In the months that followed Hurricane Katrina in 2005, there was much discussion about how to rebuild the New Orleans neighborhoods devastated by flooding. Some even questioned whether certain areas should be rebuilt at all: The city’s population would likely be smaller; perhaps its footprint should be revised? The Lower Ninth Ward, for instance—a working-class black neighborhood ravaged when a floodwall failed—might be a lost cause, some said, because it was so severely damaged.
Neighborhood residents and activists pushed back, insisting the Lower Nine deserved rebuilding. One of the most high-profile efforts to do so came from an unlikely figure: Brad Pitt. In 2007 the actor founded the Make It Right Foundation, a nonprofit whose mission was to build affordable housing to help Lower Nine residents come home. Attracting designs from prize-winning architects and committing to the highest energy-efficiency standards, Make It Right pledged to build 150 residences. As Pitt later wrote, the organization aimed to make “a human success story of how we can build in the future, how we can build with equality, how we can build for families."