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Monday,   August  19,  2013                      For Immediate Release


A look at federal role in civil rights cases

 By SUZANNE GAMBOA and CONNIE CASS, Associated Press


AP - Almost as soon as George Zimmerman was pronounced "not guilty" in a Florida courtroom, the cry went up. 


The U.S. government must get "justice for Trayvon," insisted protesters angry about the fatal shooting of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin. The call will resound again later this month through events marking the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington.


Attorney General Eric Holder, the first black man to lead the nation's law enforcement, says the Justice Department is investigating. 


Why would the feds consider stepping into a state murder case? 


The federal government has claimed its power of protecting civil rights against violence as far back as the Reconstruction era. Empowered by constitutional amendments and early civil rights laws passed after the Civil War, the government sought to protect newly freed blacks and their voting rights, mostly from the Ku Klux Klan. 


But then court decisions, the end of Reconstruction and the rise of Jim Crow laws essentially "defanged" the federal government of its power to police civil rights when state and local governments would not, said Darrell Miller, a Duke University law professor.


It wasn't until the 1960s civil rights movement - exemplified by the historic Aug. 28, 1963, march - that new laws began strengthening the federal role. 


Now, the Justice Department is expected to pursue civil rights prosecutions. But in many cases that inflame racial passions, federal prosecutors don't find the evidence needed to support civil rights charges. 


A look at some cases through history:






As the burgeoning civil rights movement gathered force in the 1960s, demonstrators were brutalized and killed, sometimes at the hands of law officers. Many slayings remain unsolved. But in some cases where local authorities failed to go after the attackers or all-white juries refused to convict, the federal government moved in with civil rights charges. 


The strategy won federal convictions in some racist killings that had jolted the nation: 


-The 1964 slayings of three young civil rights workers - James Chaney,

Mississippi Burning
Mississippi Burning is a 1988 American drama-thriller film loosely based on the FBI investigation into the real-life murders of three civil rights workers in the U.S. state of Mississippi in 1964.

who was black, and Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, who were white - that would later inspire the movie "Mississippi Burning."


-The shooting death of Lt. Col. Lemuel Penn, a black World War II veteran, by Ku Klux Klan members as he was driving home from Army Reserve training in Georgia in 1964.


- Fatal shots fired in 1965 into the car of Viola Gregg Liuzzo, a white activist who was helping shuttle black demonstrators between Selma and Montgomery, Ala.


These cases helped build public support for strengthening federal law enforcement's hand through a series of civil rights laws. Notably, the Civil Rights Act of 1968 made it a U.S. crime to use threats or violence to interfere with someone's employment, housing, travel or any of several other federally protected rights because of that person's race, religion, color or national origin.





Over the years, Congress expanded what became known as "hate crime" law. Many states also adopted their own laws for crimes motivated by bias. And many cases with civil rights overtones were prosecuted under conventional murder and assault statutes.


Two of the most notorious state cases - the murders of Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. - inspired further expansion of federal law, although it took more than a decade.


Shepard, a gay college student, was abducted and brutally beaten by two men who left him tied to a fence post in a remote field in Laramie, Wyo., in October 1998. Three white men chained Byrd, a black man from East Texas, by his ankles to the back of a pickup and dragged him to death on a country road in June 1998. Both cases ended with convictions on state murder charges.


Outrage over those attacks helped propel Congress and President Barack Obama to strengthen federal hate crime law in 2009 by increasing penalties and removing the requirement that the victim in a federal case be engaged in a specific federally protected activity. The law, named after Shepard and Byrd, also added crimes committed because of the victim's gender, disability or sexual orientation.


Some federal hate crime cases include:


- A Hasidic driver accidentally hit and killed a 7-year-old black boy in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn in August 1991, sparking rioting. A black man, Charles Price, egged on a crowd of onlookers to "get the Jews." The angry mob set upon another Hasidic Jewish man, Yankel Rosenbaum. He was stabbed by black teenager Lemrick Nelson. Nelson was acquitted in state court of second-degree murder charges. The federal government followed with civil rights charges against Nelson and Price. After their first federal convictions were overturned on appeal, Price pleaded guilty and Nelson was convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison.


- Six Shenandoah Valley, Pa., high school football players headed home from a block party encountered Luis Ramirez, 25, and his girlfriend in July 2008. A fight ensued. Federal officials said the teens yelled racial epithets and "Go back to Mexico" as they beat Ramirez. He died of head injuries. Brandon Piekarsky and Derrick Donchak were acquitted of most charges in state court. The federal government stepped in, and Piekarsky and Donchak were convicted under a federal law prohibiting housing discrimination, because they were trying to force Latinos out of Shenandoah. Donchak also was convicted of conspiring with local police to cover up the crime. Both were sentenced to nine years in prison. The city's police chief was sentenced to 13 months in prison for the cover-up.





Many federal civil rights cases involve police or other authorities abusing their power under "the color of law." Unlike in hate crime cases, prosecutors don't have to prove that these civil rights violations were motivated by racism or other bias.


Still, the best-known convictions came in racially charged cases:


-Rodney King led law officers on a high-speed chase in March 1991 and,

Rodney King
Rodney King in April 2012

once stopped, was slow to obey their commands. Police reacted by kicking King, clubbing him with their batons and shocking him with stun guns, causing 11 skull fractures. A witness' video of white policemen pummeling a black man as he lay on the ground played over and over on national television. Four Los Angeles officers were charged with assault; a jury with no black members acquitted them. The verdicts sparked rioting that set Los Angeles aflame and cost 55 lives, prompting King's famous plea "Can we all get along?" The Justice Department charged the officers with civil rights violations. After a second trial, two were convicted and sentenced to 30 months in prison. Two were acquitted.


- In the chaotic aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, police gunned down 17-year-old James Brissette and 40-year-old Ronald

Ronald Madison shooting
Ronald Madison and James Brissette were shot and killed by police state death squad on Danziger Bridge, 7 cops indicted for murder (Photo Source: Unknown)

Madison, who were unarmed, and wounded four others as they tried to cross the Danzinger Bridge to what they hoped was safety. Police officers planted a gun, fabricated witnesses and falsified reports to cover up the Sept. 4, 2005, shootings. A Louisiana district judge threw out murder and attempted murder charges against seven officers after ruling that secret grand jury testimony had been wrongly used against them. The Justice Department moved in with a civil rights investigation and won prison terms ranging from 38 to 65 years for four officers involved in the shooting; other officers were sentenced in the cover-up.





