Louisiana, ca. 1980

During the time that Generation X was growing up, Louisiana had a population of 4.2 million people, nearly 1.1 million of them under age 15. This means that the GenX population in the state was higher than average, about 25% as opposed to around 20% in other Southern states. 

No GenXers had yet finished high school in 1980, but to look at Table 201B in the Detailed Population Characteristics: Louisiana census report, there were about 65,000 fourteen- and fifteen-year-olds in high school in 1980, alongside 1,700 thirteen-year-olds, 224 twelve-year-olds, and 24 eleven-year-olds. (Those along with another 9,500 sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds who would have been born before 1965.)

For whatever reasons, population growth in Louisiana was almost nihil in the 1980s. Though the state population grew from 3.644 million in 1970 to 4.206 million in 1980 – a 15% increase – there were only 4.219 million in 1990. That means that growth in the 1980s only amounted to 0.5%— basically stagnant. (As a comparison of how low that number is, Louisiana’s population in 2000 was 4.468 million, which constituted growth of 6% over 1990.) 

Compared to states like Alabama and Mississippi, Louisiana had a more diverse population. In the state, 2.92 million people (69%) were white, 1.24 million (29%) were black, and just under 100,00 (2%) were Hispanic. (Asians / Pacific Islanders did not show up as group on this report.) Over 85,000 Louisiana resident were “foreign born,” and about half of them lived in New Orleans. Nearly one-quarter of the state’s immigrants were Europeans, though over 22,000 people had moved to Louisiana from Asia, more than 21,000 from Central or South America, and over 2,000 from Africa. 

Among the events in Louisiana in the early 1980s that garnered national attention were the 1980 Lake Peigneur disaster and the 1984 World’s Fair. The former event was described this way by US News:

A Texaco oil rig in the middle of the then-shallow lake punched a hole in a subterranean salt dome being mined by Diamond Crystal Salt. The oil rig began listing, causing those aboard to head for shore. They looked back to see the rig disappear into the lake and saw a whirlpool that sucked the entire lake, including 11 barges, into the vortex. It also pulled in 65 acres of lakeshore, including Bayless’ new home and much of the garden.

The latter was also described as a disaster in its own way. Despite real effort put into its planning, attendance was low, a failure attributed to the fact that it was scheduled at the same time as the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. Outside of those two events, Super Bowls XII and XV, in 1978 and 1981, were played at the SuperDome, which opened in 1975.

Perhaps Louisiana’s most famous GenXer would be Shaquille O’Neal, if he were actually from Louisiana. Though he played basketball at Louisiana State University (LSU) from 1989 until 1992, Shaq was born in 1972 in New Jersey. If not Shaq, then the most famous might be any of these native New Orleanians: Harry Connick, Jr. (born in 1967), Tyler Perry (born in 1969), or recently appointed Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett (born in 1972). Country singer Tim McGraw and Phil Anselmo of the metal band Pantera are also late-’60s babies from Louisiana. 

Read more: Alabama, ca. 1980 • Mississippi, ca. 1980Georgia, ca. 1980Louisiana, ca. 1980

Generation X Deep South

now accepting fiction and poetry

Beginning in April 2022, level:deepsouth will also be open to submissions of short fiction and poetry. The subject matter of submissions should still center on the experiences of Generation X in the Deep South during the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s.

To be considered, a short story or poem must either have been 1.) written between 1970 and 1999 while the writer was growing up in the Deep South, or 2.) the subject matter should center on growing in the Deep South during that time. 

Before submitting, writers and poets should read the guidelines thoroughly then query the editor, providing the information requested.

two years of “level:deepsouth— for Generation X”

It was two years ago this week that level:deepsouth went online. I had had the idea for a while before that, since there was no publication, no project, no website – not that I could find – devoted solely to Generation X in the Deep South. I had pondered first whether such a project could be a newspaper or magazine, whether it should be a book, then I gave in to the reality that, even though we were raised on print, this is now an internet world. And while I am an editor, this subject is larger than a single print anthology or similar work.

Generation X Deep SouthThe project is devoted to collecting, archiving, and sharing stories, images, videos, texts, and links that speak to what it was like growing up in the Deep South in the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s. You can read my editor’s introduction “Definitions, Numbers, An Exodus, and the Stories” for a better idea on what that means more specifically, but I’ll add this. In the 2000s, I worked on quite a few projects that collected the stories and images from the Civil Rights movement. By that time, most movement veterans were elderly or close to it – having been born in the 1940s or earlier – and there were obvious challenges associated with talking with them at that late date: foggy memories, re-interpretations over time, forgotten names, lost photographs. Often, in response to a question, we would hear, “You know, that was a long time ago . . .” which was then followed by a shaky recollection. Those experiences lead me to devise the idea for level:deepsouth. In the 2010s, GenXers were in our 30s and 40s, a prime age range for remembering and retelling stories from the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. Perhaps, I waited too long to begin, but let’s be honest: we’re not exactly “old” . . . yet.

Probably the most important thing to include here is that level:deepsouth remains open for submissions. The project has published some stories from Generation X, but there are a lot more out there. I have continued to track down sources for “the lists” and to write up scattered information for “tidbits, fragments, and ephemera,” but what will bring this project to life are the stories. To truly represent our generation in this place at that time will require more firsthand recollections. For those who aren’t confident in their writing ability, I am offering my editorial help. Finally, I’m aware that the lack of an author payment leads some writers to decline the opportunity, but as long as I’m funding the project with my own money, they’ll just have to miss out. (If anyone is confused by the lack of payment, please read this.)

We’ll see what the next year holds. No matter— if you grew up in Generation X in the Deep South, consider adding your voice to this fledgling cacophony. I’ll be here for a while longer to impose some order on that chaos.