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Oral Histories

The SFA oral history program documents life stories from the American South. Collecting these stories, we honor the people whose labor defines the region. If you would like to contribute to SFA’s oral history collections, please send your ideas for oral history along with your CV or Resume and a portfolio of prior oral history work to

< Back to Oral History project: The Lives and Loaves of New Orleans


Joe Darensbourg and Joseph Darensbourg

Joe Darensbourg, or “Mr. Joe” as he is affectionately known, is part of a long line of German Creole craftsmen who worked for Leidenheimer Baking Company in New Orleans. For more than forty years, Mr. Joe worked as a baker and millwright (a term for mechanic) while working during the day as a mechanic for Dillard University. His father, Jeff Darensbourg, worked at Leidenheimer, and his grandfather, Clarence “Pops” Darensbourg, worked his entire life at Leidenheimer as a baker as separately as a shoemaker.

When Mr. Joe started at Leidenheimer, his grandfather told him, “If you work for the company, you’ll never get rained on, never get cold, and will never be without a job.” Mr. Joe remembers baking “cap loaves,” delivering French bread to homes by sticking them on a nail in the door, and baking twenty-eight burnt black loaves of French Bread a week for a regular customer.

His son, also named Joseph, worked in the bakery with his father on occasion, but chose to pursue other crafts, such as music and book binding. He’s conducted extensive research on their family history and recorded his father’s memories. As the younger Darensbourg explained, his father taught him that he could use his apron for the study of the “daily bread of knowledge.”

Mr. Joe’s son, Joseph, is interviewed by Dana Logsdon for this project. Mr. Joe’s interview was conducted and recorded by Joseph.

Audio production by Thomas Walsh.

Date of interview:

Dana Logsdon

Dorka Hegedus

Download Transcript Download Transcript 2

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The Southern Foodways Alliance drives a more progressive future by leading conversations that challenge existing constructs, shape perspectives, and foster meaningful discussions. We reconsider the past with research, scrutiny, and documentation.


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