Through the years, Baton Rouge has served as a temporary and permanent home to many people, cultures and institutions.
French explorers discovered this bluff of land while floating up the Mississippi river in 1699. They referred to the area as Baton Rouge ("red stick") after stumbling upon the neighboring native tribes' hunting boundary mark, a reddish cypress pole draped with bloody animal and fish heads. The French term stuck, pun intended.
British inherited Baton Rouge under the 1763 Treaty of Paris wherein France divided and gave all of its North American land to England and Spain. The British occupation did not last long, however, as Spain declared war on Britain in 1779 and overtook Baton Rouge.
Spaniards controlled the "Red Stick" for 30 years until a coup consisting of local settlers overthrew the government in 1810 and renamed the territory The West Florida Republic. To the settlers chagrin, this designation lasted only 74 days as President James Madison took the opportunity to overthrow the fledgling Republic, arguing (most historians say incorrectly) that Baton Rouge had always been part of the 1803 Louisiana Purchase. Since most of the Republic's rebels were Americans, they relinquished the territory without much of a fight.
After the Civil War, Baton Rouge became home to many ex-slaves who migrated to urban areas with their new found freedom. Until the early part of the 20th century, Baton Rouge's population remained a Black majority. Today, the city's inhabitants are approximately 50% African American.
In 2005, New Orleanians fled to Baton Rouge as a refuge from Hurricane Katrina. Many temporary inhabitants have remained in Baton Rouge, relieved by the city's safer streets and safer storm track (its 60-mile inland location protects the city from full force Gulf winds).
Baton Rouge is also home to two well known universities. LSU receives most of the traditional media headlines, but Southern University is as storied and rich in tradition and significance. As one of the country's premier black colleges, Southern was founded in 1880 and is most visibly represented today by its nationally renowned marching band, the "Human Jukebox", named the #1 marching band in the country by USA Today.
To help you enjoy making Baton Rouge your temporary home, we've scoured the city for athletic-minded venues and pursuits. Keep your eye out for the red stick.