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Community Roots: Selections from the Local Legacies Project
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Mardi Gras at Carville, 1957
Mardi Gras at Carville, 1957

Carville: The Gillis W. Long Hansen's Disease Center

Documentation of the history of the last hospital in the industrialized world for the treatment of Hansen's Disease, better known as leprosy. More than a century after the first patients were brought by barge from New Orleans to an abandoned plantation for treatment in 1894, the facility's doors closed in June 1999.

Carville has always been a place of miracles. The first miracle was serving as a refuge for seven victims of leprosy who had been spirited from the New Orleans pest house. Over the years, the former Indian Camp sugar plantation evolved into a first-class hospital and research center, with the help of the patients themselves. After Carville was bought from the state of Louisiana, inmates became residents. In a crusading news magazine, which became famous worldwide, they sought to remove the stigma of the name leprosy replacing it with Hansen's Disease. The most phenomenal miracle to come out of the Gillis W. Long Hansen's Disease Center took place in the early 1940s when its medical director, together with the research labs, discovered that sulfones would cure leprosy -- for thousands of years deemed incurable. A Congressional bill, sponsored by Rep. Richard H. Baker in the late 1990s, gave long-term residents three choices: return to their own communities with a stipend; continue their care at another PHS hospital; or remain at Carville. Forty chose to remain, many of whom are helping to build a museum of the facility's history.

Originally submitted by: Richard H. Baker, Representative (6th District).

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The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.

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