A New Orleans native born in Saro Mayo Hospital, he first became interested in the city’s history while conversing with older residents on the city’s transit system. The school transit pass unveiled the community and neighborhood histories overlooked by scholars who for decades privileged the city’s colonial, antebellum, and architectural histories. Stories of everyday life in this extraordinary city occupy his interests as a teacher, scholar, and video documentarian.
In1992, Mizell-Nelson started working with his students to record the histories of their families, neighborhoods, churches, and other institutions they deem significant. Each year his students contribute hundreds of additional oral histories and new media projects that help to document a singular city. His scholarly articles include “Treated as Lepers: The Patient-led Reform Movement at the National Leprosarium, 1931-1946” in Louisiana History and a chapter in Civic Engagement in the Wake of Katrina titled: “Not Since the 1930s: The Documentary Impulse post-Katrina.” He is completing a book regarding working class New Orleans culture during the Jim Crow era.
Media and New Media Projects
His video documentary work includes Streetcar Stories, a one-hour documentary, on the social history of New Orleans streetcars. It has been broadcast on 100+ PBS affiliates and screened at the American Film Institute Festival and the Museum of Modern Art, New York City. Documentary shorts include Slave Trade Scholar, a walking tour of the city’s slave market districts led by Walter Johnson, and Vintage Drag, featuring the female impersonators who once performed at the Club My-oh-My. He oversees the collection building process for the Hurricane Digital Memory Bank, an online database documenting the impact of Katrina and Rita upon the Gulf Coast. He and his students are also working with Drs. Leslie Harris and Connie Moon Sehat at Emory University in developing the New Orleans Research Collaborative.
Online Database Projects:
New Orleans Research Collaborative: Collaborators are using Zotero (open-source research management software) to capture bibliographic references to source material relevant to a variety of New Orleans-related subjects.
Hurricane Digital Memory Bank: Online database uses Omeka (open-source web publishing platform) to collect, preserve, and present the stories and digital record of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
Streaming Video Documentary Shorts: [Streams best using Internet Explorer or Safari web browsers]
Slave Trade Scholar: Walter Johnson, author of Soul by Soul: Life inside the Antebellum Slave Market, leading walking tour of New Orleans slave trade sites (5 minutes)
Club My-oh-My: New Orleans Vintage Drag: New Orleans female impersonator club that flourished from 1930s-1960s (6 minutes)
Buddy Bolden: One of the earliest and most innovative musicians in the creation of what would become jazz, cornetist Buddy Bolden is celebrated with the dedication of a marker on the 75th anniversary of his death. Narrated and co-written by Delfeayo Marsalis. (5 minutes)
Rolland Golden's Requiem: Internationally celebrated artist Rolland Golden's Katrina exhibition at the New Orleans Museum of Art ( 2007) represented some of the most interesting visual interpretations of the flood's devastation upon New Orleans; it also marked his 50th year as a professional artist. (4:31 minutes)
Deaf Government Area: Ninth Ward Walking Tour: Greta Gladney, 4th generation resident of the Lower Ninth Ward and community activist, organized a tour of the neighborhood that includes the story of her family's connections to the neighborhood before and after flooding related to Hurricane Katrina. (25 minutes)
Mizell-Nelson is likely best known for having uncovered the definitive evidence behind the origins of the poor boy sandwich. See the New Orleans Po-Boy Preservation Festival website to learn about its history: Po-Boy Fest. Join fans of the sandwich on Oak Street in the city’s Carrollton neighborhood the third Sunday in November to both celebrate and devour the city’s most beloved form of working class culinary history. His wife, Catherine, is a naturalized New Orleanian, and they are both fortunate to be able to raise their children, Arlo and Keely, in Orleans Parish.