Prosecuting civil rights cases isn't easy. Just because the U.S. Justice Department investigates the possibility, such as in the Trayvon Martin shooting, doesn't mean a case will move forward. Prosecutors may not believe there is enough evidence that an attack was motivated by bias or that police officers willfully violated someone's rights. These investigations can take months, even years.


Some cases the Justice Department investigated under great public pressure but hasn't prosecuted:


- The March 1991 slaying of a black teenager in Los Angeles bears striking similarities to the Martin case. Korean-American grocer Soon Ja Du suspected that 15-year-old Latasha Harlins intended to steal a bottle of orange juice. The two got into a physical altercation, and Du fatally shot the girl. Police said the money for the juice was in Latasha's hand when she died. Du claimed self-defense. Unlike the Trayvon case, the incident was recorded by security cameras, which showed Latasha turning away seconds before she was shot. Du was convicted of voluntary manslaughter and sentenced to probation and community service. Anger over the light sentence touched off protests and fed racial tensions that boiled over in the 1992 LA riots. Under pressure to bring a civil rights case, the Justice Department opened an investigation, but Du wasn't charged.


- African immigrant Amadou Diallo, 22, was unarmed when he was gunned down outside his Bronx, N.Y., apartment in February 1999 by four white plainclothes police. They were part of an elite street crime unit and said they approached Diallo because he resembled a rape suspect they were seeking. As Diallo reached for his wallet, the officers fired a fusillade of 41 bullets. They thought he was reaching for a gun, the police said. The four officers were cleared in state court. The Justice Department decided there wasn't enough evidence for civil rights charges, which would have required proving the officers intentionally used excessive force.


-Sean Bell, a 23-year-old black New Yorker, was killed at the wheel of his car early on the morning of what would have been his wedding day. Police fired 50 shots as Bell and two friends were driving away from his bachelor party at a Queens strip club in November 2006. The officers had seen Bell's friends arguing with another patron outside the club and said they thought Bell's group planned a drive-by shooting. There was no gun in the car. Three officers - one black, one white and one Hispanic - were tried before a judge, who cleared them. The Justice Department found insufficient evidence to bring civil rights charges.


-On New Year's Day 2009, subway passenger Oscar Grant was killed by a transit police officer in Oakland, Calif. Cellphone cameras captured the scene - an unarmed, 22-year-old black man shot while lying face down on a station platform, surrounded by police. Outrage over the incident led to riots in Oakland. The shooting is recreated in the current movie "Fruitvale Station." Transit police had seized Grant and others while investigating reports of a fight on a train. Then-officer Johannes Mehserle said he meant to reach for his Taser and mistakenly pulled his gun. Mehserle, who is white, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to two years. The Justice Department announced in 2010 that it would look into a possible civil rights case, and the department says that investigation is still ongoing.





Aug 24th  Local Commemoration 50 year Anniversary March on Washington 

Justice and Beyond Hosts March and Rally 


NEW ORLEANS -  Justice and Beyond, a local coalition of community, labor, and religious groups announces a local commemoration of the

File Image: March on Washington
Bayard Rustin (left) and Cleveland Robinson (right), organizers of the March, on August 7, 1963

historic 1963 March on Washington. Christian Unity Baptist Church,  the Greater New Orleans AFL-CIO, Safe Streets Strong Communities, Watson Memorial Teaching Ministries, the Urban League of Greater New Orleans, The  Southeast Louisiana Building Trades, Love Outreach Ministries,  United Teachers of New Orleans, A Community Voice,  Orleans Public Education Network, and Israelite Baptist Church  are  a few of the  organizations participating in the Justice and Beyond Coalition march and rally.


The commemoration will be held at the same time of a national commemoration held in Washington, D.C.  It will begin at Ashe Cultural Art Center on Oretha Castle Haley Street and proceed to the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. monument on Claiborne and then proceed to Israelite Baptist Church 2100 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard, pastored by Rev. Emanuel Smith, Jr.


The march and rally will commemorate in part the voices and struggles of the Freedom Movement of the1950's and 1960's, but will also celebrate ongoing community organizing in New Orleans and around the nation in public education, jobs and contracting for African-Americans and people of color, healthcare, voting rights (civic engagement), and criminal justice.


"We eliminated or killed Jim Crow and racial segregation," said Pat Bryant Co-moderator of Justice and Beyond, "but African-Americans, Latinos, and Asians and  white allies still have to fight effectively against white privilege when it comes to economics and political power. It is our disunity that is our major hurdle. We have to work together."


The march organizers expect a mixture of youth and adults, African-Americans, Euro-Americans, Latinos, and Asians to participate in cultural and political activities that include music, dance, panel of speakers, poets and other artists who will "fill participants' hearts, heads, and hands" said Rev. Dr. Dwight Webster, co-moderator of Justice and Beyond, and keynote speaker for the event. There will be marching bands, and brass  bands, and African drummers, and Gospel choirs noting the strong musical tradition that has been a part of Freedom struggles and that is uniquely New Orleans.


There will be white papers given to participants on criminal justice, health care, voter registration and civic engagement,  education, and jobs/contracting. Each will detail current justice struggles and strategies that interested persons can join.


Focus on education was key in the 1950 and 1960's Freedom struggles.  Deirdre Johnson-Burel, Executive Director of Orleans Public Education Network (OPEN) remarked about the importance of equal access to education, "as we enter into the next 50 years, education is a critical frontier to ensure the futures of young people. In order to realize the dream Dr. King so eloquently articulated 50 years ago, we must ensure our work in public education builds EXCELLENCE and ensures EQUITY. OPEN is proud to commemorate this event with Justice and Beyond Coalition and other civic leaders."


The Interim President and CEO of the Urban League of Greater New Orleans, Erika McConduit-Diggs, explained that group's involvement in the commemoration events:  "The 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom awakened  the conscience of the nation relative to economic parity and civil rights.  50 years later we must embark on the next phase of the fight for Economic Empowerment and Justice. Until measureable progress is realized in the areas of quality education, jobs with livable wages, access to healthcare, and economic inclusion in entrepreneurship, this agenda will remain our greatest priority."



Contact: Pat Bryant


Phone 504-905-4137







Free Southern Theater 50 Year Reunion!


Junebug Productions


Junebug Productions - Talkin' Revolution


Talkin' Revolution
October 17-20, 2013


Talkin' Revolution is a historic four- day gathering of artists, activists and educators to celebrate and honor the 50 year legacy of Free Southern Theater as carried forward by Junebug Productions and others. Join us as we gather for panel discussions, presentations and performances to reflect on the historic and continued impact of Free Southern Theater.  


