Cancer Alley

The land known to the Louisiana environmental justice movement as Cancer Alley follows the Mississippi River from Baton Rouge to New Orleans. Otherwise known as the chemical corridor, this area is home to facilities producing gasoline, fertilizers, plastics, and numerous other petrochemical products.

This high ground along the river was settled by Europeans who, with slave labor, created sugar cane plantations. After emancipation, many freed men remained in the region but sought to establish independent African-American towns in the interstices between plantation properties. These “freetowns” dotted the landscape of parishes along the river.

The discovery of petroleum in Louisiana in 1901 led eight years later to the building of the massive Standard Oil refinery in Baton Rouge. New oil fields were opened up in and around the ...

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