It wasn’t until 1872 that the celebration included a royal court, naming Daniel Huger the King, dressed as Emperor Felix I. Three years later, the Alabama legislature declared Shrove Tuesday (Fat Tuesday) a holiday in Mobile. Then in 1938, the The Colored Carnival Association was founded, and the first black krewe was the Knights of May Zulu. The organization changed to the Mobile Area Mardi Gras Association (MAMGA) in the 1970’s. They appointed Samuel Besteda as the first “Mayor of Colored Mobile,” a position that was later renamed the Grand Marshall.
In 1939, Alex Herman and Aliene Jenkin were named the first King and Queen. In 1984, Alexis Herman, then Secretary of Labor under the Clinton administration, was named Queen of MAMGA. The celebration has grown and spread to other cities of the Gulf Coast over the years. In Mobile, Mardi Gras attendance is over 830,000.
The beloved Queens of the Mobile Mardi have their elaborate gowns housed in the Queens Gallery of the Mobile Museum. The museum displays a variety of costumes, photos and materials from over 30 celebrations of Mardi Gras in Mobile.
This year, the Grand Marshall and first lady of Mobile’s Mardi Gras are an African-American couple, Michael Bourgeois and his wife, Gertrude “Trudy” Bourgeois. The couple met 35 years ago while serving on the royal courts for MAMGA and fell in love. They have two children and will be proudly leading the celebration this year in Mobile.
Little Known Black History Fact: Origins of Mardi Gras was originally published on blackamericaweb.com