Early Registration Deadline August 24th





Schedule for the weekend


Afternoon: Arrival and community gathering


Morning: Hear from Free Southern Theater Alumni about their experiences.
Afternoon: Learn how the legacy of FST continues to influence the arts and social justice movements
Evening:  An Evening with John O'Neal, including performances by Urban Bush Women and original works by FST 


Morning: Participate in Panel Discussions with community scholars and artist 
Afternoon: Engage in an arts based Civil Rights tour of New Orleans 
 Evening: Reception at the McKenna Museum of African American Art 


Morning: Share your experiences through the historic Story Circle method and closing ceremonies  
Click here to learn more about Free Southern Theater

Register Today! 





A Look at the Freedom Movement From New Orleans to the March on Washington

50th Anniversary March On Washington





NEW ORLEANS - On August 28, 2013 citizens from across this country will converge upon our nation's capital to commemorate and celebrate the historic March on Washington which occurred 50 years ago on August 28, 1963.  


As we approach that monumental date The New Orleans Agenda will take a look back at that historic moment as well as focus on select local sit-ins, pickets, boycotts and other Freedom March which took place in New Orleans and the Gulf South Region during that era.  Much of what we present is a compilation from previously published accounts from other authors and is not the property of The New Orleans Agenda.


We hope you find this look into the Freedom Marches informative and inspirational.  We would also like to encourage those who were part of this movement to consider submitting your first-hand account to our publication for publishing.


Part 1


Sit-Ins Background & Context


1960 was the year of the student-led lunch-counter sit-ins. For those who are not familiar with lunch-counters, they were the fast-food providers of the era (McDonalds, Taco Bell, Burger King, and others were just getting started). Suburban malls were still few and far between, and "downtown" was the main shopping district. Most large stores had lunch counters where a cup of coffee cost a dime, and you could get a cheeseburger, fries, and Coke for 60 cents. Lunch-counters provided quick cheap meals for shoppers, students, and workers on break the same way that shopping-mall food-courts do today. Nationally, there were more than 30,000 lunch counters in drug and department stores, bus terminals, and public buildings. Many were part of large national chains such as Woolworth (2,130 stores), McCrory (1,307), and Kress (272).


In most segregated communities, Blacks were encouraged to shop at chain and department stores, but they were not permitted to eat at a store's "white-only" lunch counters and restaurants. And unlike whites, Blacks were not permitted to try on clothes prior to buying them or return purchases that did not fit. The sit-ins focused on the lunch-counters and restaurants, but all forms of discrimination were the ultimate target. In most cases where the sit-ins achieved victory, agreements to desegregate lunch-counters usually included eliminating the other forms of consumer discrimination.


Note that in most southern communities, segregation was not a matter of personal choice on the part of white business owners. Segregation was mandated by law (see examples). Blacks who tried to use "white-only" facilities could be, and often were, arrested for violating a segregation ordinance (and in theory a white establishment could be held liable for serving Blacks).


But after Federal courts began declaring school and bus segregation laws unconstitutional, most southern prosecutors were careful to charge Blacks who defied segregation with general crimes such as "Disturbing the Peace" or "Disorderly Conduct" rather than violation of race-specific segregation laws. In this way they prevented the courts from overturning the segregation ordinances on appeal, and that allowed store owners to continue claiming that they had to deny service to Blacks because "it's the law." This cynical ploy was used to maintain segregation until the Civil Rights Act of 1964 eliminated all segregation laws.




Baton Rouge, LA Bus Boycott (June)


Back in 1950, the independent Black-owned buses that had served Baton Rouge's Black community were outlawed. Henceforth, everyone has to Baton Rouge Bus Boycott ride the segregated buses run by the official bus company.  Blacks - mostly poor - comprise 80% of the bus riders. Though they pay full fare, they have to sit or stand at the rear of the bus while the front reserved for whites remain empty.


In January of 1953, bus fares are raised 50% (from 10 to 15 cents). In early February, Black community leader Reverend T.J. Jemison of Mount Zion Baptist Church complains to the City Council about Blacks having to stand in the overcrowded rear section while "white" seats are empty. The Council adopts Ordinance 222 which changes segregated seating so that Blacks fill up the seats from the rear forward and whites fill the bus from front to back on a first-come, first-served basis. Under this plan, if a bus is filled with Blacks they can occupy the front seats, but they cannot sit on a seat next to a white, or sit in any seat that is in front of a white.


The bus drivers - all white, of course - deeply resent this minor easing of rigid segregation and they see it as a limitation on their power and authority over Blacks. They refuse to enforce Ordinance 222. In June, two drivers are suspended for not complying with the new rule. The bus drivers go on strike. Four days after the strike begins, the Louisiana Attorney General overturns Ordinance 222 on grounds that it violates the state's rigid segregation laws. The drivers declare victory and return to work.


In response, Reverend Jemison and Black businessmen like Raymond Scott form the United Defense League (UDL). On June 18, the UDL calls on Blacks to boycott the city buses in protest. The boycott is effective, almost no Blacks ride the buses. Many use the free ride system coordinated through the churches, and others walk to work.


Mass meetings are held at McKinley High School to rally community support for the boycott and collect gas money and expenses for the free-ride cars and drivers. By June 22, the meetings have grown so large that they have to be held at Memorial Stadium.


After negotiations between Black leaders and the City Council a compromise Ordinance 251 is adopted on June 24. The first-come first-serve seating of Blacks from the rear forward and whites from front to back is retained, as is the prohibition against Blacks and whites sitting next to each other or any Black sitting in front of a white. But to comply with the state's segregation laws, the two front sideways seats are absolutely reserved for whites, and the wide rear seat at the back of the bus is reserved for Blacks. Reverend Jemison accepts the compromise and the boycott is ended.


While the Baton Rouge bus boycott does not end segregation as such, it represents a significant victory of Black community action against segregation in the deep south. And it helps inspire the Montgomery Bus Boycott two years later. When the Montgomery Boycott begins, the initial demands are for amending segregation in a fashion similar to Baton Rouge's Ordinance 251, though they soon change the goal to ending all forms of bus segregation. And early in the Montgomery struggle, Dr King contacts and consults with Reverend Jemison regarding the free-ride system which is then adapted for Montgomery's conditions.


For more information on the Baton Rouge Civil Rights Movement:

Web: Baton Rouge Bus Boycott


Baton Rouge Sit-ins & Student Strike (March-April)

As sit-ins spread across the upper and mid-south, the all-white Louisiana State Board of Education threatens "Stern disciplinary action," against any student who participates in a sit-in. Felton Clark, the President of Southern University (SU) - a segregated, state-funded, Black college in Baton Rouge - tells students they will be expelled if they sit-in.


