Racism and Resistance in New Orleans Before Katrina: An Only-Touching-the-Surface Timeline
RACISM AND RESISTANCE IN NEW ORLEANS
An Only-Touching-the-Surface Timeline: 1444 – 2005
Portuguese who captured Africans and brought them to Europe called them 'prisoners of war.'
Jean Baptiste Moyne, Sieur de Bienville, brought a crew of businessmen to the swampy delta at the base of the Mississippi. He decided that he needed Africans to drain the swamps in order to make the land profitable.
John Law, a Scottish businessman, began to import 3000 Africans per year to Louisiana. His company was called 'Company of the West.'
Bienville officially founded New Orleans. In the same year, the Company of the West began to import African men, 17 years or older, for sale at $660 per African. Settlers could purchase and African on credit if they lacked cash.
Bienville adapted 'Code Nair' (Black Code) from Haiti (then called Sainte-Dominique) as the legal code enabling small white male French colony in New Orleans to rule over labor and bodies of enslaved Africans. The code called for the death penalty of any African who struck a Frenchm~n and bruised. his face. Africans could not own weapons, property, file lawsuits, assemble without white permission, testify against Europeans or run away. Punishments varied from cutting off ears, hamstringing, branding, whipping or death. Children of enslaved mothers automatically became enslaved for life.
Population of Louisiana was 1925 French land owners, 276 European indentured servants, 229 captured indigenous people, 1540 Africans.
FOUNDING OF THE U.S.
Enslaved Africans in Haiti revolted against French owners, defeated Napoleon's army and became the first republic in the Americas free of slavery. The victory terrified slave owners in the U.S.
U.S. purchases a huge swath of land from the French once called 'The Louisiana Territory.' France has to sell because the loss of Haiti and the defeat of its army has impoverished the French government.
Slave trade becomes 'illegal' though it continues. With the reduction of kidnapped Africans coming to the U.S., the slave auction block became the major means of purchasing enslaved labor. New Orleans became the largest slave market in the U.S. (The auction block, originally located at the S1. Louis Hotel, corner of S1. Louis and Royal in the French Quarter, was moved to the Old Mint on Decatur Street after slavery ended.)
Rebellion of enslaved Africans in St. John the Baptist Parish of Louisiana fails. 100 rebels are killed.
Nat Turner's rebellion in Virginia horrifies slave owners who tighten rules and punishments to try to prevent escapes.
Enslaved peoples revolt on board the 'Creole' enroute from Virginia to New Orleans. They overpower the crew, sail to the Bahamas, and are granted asylum.
Harriet Tubman escapes from slavery in Maryland. She returns 19 times to the South land and leads more than 300 enslaved people to freedom.
New Orleans developed a three tiered racial hierarchy: whites on top, 'Creoles' or mixed race people in the middle, Africans on the bottom. About 25% of total population was Creole. Of these, 75% were skilled craftsmen, 25% were professionals. 'Creoles' were also called 'free people of color.' Unlike enslaved Africans, Creoles were permitted to learn to read and write; they could testify in court and own property. But they could not marry whites.
Before the Civil War, African labor built New Orleans: they built the levees, ran the mills, cut cane and sugar, were barbers, porters, tailors and light skin women were rented out by their owners as courtesans. Slave owners rented out 'their' enslaved labor by the day, month or year. Louisiana held the largest plantations in the South.
RECONSTRUCTION PERIOD: 1862-1877
New Orleans surrenders to Union.
Massacre leaves 37 Unionists dead.
Black leaders and Creoles begin organizing right after war. Do not rely on whites. By 1870 they have first integrated police force in the country, 1/3 of cops are Black. From 1870-1877, they integrate public schools With white Republicans, they are elected (Black men now have the vote) to the state legislature. Pritchard, a Black man, becomes Lieutenant Governor. They rewrite the State Constitution to ensure integration, and they take over the New Orleans School Board to ensure funding.
In response the white population takes its children out of public schools, and sets up 81 private and Catholic schools for white children between 1868-71.
Corporate and middle class whites set up White League (predecessor of White Citizens Councils in the 1950's) to derail the political and economic aspirations of Black people. More working class whites found the Knights of the White Camellia, a secret terrorist organization like the KKK.
