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Photo by: Lea Abecassis. The DRI Program is a Newcomb Institute technology initiative for undergraduate students combining technology skillsets, feminist leadership, and the digital humanities.


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Editor's note: This is the first in a three-part series produced after a yearlong investigation of sex trafficking on Bourbon Street. Tulane Avenue and Chef Menteur Highway in New Orleans, and Airline Drive in Metairie, have all been at one orleans or another popular meeting places for prostitutes and their customers. But these days, with its swirl of tipsy tourists alongside scantily clad dancers standing in dingy strip club entrances, Bourbon Street has become an epicenter of the New Orleans sex trade, according to a yearlong investigation by NOLA. Law enforcement records — some made public for the first time — and interviews with dozens of officials, club representatives, human trafficking experts and trafficking victims reveal how a patchwork of strip clubs featuring private rooms have continued to be plagued by prostitution and drug use. Surrounded by streets where clients can easily slip away with a prostitute, Bourbon Street has become a playground for pimps — the kingpins of a brutal and sadistic underworld that hides in plain sight. Even when authorities have compiled evidence that pimps on Bourbon are exploiting women, recruiting new sex trafficking victims and prostitute recently using the women to rob customers, the sex trade has continued to fester.

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After her release, Norma and her fifth and last husband, Wayne Bernard moved across the Mississippi River to run a restaurant, Tchoupitoulas Plantation, and eventually moved into rural Mississippi where they lived until her suicide in There was a man named Jim Garrison.

The Blue Room is another historic New Orleans night club. Though she feared growing older, she managed to look good doing it. Norma Wallace was known to keep a black book containing information about her clients.

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Once she outgrew that space, she rented a house at Dauphine before settling in at the house on Conti. During a time when women had few options, especially without a decent education, Norma decided that prostitution could be a lucrative career.

Wiltz is one of the foremost authorities on Norma Wallace.

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Today, the house at Conti looks quiet and unassuming but years ago, it was one of the most popular brothels in New Orleans. What sort of details were in the book and how was it used?

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Garrison had political aspirations and when he ran for district attorney of New Orleans, his platform was cleaning up Bourbon Street. At the age of 16, she decided it was the life for her with one exception — she would never be a prostitute, but she would always be in control.

Mayor of New Orleans, Victor H. Photograph by Harold Sellers, May 4, Source: JFK Library. The authorities not only tolerated Wallace, many of them were her clients. Norma was very discreet, she wielded her power discreetly.

Another madam got busted for tax evasion, so Norma renovated the rooms in her house to include bathrooms. We talked with Wiltz to learn more about how an uneducated madam from a poor, rural family, garnered so much power in early twentieth-century New Orleans.

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Norma Wallace during one of her annual portrait sittings. From the late s through the 60s, Wallace grew her business and also cemented her place as a New Orleans powerbroker. Born inWallace and her poor Mississippi family relocated to New Orleans when Norma was very young.

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Norma was good at details — nothing got by her. Norma knew Garrison was going to be trouble so she kept her distance.

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Garrison managed to ruin Bourbon Street and the French Quarter for awhile. The house came with a prior history of prostitution: it was ly owned by E. Wallace turned the place into a parlor house, with club-like sitting rooms on the ground floor and apartments above. She knew when she could operate in the open and when she had to close the house up and go undercover.

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Now, Bourbon Street was wild, but it was also a family place. The only other madam on her level was probably Glenn Evans, from whom Norma learned a lot of the business because Evans was a lot older than her.

Source: Diana Williams. Anytime she could help the police, she did, but in small ways.

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She would also loan money to the officers who frequented her home. She also, on occasion, would rent to Blue Room musicians. Shortly after the move, her father disappeared under unknown circumstances and her mother, who may have worked as a prostitute herself, abandoned Norma and her brother Elmo.

Norma worked and lived at the house so she always knew what was going on. On the streets, Wallace developed a business acumen and it was during a trip to Memphis, with one of the many men who found themselves drawn to Norma, that she decided she wanted to be a classy dame. Garrison initiated the investigation against Wallace which led to the raid on Conti Street in the late 60s.

In another of her annual portraits, Norma Wallace is seen with graying hair.

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She was allowed to bring some of the furniture from her house into her cell and she ordered dinner from the Black Orchid every night. The books were about the men who visited the house and they were an insurance policy. Norma ran a high-class establishment from de. The experience made her decide that she was through with running a brothel in New Orleans. As a result, she ran her brothel for close to 40 years before she was ever raided.

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Norma was also good at the big picture. Norma spent three months in jail. There actually were two black books, but they contained the same information. Shortly after, she returned to New Orleans to pursue her dream.

He was a big, strong, good-looking guy who was an articulate, brilliant lawyer.

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In the early twentieth-century, Norma Wallace, now known as the Last Madam of New Orleans, lived and ran her prostitution business from this house. She has listened to hundreds of hours of tape that Norma recorded about her life and business before her death. Norma would write about her clients in great detail, but she always used nicknames.

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He was thin as a toothpick, so we assumed Toothpick was the mayor. Everything was always plush and immaculate so she could continue to attract big spenders. Source: Chris Wiltz.