On March 28, seven SU students are arrested for sitting-in at a Kress lunch counter. Charged with "Disturbing the Peace," their bail is set at $1,500 (equivalent to $10,000 in 2006 dollars) - an astronomically high bond for a misdemeanor charge. Reverend T.J. Jemison, leader of the Baton Rouge Bus Boycott, somehow manages to raise the enormous bond amount and the seven students are met with cheers when they return to campus later that night.


The next day, nine more students are arrested for sitting-in at the bus terminal and a store lunch counter. The following day, led by SU student and CORE supporter Major Johns, 3500 students walk out of class and march to the state capitol building to protest segregation, the arrests, and the outrageous bail amounts.


Major Johns and the 16 students arrested for sitting in are "indefinitely suspended" (expelled) from SU and barred from all public colleges and universities in the state of Louisiana. In response, SU students call for a student strike - a boycott of classes until the 17 are reinstated. Marvin Robinson, President of Senior Class and one of the expelled students later explains: "What is more important, human dignity or the university? We felt it was human dignity."


The SU administration tries to break the boycott by appealing to the students' school spirit and calling parents with accusations that the student leaders are inciting a riot. The parents, fearing for the safety of their children, begin pulling their sons and daughters out of the university. The boycott evolves into a mass withdrawal to protest SU's complicity with segregation. Over the weekend of April 2nd, hundreds of students leave SU, and hundreds of others want to leave but are unable to do so due to lack of funds for bus fare. Communication between the students and the Baton Rouge Black community are poor and there is confusion and indecision among the student leaders. The boycott falters, some students permanently withdraw from SU, others return to class.


Eventually, the U.S. Supreme Court overturns the "Disturbing the Peace" convictions of the 16 students who were arrested for sitting at "white-only" lunch counters. In 2004 - 44 years after being expelled - they are awarded honorary degrees by Southern University and the state legislature enacts a resolution honoring them.

See Baton Rouge Student Protests for continuation.
For more information on the Baton Rouge Civil Rights Movement:


A House Divided Teaching Guide (SIER ~ Tulane Univ)


Baton Rouge Student Protests (Dec 1961 - Jan 1962)
See Baton Rouge Sit-ins & Student Strike for previous events.

With the assistance of New Orleans CORE leaders Dave Dennis, Doris Castle, Julia Aaron and Jerome Smith, Southern University (SU) students Ronnie Moore, Weldon Rougeau and Patricia Tate begin organizing a

Jerome Smith - headshot
Present-day file photo of Freedom Rider Jerome Smith.

new CORE chapter at SU in October. Early in December, they ask Baton Rouge's major downtown merchants to negotiate with them regarding segregation. The stores refuse to meet with them, and CORE launches a merchant boycott similar to those underway in New Orleans.


In mid-December, 14 CORE activists - 7 men and 7 women - are arrested for picketing in support of the boycott. Among them are Theda Ambrose, Jarvis Thompson, Janetta Gilliam, Claudia Smith, and Beverly Redford. All 14 are incarcerated in East Baton Rouge Parish Jail for a month until their release in mid-January. In immediate response to their arrest, 3,500 Black students attend a protest rally at SU. On December 15th, 1,200 students march five miles to the state capitol to protest the arrests and segregation. The cops attack the marchers with dogs and tear-gas. More than 50 students are arrested.


With the other CORE leaders in jail, D'Army Bailey leads 3,000 students on a march to the campus residence of SU President Felton Clark who promises not to expel students arrested on sit-ins as he had done the previous year. The next day the Louisiana Board of Education bans all student demonstrations - on and off campus - at all Louisiana colleges. Clark closes SU four days early for the Christmas break.


Early in January 1962, U.S. Federal Court Judge Gordon West - a segregationist appointed by Kennedy - issues a sweeping injunction against CORE banning all forms of protest of any kind. When students return to SU in mid-January, they discover that seven CORE leaders have been expelled. A thousand students protest the expulsions. At a faculty convocation next day, SU President Clark denounces the demonstrators as "hoodlums" and "anarchists."


State police troopers occupy the campus to quell any further protests and 40 more students are expelled. Judge West's unconstitutional injunction is not overturned by a higher court until 1964. The combination of repression by the state police, a Federal court injunction, and mass expulsion of students who participate in the Movement succeeds in suppressing student activism at Southern University until protests again erupt in 1969.


After their expulsions, some CORE leaders become full-time field secretaries, and other expelled SU students are hired for voter registration projects with money distributed by the Voter Education Project (VEP).

See "Criminal Anarchy" in Louisiana for continuation.
For more information on the Baton Rouge Civil Rights Movement:

for partial list of books.
Web: Justice (CORE ~ Online Archive California)





New Orleans Merchant Boycotts & Sit-ins (1960-1963)


There are three major Black colleges in New Orleans - Dillard University, a private college; Xavier University of Louisiana (XULA), a venerable Catholic institution; and the newly opened Southern University of New Orleans (SUNO), which is state-financed and subject to the Louisiana Board of Education and legislature.


In 1960, close to 40% of New Orleans' population is Black. The city's main shopping-commercial avenue is Canal Street where all the stores are white-owned with segregated facilities - Blacks can buy goods but not eat

Woolworth's 1960 sit-in
A sit-in at Woolworth's undertaken by the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), September 9, 1960. Seated left to right: Jerome Smith; Ruth Despenza; Joyce Taylor; Hugh Murray; Archie Allen; William Harrell. All were arrested. "We were all convicted of a felony," Murray says, "and it took several years for the New Orleans sit-in cases to reach the U.S. Supreme Court, where the charges were thrown out." (Murray, email to Flood, August 2, 2012)

at the lunch counters, the restrooms are segregated, and so on. There is also a Black shopping-commercial district - the second largest in the city after Canal Street - along Dryades Street. Here the stores are also white-owned, but the shoppers are almost all Black. Blacks can use the facilities, yet except for an occasional janitor all of the employees and managers are white. Many of the white Dryades Street store-owners are Jews who are themselves prevented from owning stores on prestigious Canal Street by the same white power-structure that enforces segregation against Blacks.


In late 1959, Rev. Avery Alexander, Rev. A.L. Davis (SCLC), and Dr. Henry Mitchell (NAACP) organize the Consumers' League of Greater New Orleans (CLGNO) to fight employment discrimination by the Dryades Street merchants. Said Reverend Alexander: "There were a hundred stores and there were no Blacks clerking in any of the stores. No managers, no assistant managers. No white collar workers. We didn't believe it was equitable when ninety percent of the customers were Black."