In 1874, a White League militia overcomes the Republicans at the 'Battle of Liberty Place' on what is now Canal Street. Beginning of end of an era. White mobs forced Black children out of public schools. They seized the white superintendent overseeing integrated schools In New Orleans, kidnapped him and threatened to lynch him if he didn't sign an order to end segregation. He signed it.
U.S. government withdraws federal troops from the South and disarms Southern Black soldiers. Reconstruction ends. Violence, sharecropping, chain gangs, prisons, disenfranchisement of Black voters and segregation become the law of the land.
ERA OF APARTHEID, LYNCHING AND HEIGHT OF WHITE SUPREMACY: 1877-1950's
In New Orleans, the American Federation of Labor (AFL) calls a general strike. Unions of Black and white workers, though segregated work together. They all win a 10 hour day, overtime pay but no union shop.
Under the Populist Party banner, an alliance of Black and poor white farmers nearly elect a white Republican governor. But the fragile alliance is broken as poor whites move into the Democratic Party at the expense of Blacks.
The Democratic Party of Louisiana, now fully in power, rewrites the state constitution requiring a literacy test and property ownership for all voters. Poor whites are 'grandfathered' out of this policy (if their granddaddies voted, they can vote), thus ensuring a mass electoral base for white supremacy.
Between 1896 and 1904, Black voters in Louisiana went from 126,849 to 1718, or from 45% to 2% of the total electorate.
Robert Charles, a man of African descent enraged by apartheid, kills 4 white police and shoots several white bystanders in New Orleans. A white mob kills him on the spot. And begins a white riot.
(From 1860's to 1940's, Louisiana has 400 reported lynchings. Only Mississippi, Georgia and Texas top that record, and most lynchings go unreported. 86% of the lynched people are Black.)
Black and white workers on the levees and the docks, in 36 different unions, stage a lengthy strike in New Orleans. Though the media, employers and the city government all try to keep Black unionists out of the negotiations, both Black and white unions refuse to negotiate. Thanks to their unity, the unions win all their demands.
Four furious white women sue the New Orleans transit system after they are arrested for refusing to sit in the 'colored' section of ltte bus. Apparently the bus driver thought they were "Creole." Their suit alleged they were of "the pure Caucasian race and from the best families." They won their suit.
CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT ERA: 1940's - LATE 1960's
New Orleans NAACP struggles in court against apartheid laws, especially after U.S. Supreme Court strikes down white primaries in 1944, and President Truman orders armed forces to be desegregated in 1948.
But most Black New Orleanians focus on building their own institutions: churches, social clubs, and civic leagues. These will become the foundations of Black activism in the 1950's.
Black students in New Orleans boycott "McDonough Day" which honors John McDonough, called the "patron saint of New Orleans public schools." By apartheid custom, Black children had to wait in the hot sun while white school children went into the public building first. This action, taken right after the U.S. Supreme Court declared segregated schools to be unconstitutional, was called the first Louisiana boycott based on issues of racism. The boycott was led by A.J. Chapital, a Black postal worker and NAACP activist.
Whites in New Orleans flock to the newly formed White Citizens Councils determined to keep segregation at all costs.
White-run Community Chest, a predecessor to United Way, kicks out the Urban League because it advocates for integration.
City Park facilities, state colleges and universities, and New Orleans transit system are all integrated.
Black activists boycott stores of Dryades business district which have a 90% Black customer base. Boycott led by Consumers League which later became a younger, more militant CORE (Congress of Racial Equality) chapter.
Black social clubs, coordinated under the umbrella of 'United Clubs,' blackouts Mardi Gras for a year. They plan to carnival parades or balls and plan to use the money saved to build a Black social hall. Instead, they donated the money to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.
Youth sit in at Woolworth's on Canal Street as part of sit in movement throughout South. In response, an elite secret 'Citizens Committee of New Orleans organized by the Chamber of Commerce begins to meet to oversee process of integration in businesses. Their purpose is economic, and they want to integrate without marches or demonstrations.
