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Healy Hall, the flagship building of Georgetown University’s main campus in Washington, DC.

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There’s a running joke in Maringouin, Louisiana, a town of 1,100, that everyone is related. It’s funny because, as people in Maringouin will tell you, it’s true. Everyone calls each other ‘cuz’ or ‘cousin,’ and they mean it. People run into each other on the street, recognize a last name, start talking about people they know in common, then discover they’re related.

For a long time, no one knew exactly why. It wasn’t like there was a founding family that had moved there.

Maxine Crump, who grew up in Maringouin, always wanted to get to the bottom of the mystery. People in Maringouin were just… different from many of their neighbors. For one, there were a lot of black Catholics who didn’t speak any French.

“People used to say: You’re from the bayou area where a lot of people speak French. Do you? And it was like: No,” she’d say. “No, none of the black people speak French.” There were rumors and theories, but she never got an answer.

Then one day, Maxine got a call that answered her question about Maringouin’s past.

Today on the show, we tell the story of what happens when people in this little town in Louisiana figure out how they got to Louisiana. The answer put Maringouin and thousands of other people with roots in Maringouin, at the center of a fight over how to pay a very old and very complicated debt.

Music: “Lead Me Away” and “Bad Scene.” Find us: Twitter/ Facebook.

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