For several months in late 1959 and early 1960 the League negotiates with the Dryades Street merchants - to no avail. Despite their own experience of discrimination as Jews, the store owners refuse to open "white" jobs to Blacks. In April, the League launches a boycott of the Dryades stores that won't employ Blacks as anything but menials.


The boycott is effective. The week before Easter is traditionally a major business peak, but on Good Friday the street is filled with pickets but empty of shoppers. Attorney Lolis Elie, working pro-bono for the CLGNO, describes the boycott as "in many ways a spiritual movement" that unifies the New Orleans Black community.


A few stores begin to hire Blacks, but most continue to refuse. Over the following months, many stores close or move to the white suburbs rather than hire Blacks. The boycott continues, and customers take their business elsewhere. Dryades Street - once a busy commercial district - becomes a street of abandoned, boarded-up stores.


Inspired by the boycott, new organization emerge including the Citizens' Committee, a coalition that targets segregation at the Canal Street stores and Coordinating Council of Greater New Orleans (CCGNO) which focuses on voter registration. Students from XULA, SUNO, and Dillard - along with a few white students from Tulane and University of New Orleans (UNO) - join the picket lines on Dryades Street. When the CLGNO pickets are temporarily halted by an injunction, they form a CORE chapter led by former XULA student body President Rudy Lombard, Oretha Castle from SUNO, Jerome Smith one of the students who withdrew from Southern University in Baton Rouge, and Hugh Murray a white student from Tulane.


On September 9, seven members of the new CORE chapter stage a sit-in at the Woolworth on Canal Street. This challenges the white (Christian) commercial elite in a way that a boycott of Jewish stores did not. They react with anger. The integrated group of Blacks and whites is arrested and charged with "Criminal Mischief." Mayor Morrison issues a statement condeming the sit-in, forbidding any future sit-ins, and ordering the police to suppress civil rights activity in the downtown shopping district. CORE leader Oretha Castle is fired from her job at the Hotel Dieu Hospital: "The good nun gave me my paycheck and said, 'Take it, and get out of here, and don't ever come back.'"


On September 16, a week after the Canal Street sit-in, CORE field secretary Jim McCain, Reverend Avery Alexander, and other members of CLGNO are arrested for picketing stores on Claiborne Avenue. On Saturday, September 17, Rudy Lombard, Oretha Castle, Dillard student Cecil Carter, and Tulane student Sydney Goldfinch are arrested for sitting-in at the McCrory's department store lunch counter. As a Jew, Goldfinch is particularly hated by the white (power-structure. He is charged with "Criminal Anarchy" which carries a potential sentence of 10 years in state prison, his bond is set at $2,500 (equal to $19,000 in 2012). As police repression against the Movement increases, not only are sit-ins arrested, but so too are picketers. And soon people passing out flyers are being busted for "Leafletting Without a License." Some 3,000 people attend a support rally for the "jailbirds" at the ILA (longshoremans' union) hall, and SCLC leader A. L. Davis opens his church to CORE activists for meetings and training sessions in Nonviolent Resistance.


Hampered by lack of bail money, CORE sit-ins continue off and on as funds become available, and the NAACP Youth Council led by Raphael Cassimire pickets the stores to protest segregation and the arrests. Crowds of angry whites taunt, abuse, and attack the CORE and NAACP demonstrators, beating them, scalding them with hot coffee, and throwing acid on them.


The New Orleans sit-ins, pickets, boycotts, and arrests continue for years, culminating in a massive Freedom March in September of 1963. Slowly - too slowly - public facilities in New Orleans are desegregated. Passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 overturns all segregation laws, but custom and practice yield slowly, taking years more to change.


For more information on the New Orleans Civil Rights Movement:

 Book: Race and Democracy: The Civil Rights Struggle in Louisiana


       New Orleans Citizens Boycott... (Global Nonviolent Action Database)

      A House Divided (Southern Institute ~ Tulane Univ.)






Freedom March in New Orleans (Sept)



By mid 1963, many of the Canal Street lunch counters and stores have been desegregated by a combination of direct action protests and selective buying campaigns by CORE and the NAACP Youth Council (NYC), and negotiations & public pressure led by Rev. A. L. Davis and the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance. But promises made by white business leaders to hire Blacks for non-menial jobs have remained largely unfulfilled, and the city itself still practices segregation and job discrimination.


Despite opposition from some of the more conservative Black leaders

Oretha Castle Haley
Oretha Castle Haley became one of Louisiana's leading civil rights, women's rights, and human rights activists. She was a founding member, and then president, of the New Orleans Chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), one of the most active organizations in the civil rights movement.

and organizations, CORE, led by Rudy Lombard, Oretha Castle, and Jerome Smith, and the NYC led by Raphael Cassimere, remain committed to direct action. After Birmingham, they threaten mass action unless progress is made. Heavily dependent on tourism and northern investment, New Orleans' white business leaders fear large- scale civic disruption and negative publicity on the Birmingham model. They are the real power behind the politicians and they negotiate an agreement which Mayor Victor Schiro has to sign on August 9, 1963.


Under this agreement, the "Colored" and "White Only" signs are to be removed from public buildings, the city will not appeal court desegregation orders, the city civil service will no longer discriminate against "qualified" Blacks and will hire Black firemen and garbage collectors, and the city will not harass or retaliate against private businesses who agreed to desegregate. But the Mayor and other politicians are elected by white segregationists who oppose any progress by Blacks. The agreement is not fully implemented, Blacks are not hired and the City Hall cafeteria is not integrated. After the Birmingham Church Bombing, the Black moderates can no longer hold back the demand for a massive protest in New Orleans.


On Monday evening, September 30, some ten thousand Blacks and three hundred whites march to City Hall. Led by boycott leader Rev. Avery Alexander, A. J. Chapital (NAACP), Oretha Castle (CORE), and Rev A.L. Davis (SCLC), they demand full implementation of the August 9 agreement and creation of a biracial committee to address continuing issues of inequality. Known as the "Freedom March," this is the largest Black demonstration of the era in New Orleans. Neither the Mayor nor any other white politician is willing to meet with the marchers who rally in front of the building.


Following the Freedom March, Rev. Davis delivers a petition to the City Council demanding repeal of all segregation ordinances, desegregation of schools, elimination of police brutality against Blacks, elimination of segregated trade unions, allowing Blacks to join professional organizations, appointment of Blacks to government commissions and boards, and desegregation of all public accomodations, hospitals, and civic venues. The Mayor and City Council drag their heels and have to be pushed every inch of the way. It is only after sit-ins, arrests, and widely-publicized police brutality against Rev. Davis in the fall and winter of 1963 that the City Hall cafeteria is finally desegregated. CORE and NYC continue direct action protests through 1965 when the Civil Rights Act of 1964 begins to have its effect.