Period of intense racist mobs attacking Black first graders trying to go to public school in working class white section of the Ninth Ward. White School Board had deliberately chosen schools in neighborhoods totally opposed to integration, though other neighborhoods requested to be integrated. White integrationists formed Save Our Schools to support Black community.
White youth carrying Confederate flags threatened to kill Black children while police refused to arrest the mob. White supremacist parents removed their children from the public schools as more Black children entered. White Citizens Council set up 9th Ward Cooperative School for white kids with public tax money. In 1972, schools were 72% Black; in 1992, 92% Black.
NAACP Youth Council pickets 35 stores on Canal Street demanding that Black people be hired above menial jobs. They believe in nonviolence but right to self defense. When a white man hits Raphael Cassimere, the main organizer in the face, the picketer broke his picket sign over the white man's head.
10,000 mostly Black activists march from Shakespeare Park in Central City to City Hall. Banner says "We march in dignity for human dignity." March for integration.
A small group of African American men, most of them veterans of World War Two and the Korean War, founded the Deacons for Defense and Justice in the town of Jonesboro, Louisiana. Another chapter was founded in Bogalusa, just 60 miles from New Orleans. The purpose of the organization was to provide armed self defense for civil rights workers, many of whom practiced nonviolence in the face of deadly white supremacist violence.
Their Bogalusa chapter fought off the KKK in a bloody campaign. They had many chapters throughout the South and were investigated by the FBI. Apparently, they left the scene in 1968.
Louisiana legislature removes all Jim Crow laws from books. Intermarriage now legal. Black people can move into white neighborhoods. But 1/3 of the legislators refused to vote!
January 7, 1973
U.S. Navy veteran Mark Essex prompts a 32-hour shootout from the rooftop of the Downtown Howard Johnson's Hotel across from City Hall, resulting in the deaths of nine people including himself and wounding several others. Essex was said to have reflected the extreme but nevertheless prevalent anger and lost hope of Black Americans over the widespread prevalence of racism and economic inequality.
October 7, 1974
Free Gary Tyler. A mob of White youths surrounded a school bus filled with Black Destrehan High School students (30 miles upriver from New Orleans). The white youths pelted the bus with rocks and bottles. Several Black students saw a White man in the mob with a shotgun pointing in their direction. As they dove for cover, shot dead was a young White student, Timothy Weber, who was standing near the bus. A full search of the Black students and the bus found no weapons. Yet St. Charles Parish Sheriff's deputies threatened to arrest the cousin of Gary Tyler, Ike, for "carrying a concealed weapon", citing the necklace he was wearing, designed with a spent 22-caliber cartridge. Tyler, then 16 years old, protested, saying that he too had a similar necklace. Officers arrested him and charged Tyler with "disturbing the peace". Weary that they could not find the gun or ammunition that shot dead the White student, St. Charles Sheriff deputies later charged Tyler with 1st degree murder, under suspicion of a planted murder weapon. Federal and state courts have subsequently acknowledged that Tyler's conviction in the case was fundamentally unfair, especially given the Klan-inflamed atmosphere. Once placed on death row, Tyler's sentence was reduced to life in prison, leaving him to repeatedly plead his innocence before the state pardon board. As of this writing he remains in Angola State Penitentiary, about to turn 50 years old, where he is serving out his sentence of life without parole for the murder of Timothy Weber. Hurricane Katrina displaced Louisianans who once championed his cause are trying to again arouse interest in his case amongst the scores of activists who are shifting their volunteer work from rebuilding housing to restorative justice.
November 12, 1977
Election of Ernest N. "Dutch" Morial, New Orleans first Black mayor. He would serve two terms, signaling the beginning of three decades of predominate African American political leadership in New Orleans through Hurricane Katrina and beyond.
The United Teachers of New Orleans (UTNO) strike against the Orleans Parish School Board. Schools were closed for nearly six weeks. Pay raises and benefits were sought and won. Predominately African American and female, UTNO would face a virtual dismemberment of its contract following Hurricane Katrina, which led to mass layoffs of its membership and the acceleration of privatization of public education in the city.
