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WWOZ Mardi Gras Diary

Mardi Gras 2016 7:00 AM Baby Dolls

WWOZ chats with two women who are involved with the resurgence of the New Orleans Baby Dolls, including Xavier University dean Kim Vaz, who has written a new book about the baby dolls.

Vaz says The Baby Doll tradition dates back to 1912, when Jim Crow was the law of the land in the South. It all started in New Orleans' red-light district, which itself was divided along racial lines. The Storyville area, where the sex industry was legal, was for white customers; black customers had to go a few blocks away where prostitution was illegal, but allowed.

"[It was] another manifestation of how Jim Crow worked to disenfranchise black people, even in the most sordid of industries."

Between these two red-light districts, there was a kind of rivalry. One year the women in the black district heard that their counterparts in Storyville were going to dress up for Mardi Gras; they decided they needed to come up with some good costumes to compete.

"And they said, 'Let's just be baby dolls because that's what the men call us. They call us baby dolls, and let's be red hot,' " Vaz says.

Learn more at npr.org/2013/02/16/172165237/the-baby-dolls-of-mardi-gras-a-fun-tradition-with-a-serious-side or from Vaz's book, "The Baby Dolls: Breaking the Race and Gender Barriers of the New Orleans Mardi Gras Tradition." lsupress.org/books/detail/baby-dolls/

See the rest of our Mardi Gras 2016 video diary here: vimeopro.com/wwoz/mardi-gras-diary-2016/

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