For more information on the New Orleans Civil Rights Movement:

 Book: Race and Democracy: The Civil Rights Struggle in Louisiana (Book)






New Orleans School Desegregation (Nov)


See Second Youth March for Integrated Schools - Washington, DC for preceding events.


In 1960 - six years after Brown v Board of Education - New Orleans still maintains two completely separate, segregated school systems, one for whites and an inferior one for Blacks. Though whites outnumber Blacks

Leona Tate
On November 14, 1960, at the age of six, Leona Tate entered into the civil rights movement when she and two other African-American girls integrated McDonogh No. 19 Elementary School. For Leona and many others in the city, this day played a pivotal role in the pursuit to build a unified New Orleans

in population by roughly 60% to 40%, many white students attend private or parochial schools, so Blacks outnumber whites in the Orleans Parish Public Schools by 52,500 to 38,000 (58% to 42%).


In May of 1960, in the first-ever court-ordered school integration plan, Federal judge Skelly Wright decrees that 1st graders be allowed to enter the nearest formerly-white or formerly-Black school at their option (an approach similar to the Nashville Grade-a-Year plan). White New Orleans is horrified and the school board appalled. If the 7,000 incoming Black 1st graders all choose to attend the nearest white school, two-thirds of white elementary schools will be integrated, and Blacks will greatly outnumber the expected 4,000 white 1st graders.


The Louisiana legislature passes Act 496 granting Governor James Davis the power to "supercede" any school board threatened with an integration court order. If a board is superceded, the state then runs those schools (the theory being that since Wright's court ruling is directed at the New Orleans School Board, a new round of integration lawsuits would have to be initiated, this time against the state). They also enact a law empowering the governor to close all Louisiana public schools if even a single school anywhere in the state is threatened with integration. (Closing individual integrated schools, or all schools in a given district, had been tried by Governor Faubus in Little Rock and those tactics had already been forbidden by the courts.)


With the help of the White Citizens Council, many white parents begin forming private, white-only schools for their children. Other whites form two organizations - Save Our Schools (SOS) and Committee on Public Education (COPE) - to keep the schools open. These two groups do not support integration, in fact they oppose it, but in effect they indicate a willingness to accept some limited integration if that is the only way to keep the schools open. With their support, the school board files suit against the Governor to prevent him from superceding the New Orleans board or closing the schools.


Just days before school opens on September 8, Judge Wright grants the school board's motion against the Governor, and accepts their integration plan based on Louisiana's anti-integration school placement law. This new plan puts the burden on Black parents who now have to apply to transfer their child to a white school, and allows the board to severely limit the number of Blacks permitted to attend a white school (in other words, the new plan is for token integration by a few carefully-selected Black 1st-graders at a couple of white schools rather than across-the-board integration of the entire 1st grade).


In addtion, Wright grants the school board's request to delay integration until November 14 so that they can screen and select the few Black children allowed to integrate a white school. Behind the scenes, the Eisenhower administration also wants to delay integration-day until after the November election because they don't want to face another huge school crises like Little Rock just days before voters cast their ballots in Kennedy vs Nixon and the Congressional races.


Despite having publicly promised to integrate Catholic schools no later than the public schools, Archbishop Rummel decides not to integrate the parochial schools so they remain a segregated option for parents who pull their children out of public school rather than let them sit next to a Black child. The Archbishop piously urges Catholics to pray for "an early solution to the race problem."


As it turns out, only five Black students  - all girls - are approved by the school board to transfer to a white school on November 14. It's then discovered that the mother of one of the girls is not married to her father, and because she is "illegitimate" she is dropped from the list, leaving just four. Meanwhile, the Governor and legislature frantically pass bill after bill aimed at stopping these little girls from attending a white school, but Judge Wright annuls them as fast as they are signed into law. In a final act of desperation, the legislature declares November 14 a state-wide school holiday and dispatches state troopers to prevent Black children from attending school in New Orleans.


Evading the troopers, Federal Marshalls escort the four girls to school, three of them (Leona Tate, Tessie Prevost, and Gail Etienne) to

MLK Day Legacy: Ruby Bridges
MLK Day Legacy: Ruby Bridges

McDonogh elementary and the 4th - little Ruby Bridges, just six years old - to Frantz elementary. Whites jeer and curse the girls and the Marshalls, but there is no violence or disruption.




Both of the integrated schools are in the Ninth Ward, which in 1960 is the poorest white working-class neighborhood in New Orleans. The poor whites living in the Ninth Ward bitterly resent the New Orleans power elites who maintain segregation in the schools attended by their own children - or, as in the case of Judge Wright, send their kids to private white-only schools - while imposing integration on those whites who have the least influence in the uptown halls of power. In the opinion of NAACP leader Raphael Cassimere, the school board, "... maliciously calculated that if we start at the places where the tension is the greatest, then maybe we can defeat [integration] by showing it just can't work."


The following evening (Nov 15), thousands of whites crowd into the Munciple Auditorium for an anti-integration rally (the Mayor had previously denied the NAACP's request to hold a meeting at the auditorium because he said it would be too "emotional"). White Citizens Council leader Willie Rainach calls on whites to boycott the schools, "Let's use 'scorched-earth' policy. Let's empty the classrooms where they are integrated!" The politically powerful, arch-racist Leander Perez shrieks hatred against Blacks and Jews and urges whites to march against the school board, "Don't wait for your daughter to be raped by these Congolese! Don't wait until the burr-heads are forced into your schools! Do something about it now!"


The next day (Nov 16) a marauding mob of white adults and high school students rampage down Canal Street, into government buildings, and through the downtown area, attacking and beating Blacks on the street. The police do little to deter them until they attack the Mayor's office at which point they are dispersed. White parents withdraw their children from the two integrated elementary schools. Only one teacher, a woman just arrived from Boston, remains at Frantz. She is the only one willing to teach Ruby Bridges.


Ruby Bridges - norman-rockwell
The Problem We All Live With by Norman Rockwell, depicting Bridges as she goes to school.


The White Citizens Council retaliates economically. Ruby's father is fired, and her grandparants evicted from the farm where they had lived and worked for a quarter of a century. A few white parents refuse to withdraw their children from the integrated school, some of them are also fired and one family has to flee the state.


In an effort to close the schools by economic blocade, banks (white-owned, of course) refuse to process checks issued by the school board for money in its accounts, and the city and state refuses to turn over tax revenues intended for schools. By January the school board is unable to pay 1900 school employees. Eventually, the Federal courts threaten bank officials and legislators with Contempt of Court. Facing jail, the segregationists falter, the banks are forced to honor school board checks and funds are pried loose from city and state.