United Steelworkers of America vs. Weber (also known as Weber vs. Kaiser). White worker Brian Weber sued over an affirmative action program initiated through an agreement between Kaiser and the union. The program established a quota for allowing workers to enter a training program which would result in promotion; although seniority was the main criterion, the affirmative action program mandated accepting some Black workers with less seniority. Weber, who had more seniority, sued. This was just a year after Bakke vs. University of California, in which the White man sued for "reverse discrimination" and won. However, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against Weber and in favor of Kaiser and the union, because the defendants demonstrated a recent history of blatant discrimination: Weber had been hired when Kaiser had a strict "no-Blacks" policy, so no Black worker could possibly have as much seniority as he did! The Chalmette Works of Kaiser Aluminum, one of New Orleans-largest employers of African American industrial workers, closed in 1983. [An interesting aside: About fifteen years ago, The Times-Picayune's award-winning series on race and racism had interviewed Weber, who then was working for a firm in Metairie. He had totally changed his mind - becoming an ardent advocate of affirmative action!]
The Police Association of New Orleans (PANO), then an almost entirely white union, launches a strike during the Carnival season. Mayor Dutch Morial responds by arranging with Mardi Gras Parade Captains the cancellation of all city Carnival parades. Two other smaller police unions, The Fraternal Order of Police, and The Black Organization of Police, back Morial and cross picket lines. The Louisiana State Police and the Louisiana National Guard patrol the French Quarter on Fat Tuesday. PANO ultimately loses the strike.
March 28, 1979
The Three Mile Island Nuclear station in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania experiences a partial core meltdown and release of radioactivity. Impacting the entire nuclear power industry, the incident spotlights the Waterford 3 Nuclear Power Plant, then under construction and located 30 miles upriver from New Orleans. Citizens of the all-Black town of Killona nearest the plant join the Oystershell Alliance, a nearly all-White anti-nuclear coalition. The St. Charles Parish Sheriff's Office and New Orleans Police increase their presence upriver as a result, intimidating both area residents and anti-nuclear activists.
WHITELASH AND REACTION: THE REAGAN ERA & BEYOND
Dr. Jim Dunn and Ron Chisom found The People's Institute for Survival and Beyond. Its office is in New Orleans where Ron has been a community organizer for years. The People's Institute has become a national collective of experienced organizers and educators dedicated to building an effective movement for social change. P .1. considers racism the primary barrier preventing communities from building useful coalitions and overcoming institutionalized oppress and inequities .. P.1. believes that an effective, broad based movement for social transformation must be rooted in the principles of: * Undoing Racism; * Sharing Culture, *Learning from History, *Developing Leadership, *Maintaining Accountability, *Networking, *Undoing Internalized Oppression (Internalized racial inferiority & Internalized Racial Superiority), * Gatekeeping, * Analyzing the manifestations of racism.
People's Institute organizers worked with the Black residents of St. Thomas housing projects, and with the mostly white workers in the institutions of the Irish Channel surrounding the St. Thomas projects, for over 15 years until the city's and federal government's programs of public and private gentrificatin wiped out the housing for low income people, and replaced it with condominiums and a huge Walmart.
New Orleans Police's Intelligence Unit "Red Squad" informant, having infiltrated the Oystershell Alliance, entraps three key leaders with possession of marijuana and speed, following sit-ins and blockades at the corporate offices of Louisiana Power and Light (now Entergy Louisiana). Members plea bargain for parole -- but mailing list ofthe group was confiscated by police. This incident, along with infighting between multi-racial sectarian socialist groups of the Alliance and the more moderate all-white mainstream environmental groups, ultimately lead to the dissolution of the organization. The Waterford 3 nuclear plant ultimately opens in 1986. (Red Squad action chronicled in Figaro, 10/13/1980)
The Algiers Killings. Four Black residents of Algiers were killed by New Orleans Police in supposed retaliation for the killing of New Orleans Police patrolman Gregory Neupert in the fischer Housing Development. Then-unsubstantiated rumors of NOPD protection of drug dealers shadow the incident [In 1994, several NOPD officers are implicated in such rackets, just a year following the movie premiere of the fictional thriller The Big Easy]. Major public protests in the wake ofthe killings happen citywide. The predominantly-African American Police Brutality Committee was formed and coordinates the protests. Regular sit-ins, street blockades and business boycotts disrupt life during the period. Two examples of special note: 1) Mayor Dutch Morial was blocked out of his office at City Hall for almost three days due to his inaction towards disciplining officers. 2) Protesters on Labor Day 1981 attempted to leaflet mostly African American picnickers along Lakeshore Drive east of the University of New Orleans - but were met by the NOPD in armored personnel carriers and riot gear. Activists quickly shifted away from the lakefront and drove to Armstrong Park in Treme to disrupt a speech by Mayor Moria!. No one was found guilty in the deaths of both Officer Neupert or the four Algiers residents (one of the latter was a young mother shot to death by police in front of her flve-year-old child). However, seven NOPD officers were tried and convicted of federal civil rights violations in the deaths of the four Black residents. The PBC continued protests for years, until the successful creation of the Office of Municipal Investigation (OMI) in 1983. Its first director was Morris Reed.
