.P. Tureaud, an important figure in the city's civil rights history.

  The club remains active, with a full slate of social activities throughout the year, and spots for new members.

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