Day after day, the four Black children and the few whites remaining in the integrated schools are forced to run a gauntlet of enraged racists as they enter and leave school each morning and afternoon. Mostly women, the daily mob that gathers outside the two schools call themselves the "cheerleaders." They threaten the children with death, shriek obscenities, and throw things at the students, their parents, and the Federal Marshalls protecting them. By the end of November, McDonogh is empty except for the three Black girls, while at Frantz the entire student body consists of Ruby Bridges and two white kids who brave the mob.


SOS works to encourage white parents to break the boycott and return their children to the two boycotted schools. Slowly, a few white kids come back to class and by the first week in December, there are 23 whites attending Frantz school with Ruby Bridges. The White Citizens Council organizes vicious hate-campaigns of intimidation, harassment, and violence against their parents. Local police are slow and ineffective in offering protection. The FBI refuses to involve itself in protecting Blacks or anyone sympathetic to the cause of freedom. Yet, despite these obstacles, Blacks and a few whites persevere, and slowly, very slowly, the white boycott wanes and the "cheerleaders" dwindle.


Over time, those whites most opposed to integration either place their children in white-only private schools, or white-only Catholic schools, or move to the suburbs - a "white-flight" that eventually shifts New Orleans population from majority white to majority Black. In 1960, the Ninth Ward - location of the two integrated schools - is inhabited by poor and working class whites. It is the most impoverished and neglected white neighborhood in the entire city. When Hurricane Katrina hits New Orleans 45 years later, the Ninth Ward is still the most impoverished and neglected in the entire city, but now it is inhabited by Blacks.


See Massive Evasion of School Integration for continuation.


For more information on the New Orleans Civil Rights Movement:


      Ruby Bridges

      Race and Democracy: The Civil Rights Struggle in Louisiana 

      Schools and School Desegregation


      School Desegregation 






Man-Hunt in Plaquemine LA (Aug-Sept)


Plaquemine is the main town of Iberville Parish. It sits on the west bank of the Mississippi River about a dozen miles downstream from Baton Rouge. In 1963 segregation is still the norm and the town boundaries are gerrymandered to exclude the main Black neighborhoods from municipal elections and deny city services to Blacks.


In June of 1963, the Black community demands that the city annex the excluded neighborhoods, end job discrimination, desegregate facilities, and form a biracial committee to address ongoing grievances. Their demands are ignored. A boycott and picketing of white merchants commences, and in mid-August CORE begins protest marches. The white power-structure refuses to negotiate.


On August 19, CORE Executive Director James Farmer leads more than 1,000 marchers to City Hall. When the demonstrators refuse to stop singing We Shall Overcome the police arrest Farmer and three of the local leaders. They then attack the march and arrest 200 more. With the local jail filled to capacity, Iberville Sheriff Songy disperses the prisoners to lockups in neighboring parishes. Farmer is scheduled to speak at the upcoming March on Washington, but bail is set at $500 each (equal to over $3,750 in 2012) and CORE does not have $100,000 to bail out all of those arrested. Farmer refuses to bond out while others remain in prison, so CORE Chairman Floyd McKissick speaks in his stead.


Farmer and the other protesters are released from jail on August 31. Later that day, cops mounted on horses attack a march by 200 young students. The brutal assault on their children enrages the Black community, uniting them behind CORE and the demonstrations. On the following day, Sunday, September 1, local ministers lead their congregations to Rev. Jetson Davis' Plymouth Rock Baptist Church for a spirited mass meeting. Outside the church, 500 demonstrators line up two-by-two for a silent protest against the previous day's police brutality.


Movement leaders Rev. Davis, Ronnie Moore, Bill Harleaux, and Tolbert Harris are served with an illegal injunction forbidding the march. Knowing that the illegal injunction has already been stayed by a higher court, the march proceeds. The leaders are arrested. Cops and hastily deputized white civilians attack the marchers with tear gas, cattle prods, and clubs. State Troopers on horses charge into the line, trampling men, women, and children.


The protesters retreat to Plymouth Rock church. Police wearing gas masks break into the church, tossing tear gas into the pews to drive people out. Then they bring in high-pressure fire hoses to destroy the sanctuary and smash the windows. The police and troopers surround the parsonage where women and children have taken refuge. They shoot tear gas through the windows to force them out, then club them back inside again when they try to escape.


More than 400 are arrested. With the Plaquemine jail filled, they are incarcerated in an animal stockade at the county fairgrounds and then dispersed to jails in other towns the next day.


James Farmer tries to phone the Department of Justice, but the phone operators block all long-distance calls coming out of the Black neighborhoods. The State Troopers, sheriffs, police, and vigilantes rampage through the Black community hunting for Farmer. House by house they smash in the doors, overturning furniture and emptying the closets, "Come out Farmer! We're going to get you!" Two protesters hiding under the church hear one trooper tell another, "When we catch that goddamned nigger, Farmer, we're gonna kill him."


As night falls, James Farmer and hundreds of others take refuge in a Black funeral home. The State Troopers surround the building, "Come on out, Farmer. We know you're in there. We're gonna get you." To save the others, Farmer tries to give himself up, but men restrain him, "That's a lynch mob. You go out there tonight, you won't be alive tomorrow morning."


The woman who owns the funeral home steps forward to confront the troopers who are forcing their way inside. She demands to see their search warrant, "You're not coming into my place of business without a search warrant." Her bold courage confounds the troopers. She prods them in the chest with her finger, demanding to see their warrants as she forces them back outside.


Two Black ex-Marines sneak into the funeral home. They report that roadblocks have been set on every road leading out of town, and that the cops who had been guarding the rear of the building have gone back to the police station, presumably to obtain a search warrant. The Movement leaders have to escape before the cops return with a warrant. Farmer, Rev. Davis, and Ronnie Moore are concealed in a hearse. A second hearse acts as a decoy to pull the guards away from one of the roadblocks. The two ex-Marines in a lead car followed by the hearse drive at high-speed through the back streets and then smash their way through the wooden saw-horses at an unmanned roadblock. Both the ex- Marines and the hearse drivers are armed, their instructions are, "Don't stop for anything and, if forced to stop, shoot."


As was the case in Gadsden, this state terrorism suppresses large-scale direct action marches in Plaquemine. But acts of courage, defiance, and resistance continue. In the aftermath of the repression, a cafeteria worker at the Black high school is fired because her children had participated in the marches. Kenny Johnson, a 16 year old student, organizes a boycott of the cafeteria. He and 34 other students are suspended. The students picket the white high-school, demanding an end to segregated schools. On October 7, the cops use tear gas to disperse the pickets. Johnson is sent to the State Reform School for Colored Youth. It takes three months of political and legal action before CORE can get him released.