Nicaraguan Sandinista Revolution, following the overthrow of Dictator Anastasio Somoza. Aside from Miami, New Orleans-area supporters and opponents of the revolution rhetorically and at times physically battle. Opponents were headquartered in Kenner amongst the Honduran community (itself the largest outside Honduras), lead by Mario Calero (more famous brother Adolfo Calero was headquartered in Miami). Anti-Sandinista fighters were known as "The Contras" and when severely injured were airlifted to Ochsner Foundation Hospital for free medical care, courtesy of the hospital's founder, Alton Ochsner. Pro-Sandinista solidarity groups in New Orleans centered around the Loyola Institute of Human Relations (now the Loyola Twomey Center for Peace with Justice), People's Bookstore (1976-19867) then located at 2714 Banks Street; as well as the Committee In Solidarity with the People of EI Salvador (CISPES) -- this chapter of the national group would distinguish itself with the first significant attempt by a left-wing white activist organization to face racism within its ranks (the national office of CISPES initially rebuked its New Orleans local for hosting a "Undoing Racism" seminar by the People's Institute For Survival and Beyond (hereafter known as "PISAB") -- national CISPES initially said this was straying away from the main concern of political struggle. Numerous internal struggles about how CIS PES might relate to the Jesse Jackson campaign for President, which consistently raised the issue of CISPES' relationship as an international solidarity organization to racism at home; the national office scheduled an Undoing Racism Workshop for all national leaders of CISPES in the mid-1980s.
CISPES New Orleans would distinguish itself in another key way, through its empowered female leadership. Following the death of Carroll Ishee as he fought alongside Salvadoran guerrilla fighters seeking the overthrow of the rightist U.S.-backed death squad government, Ishee's spouse Lavaun Ishee, a nurse by training, would singly raise their two children and lead CIS PES New Orleans towards both incorporating the Undoing Racism of PISAB and encouraging feminist leadership in the Central American solidarity and anti-nuclear war movements. Pax Christi New Orleans, then the largest chapter of the International Catholic Peace Movement, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, the Committee for Peace in Central America, the Movement for Peace is Central America, and the New Orleans Nicaraguan Solidarity Organization all had female/male co-chairs. Ishee later would open doors to gay and lesbians, and would be pivotal in the formation of the group Women for Peace, one of thousands worldwide which stood in solidarity with the women peace campers outside European and U.S. airbases that held nuclear weapons.
The election of Ronald Reagan for President of the United States not only inflamed those in solidarity with Latin American liberation struggles; it sparked creation of a broad anti-nuclear weapons movement. Mostly white nationwide and in New Orleans, some groups nevertheless began to address issues of racism and social inequity, notably the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. The only U.S. chapter of the British mainstream organization, CND united New Orleans' then small Asian and Buddhist religious communities with predominately white secular and Catholic pacifists. One leg of the "March for Disarmament" to the UN Special Session in New York, June 1982 (reportedly to date was the world's largest single demonstration, with 2 million people) began in New Orleans on January 1, 1982, Marchers on the Louisiana leg would proceed on a twelve-day journey up Airline Highway / U.S. 61 to Baton Rouge, then east to Slidell via Florida Blvd / U.S. 190. The multiracial marchers were first threatened with arrest upon entering Livingston Parish east of Baton Rouge -- only to be vouched for by both Black and White area Baptist Church leaders. Three marchers (me included in that number) were run off the road by hooded Klansmen just east of Albany, LA., about January 8, 1982. The marchers planned sanctuary on Albany's eastside, an all-Black section, was protected all night by area residents and Livingston Parish's then-one African American sheriff's deputy. No arrests were made.
