NINE LOUISIANA CIVIL RIGHTS TRAIL STOPS TO BE RECOGNIZED ON THE U.S. CIVIL RIGHTS TRAIL
Louisiana Civil Rights Trail to install makers at three sites this month
BATON ROUGE, La. – Lieutenant Governor Billy Nungesser and the Louisiana Office of Tourism announced today that nine sites already, or soon to be, recognized on the Louisiana Civil Rights Trail are set to receive national attention as part of the U.S. Civil Rights Trail. These nine sites – located in Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Bogalusa, Pineville, and Lafayette – join four sites in New Orleans and two in Baton Rouge already on the national trail.
“It’s such an honor for these sites to be recognized on a national level. Each of these sites honors the brave actions of Louisiana trailblazers in the history of the Civil Rights Movement,” said Lt. Governor Billy Nungesser. “We developed the Louisiana Civil Rights Trail to celebrate these individuals and educate the world about the important role Louisiana played into changing history. With this announcement, it’s clear we are succeeding.”
Launched in February 2021, the Louisiana Civil Rights Trail invites visitors to explore Louisiana’s role in the Civil Rights Movement. The trail reveals inside stories and examines the civil rights era from culture and commerce to desegregation and protests and confrontations. The trail, developed over two years, is the result of community insight and public submissions from across the state.
Lt. Governor Nungesser and the Louisiana Office of Tourism have begun installing Louisiana Civil Rights Trail site markers at locations around the state, including at some of the sites now recognized by the national trail such as McDonogh 19 Elementary School on February 1, and 761st Tank Battalion at the Louisiana Maneuvers & Military Museum on February 2. Installation of a Louisiana Civil Rights Trail marker at the Robert “Bob” Hicks House in Bogalusa will take place during February on a date to be announced.
New Louisiana locations added to the U.S. Civil Rights Trail are:
Baton Rouge Sit-Ins
S.H. Kress, Sitman’s Drug Store, and the Greyhound Bus Station, all located in downtown Baton Rouge, were collectively known as the Baton Rouge Sit-ins and were the first sit-ins in Louisiana's modern Civil Rights Movement. On March 28, 1960, students from Southern attempted to integrate the five and dime store's lunch counter. The next day Southern students conducted sit-ins at the two other Baton Rouge locations. When the students refused to leave, police arrested and charged them with disturbing the peace. Garner v. Louisiana, a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case resulting from the students’ arrest, ruled Louisiana could not convict peaceful sit-in protesters who refused to leave dining establishments under the state’s disturbing the peace laws.
A.Z. Young Park, Baton Rouge – Bogalusa to Baton Rouge March
On August 10, 1967, the Bogalusa Voter and Civil League continued their struggle when they embarked on a 105-mile long march to the Louisiana State Capitol building in Baton Rouge. Civil Rights activist A.Z. Young planned to present a list of grievances to Governor John McKeithen on the steps of the capitol. When the marchers reached the Louisiana State Capitol, more than 2,200 National Guardsmen and police officers were there to protect the 600 marchers. There were no reports of violence. In his speech, A.Z. Young voiced complaints about employment discrimination and called for the election of 10 Blacks running for local offices in Bogalusa.
Louisiana Maneuvers & Military Museum, Pineville – 761st Tank Battalion
(Installation on Louisiana Civil Rights Trail on Wednesday, February 2, 2022)
The 761st Tank Battalion, an experimental unit, just like the Tuskegee Airman was formed at Camp Claiborne in 1942 during the Louisiana Military Maneuvers from 1940-1945. The 761st was attached to many commands in Europe. Eight Infantry Divisions utilized this Armor unit for direct support. As part of General Patton’s Third Army, its fighting ability became legendary and it acquired the nickname “Patton’s Panthers.” By showing their prowess, this and other units proved the Army did not need segregated units. On July 26, 1948, President Harry S. Truman signed Executive Order 9981 desegregating the United States Army.