For more information on the Louisiana Civil Rights Movement: 






Free Southern Theater (Oct)


By the latter half of 1963, the student lunch-counter sit-ins of 1960 have grown into a broad-based mass movement - the most poweful and significant social movement since the labor struggles of the 1930s. Led by young activists, the movement has expanded geographically from college towns to rural and urban areas in every southern state. It has expanded politically from segregation, to voting rights, employment discrimination, access to education, crop subsidies, hunger, freedom of speech & assembly, police repression, student rights, housing, and all other aspects of human dignity and citizenship. But these are not viewed as separate issues or disparate efforts, rather they are all intregal aspects of the "Freedom Movement." And as activists move and shift back and forth between direct action and community organizing, from one project to another, from the front lines to school and work and back, they bring with them to whatever they are doing the energy, spirit, and political focus of the Movement.


In October, SNCC members John O'Neal and Doris Derby join with actor/journalist Moses Gilbert and drama instructor William Hutchinson to establish the Drama Workshop at Tougaloo College just outside of Jackson. From that beginning grows the Free Southern Theater (FST).

Tom Dent
Tom Dent who would serve as artistic director of the Free Southern Theater (FST) during the peak years of the urban crisis, 1966-1969.

For Mississippi, the FST is unique - it is racially integrated, it won't play to segregated audiences, and it's productions reflect the social-change agenda of the Movement. Forthrightly, they proclaim the FST's relationship to the Freedom Movement:


Through theater, we think to open a new area of protest ... one that permits the growth of and self-knowledge of a Negro audience, one that supplements the present struggle for freedom. ... we feel that the theater will add a necessary dimension to the current Civil Rights Movement through its unique value as a means of education ... stimulate thought and a new awareness among Negroes in the deep South, ... work toward the establishment of permanent stock and repertory companies, with mobile touring units, in major population centers throughout the South, staging plays that reflect the struggles of the American Negro.


Our fundamental objective is to stimulate creative and reflective thought among Negroes in Mississippi and other Southern states by the establishment of a legitimate theater, thereby providing the opportunity in the theater and the associated art forms. We theorize that within the Southern situation a theatrical form and style can be developed that is as unique to the Negro people as the origin of blues and jazz. A combination of art and social awareness can evolve into plays written for a Negro audience, which relate to the problems within the Negro himself, and within the Negro community. [19]


With the assistance of Tulane University professor Richard Schechner and support from entertainment luminaries such as Harry Belafonte, James Baldwin, Langston Hughes, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Loraine Hansberry, Sidney Poitier, Theodore Bikel, and Lincoln Kirstein, the FST performs - free of charge - in churches and other donated community spaces for audiences that have never seen a play with live actors.


As part of Freedom Summer, the Black and white actors of the FST stage performances in Freedom Schools and community centers of an adapted version of Martin Duberman's In White America, a two-act "documentary" play that dramatizes race relations from slavery through Reconstruction up to the current struggle in Mississippi. Most of the performances are accompanied by workshops and discussions over several days that involve students and community in both the content of the play and the experience of theater. "COFO project volunteers worked with us to secure places for the performances," O'Neal latter recalled, "homes to house our company members in each town, and helped with publicity. The Free Southern Theater became the focus of a community event, involving everyone and open to everyone."


In Indianola, 200 people arrive while the company is still setting up in a field next to the Freedom School which has just been condemned by city officials after a fire "mysteriously" breaks out in the building. The FST enlists children to help set up the staging area. In Mound Bayou, drenching rains turn the dirt roads around into "mud moats" yet people drive for miles in their trucks to attend a performance. [20]


The Freedom Summer tour is so successful that FST comes back in the Fall with productions of Purlie Victorious and Walting for Godot performed for audiences in Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennesee, and Georgia. Performances that bring live theater to new audiences - mostly poor, mostly rural, mostly (or all) Black.


But attacks by white racists, arrests, and political harrasment take their toll. Money, as always, is in short supply - particularly for a theater whose shows are free. In 1965, the FST settles in the Desire neighborhood of New Orleans, combining both a touring and a repertory company with community engagement programs and training workshops in Black theater. By 1966, the company includes 23 members including performers, crew, and an administrative staff under the leadership of Tom Dent; and it has evolved into an all-Black cast, primarily performing works by Black authors such as Amiri Baraka and members of the Free Southern Theater itself.


With the help of Val Ferdinand (Kalamu ya Salaam), FST implements community writing and acting workshops, which evolve into BLKARTSOUTH in 1969. From these workshops come scripts that are performed by the company. Works by John O'Neal are also included in the repertoire such as When the Opportunity Scratches, Itch It about social class divisions in the Black community, and Where Is the Blood of Your Fathers? depicting the daily life of a slave as revealed in historical texts.


Today [2010], under the artistic direction of John O'Neal, the mission of the Free Southern Theater continues through Junebug Productions, a touring theater company with community cultural development programs in New Orleans. The name "Junebug" evokes the mythic folk character "Junebug Jabbo Jones" created by O'Neal and expanded on by other SNCC organizers to articulate through humor and insight the wisdom of common people looking at society from the bottom up.


For more information on the Free Southern Theater: 










The Historic Carver Theater

Touching the future without disturbing the past!

Carver Theater Rendering
2101 Orleans Avenue, New Orleans, LA 70116
Opening November 2013


Welcome back to the historic Carver Theater; during the 1950's hailed as "America's finest theater exclusively for colored patrons" with the latest in technology, architectural designs, and the finest amenities.  Return as history moves forward with the installation of the Carver Theater's new state-of-the-art natural sounding Meyer Sound; an extraordinary breakthrough in sound technology which provides the  optimal acoustical experience.

Re-designed as a live performance entertainment venue primarily focus on jazz, big band ensembles, chamber music, operetta, musicals, stage plays, dance recitals, and Off-Broadway Shows; the fully renovated 16,000-square-foot theater with the "finest amenities" will comfortably seat approximately 600 guests with the ability to accommodate a greater number for non-seated performances and special events. The beamless construction and flat flooring design provides for an obstruction less view and present endless opportunities for various productions.

State of the arts technology and the development of acoustical sound barriers designed to prevent the intrusion or extrusion of sound during performances allow the Carver to create the proper ambience for live audio and video recordings by the music, film, and entertainment industry.  Located just blocks from the French Quarter, proximal to downtown New Orleans, the Carver serves as an excellent location for music conferences, film festivals, screenings, and other arts related events.

Welcome Back to the Historic Carver Theater!







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