CND would eventually hold three major citywide "Peace Sunday" marches. Their second march (1983) was marred by the unilateral decision of the March committee to reroute the march away from the Lafitte Housing Development enroute from City Park to Armstrong Park. The 1984 Peace Sunday did include the lafitte area, but Ronald Reagan's reelection as president prompted many to leave the movement. CND in 1985 effectively split into two groups, with one continuing more traditional Peace witness through churches and schools, and another uniting with the New Orleans Committee Against Apartheid specifically to block shipments of South African uranium through the Port of New Orleans. At the height of anti-nuclear weapons and Latin American solidarity organizing more than thirty groups were active in New Orleans, as well as a dozen more in Baton Rouge, Hammond, Slidell and Houma.
May 15, 1982
Organized community opposition, led by the elements allied with the Police Brutality Committee dissented against proposed City sales tax increase. It passed.
Local #328 Pari-Mutuel Clerks strike at Jefferson Downs Race Track (then in Kenner, closed in the 1990s). The AFL-CIO charged that track owners were firing unionized Black employees in favor of non-union White workers. The strike ultimately was settled thanks to a high-profile picket-line honoree, country-western singer Willie Nelson, who refused to perform at a planned and sold-out October 2, 1982 concert unless grievances were met. The fired workers won reinstatement into their old jobs and monetary restitution for lost wages, plus a modest pay raise.
Protests demanding political asylum for eight Haitian refugees spotlight then-Criminal Sheriff Charles Foti's ever-expanding Orleans Parish Prison complex (which became Louisiana's largest until Katrina, housing at its zenith almost 8,000 local, state and federal prisoners). The eight were separately imprisoned at the OPP-acquired Conchetta Motel on Tulane Avenue. A federal judge in July 1982 would order the release of the 8, along with 2000 other Haitians nationwide held in detention for immigration violations.
May 8, 1982
The Southern Christian Leadership Conference protests the conviction of Vernon Chapman of rape, during a vigil in Covington. Chapman, who is Black, was convicted in St. Tammany Parish by an all-White jury.
May 29, 1982
Louisiana Conference Against Militarism at St. Mark's Methodist Community Center, became one of the first predominately-white anti-war organizations nationwide to integrally-host the PISAB's "Undoing Racism" Workshop (which at that time was just presented as an introductory seminar in a call upon activists who were White to undergo a more deeper analysis If they were to continue social justice activism.
May 30, 1982
250-strong and multi-racial women religious march for peace from Congo Square to Jackson Square to in front of St. Louis Cathedral, in defiance of avowedly pro U.S.-war then-New Orleans Catholic Archbishop Phillip Hannon.
July 22, 1982
Acid rain levels in Baton Rouge were measured at 70 times normal. This lead to mostly Slack neighborhoods and activists to ultimately unite in a first coalition with the then all-White Sierra Club I New Orleans and area unionized industrial workers. Their early activism led to the development of both the "Environmental Racism" analysis and the term "Cancer Alley" -- the latter describing the ninety mile petrochemical corridor along the Mississippi River between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. Several significant marches occurred through 1990, weaving environmental, health and housing activists together in concerted organizing campaigns, which became national models.
August 3, 1982
An eleven-month rent strike by tenants of the St. Thomas Housing Development to protest poor living conditions and increased utility rates. Over $300,000 in rent money was put into escrow, in expected re-calculation of the tenant's utility allowance. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) ultimately approved of a settlement with the Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO), according to tenant's attorney, Bill Quigley. Quigley today remains New Orleans public housing residents' leading advocate in the wake of their developments' closure following Hurricane Katrina.
September 25, 1982
"Freedom of Conscience: Nonviolence and the Right to Dissent" conference unites the all-Black Southern Christian Leadership Conference with the then all-White Catholic peace organization Pax Christi New Orleans, the then all-White Friends Meeting of New Orleans (Quakers) and the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana.