Dooky Chase’s Restaurant, New Orleans
Dooky Chase’s Restaurant was the hot spot for discussing issues of civil and economic rights in the African-American community in New Orleans and throughout the country. At the time, it was illegal for whites and Blacks to sit together. Leah Chase opened the doors and invited groups of all races into the restaurant to further the civil rights movement. Through planning sessions at Dooky Chase’s, Thurgood Marshall, along with local attorneys such as A.P. Tureaud, Lionel Collins, Ernest “Dutch” Morial, and Revius O. Ortique, Jr. and later freedom fighters such as Reverend A.L. Davis, Reverend Avery Alexander, Oretha Castle Haley, Rudy Lombard, Virginia Durr, and Jerome Smith, propelled civil rights and protests in the courts and on the streets of New Orleans. In the 1960s, Martin Luther King, Jr. and others would join these local leaders for strategy sessions and dialogue over meals in the upstairs meeting room.
McDonogh 19 Elementary School, New Orleans
(Installation on Louisiana Civil Rights Trail on Tuesday, February 1, 2022)
On November 14, 1960, the same day that Ruby Bridges integrated William Frantz Elementary School, three young first-grade African-American girls – Leona Tate, Gail Etienne, and Tessie Prevost – integrated McDonogh 19. Known as the “McDonogh Three,” federal marshals arrived at their houses to act as escorts for their first day of first grade.
University of Louisiana at Lafayette
After four Black students successfully sued in federal court to gain admission, Southwestern Louisiana Institute (SLI), now the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, became the first state-supported, previously all-white undergraduate college in the Deep South to desegregate. In the summer of 1954, John Harold Taylor became the first Black student to enroll. That fall, 80 Black students attended SLI. The University later led the way in the desegregation of Louisiana college athletics in 1966 when it added three Black student-athletes to its basketball team. Two years later, Black student-athletes joined the football team.
Canal Street, New Orleans
Canal Street was a main thoroughfare for sit-ins and boycotts during the Civil Rights Movement. New Orleans’ first sit-in took place at F. W. Woolworth’s Department Store on the corner of Canal and North Rampart streets. A week later at a sit-in at McCrory’s on Canal Street, police arrested a group of students, known as “the CORE four,” leading to their convictions for criminal mischief. On a national level, the McCrory’s sit-in is more widely known because the U.S. Supreme Court in Lombard v. Louisiana overturned the convictions. For the next two years, activists picketed 75 stores on Canal Street, demanding the desegregation of eating and restroom facilities, and for merchants to hire 90 Black employees in 75 days. It took 735 days, but the boycott ultimately succeeded.
Robert “Bob” Hicks House, Bogalusa
(Installation on Louisiana Civil Rights Trail in February 2022; date to be announced)
The Robert “Bob” Hicks House was a safe haven for civil rights workers and was a base of operations for the Bogalusa Civil Rights Movement. The family breakfast room became the communications center for the Bogalusa Chapter of the Deacons of Defense and Justice, an armed self-defense group who protected civil rights workers from violence. The house was a meeting place for the officers of the Bogalusa Civic and Voters League and the headquarters for the local chapters of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). The living room was an unofficial office for civil rights attorneys who pioneered groundbreaking lawsuits in education, housing and employment.
Old Louisiana State Capitol, Baton Rouge
The Old Louisiana State Capitol tells the story of its involvement in the Baton Rouge Bus Boycott, the nation's first large-scale bus boycott. The Old State Capitol served as a major staging area where some 14,000 Black Baton Rouge residents gathered for free carpool rides to work and to businesses, boycotting the Baton Rouge bus system. In 1953, while minister of a large church, Rev. T.J. Jemison and others led the first civil rights boycott of segregated seating in public bus service. The organization of free rides, coordinated by churches, was a model used later in 1955-1956 by the Montgomery Bus Boycott in Alabama.
The fabrication of the interpretative markers for the Louisiana Civil Rights Trail is supported in part by an African American Civil Rights grant from the Historic Preservation Fund administered by the National Park Service, Department of the Interior.
To learn more about the U.S. Civil Rights Trail and plan your trip through history, visit CivilRightsTrail.com.
To learn more about the unique and important history of the movement in the State of Louisiana or to nominate a site, a person or an activity for inclusion, visit LouisianaCivilRightsTrail.com.