Significant and mostly unsuccessful nationwide strikes of Air Traffic Controllers, railroad workers, and NFL Football players. Only the football players would advance their interests, with the Air Traffic Controllers union, PATCO, ending up broken as the result of a forced lockout, affecting controllers at New Orleans International Airport.
Black and White elderly mostly female tenants of the Delta Tower, corner of Claiborne and Canal Streets, protest anticipated evictions for the planned conversion of the building into a hotel for the 1984 Louisiana World Exposition. They were all evicted.
December 1982 – Early 1983
Citywide boycott of Majik Market Food Marts I Gulf Oil Stations after 17 Black women clerks protested being sexually harassed by both Black and White male managers. One manager ultimately was fired and another reassigned. Fired workers earned back pay following months of street pickets and blockades of gas pumps by Black and White community activists and families of the women.
Black school custodians, all men, in Bogalusa, forty miles northeast of New Orleans go on strike for higher pay. School lunch counter workers, all women, join them in solidarity. Both were represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).
The National Campaign to Free Eddie Carthan and the Tchula 7. The first Black-elected mayor of Tchula, MS, a town of 2100 people north of Jackson, Eddie Carthan and seven elected Black council members were implicated in what turned out to be a fraud scheme designed by the old White-power structure as a public misappropriation of tax funds in order to overthrow the town's Black-elected leadership. Initially sentenced by an all-White jury to a three year prison term, Carthan received a new trial and was acquitted. He was later granted Executive Clemency by outgoing governor William Winter and was released from prison October 13, 1983. Significant numbers of Black and White New Orleanians rallied in Carthan's defense in both Jackson and New Orleans. Many organizations attributed the harassment of Carthan to a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)-centered campaign, initiated in the Reagan era, to criminalize Black activists involved in Southern voting rights work, as a way to undermine Black electoral power.
Proposed utility rate hikes by Louisiana Power and Light due to nuclear plant cost overruns force the closure of one of the area's biggest employers of skilled African American workers, Kaiser Aluminum's Chalmette Works. Today only the plant's smokestack remains.
January 15, 1983
More than 400 people, both Black and White march Uptown in demands for creation of Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a national holiday.
January 19, 1983
Black community activists in the Desire Housing Development area decry gross neglect on the part of the Orleans Levee Board for the latter's failure to close floodgates to block massive flooding of the Desire-Florida area.
Debate flares in the progressive community over the Louisiana American Civil Liberties Union's decision to defend the free speech rights of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. The Klan was denied a parade permit from Hammond, LA police in November 1982, citing threats to public safety following the police traffic stop of then-Hammond Black City Councilmember Wilbert Dangerfield. The ACLU ultimately won the right to free speech, even by the terrorist organization KKK, June 1, 1983. Twenty-one robed Klan members marched June 18. An equal number of counter-demonstrators, mostly from New Orleans, were also present. There were no arrests.
March 7, 1983
In a trial that was moved to Dallas, Texas because enormous pre-trial publicity, Seven NOPD officers after a three-year delay were formally indicted in beatings and killings formally known as the Algiers killings.
March 7-10, 1983
A lawsuit was filed to reapportion congressional districts, ultimately affording creation of a New Orleans district with a 55°/0 Black majority. Amongst those leading this effort was the ACLU, PISAB and the Survival Coalition (Ron Chisom was the lead plaintiff). The original White-majority 2nd District was fashioned at one point to look like a duck, hence its short-lived name "The Donald Duck District." Settlement of the Congressional remap suit also resulted in the numerical set-aside of a Black-majority Louisiana Supreme Court district, leading to the election of the high court's first Black and female judge, Bernette Johnson.
April 18, 1983
The Citizens Memorial Committee, led by 92-year-old labor and peace activist, feminist and writer Elizabeth Cousins Rogers, marked publicly for the first time honoring public school integration in New Orleans. Plaques for this and noting the election of New Orleans' first Black mayor, Ernest N. "Dutch" Morial were set in the neutral ground promenade of Elk Place, catty-corner from the Main New Orleans Public Library. Honored were the first four African American children to integrate previously all-White schools sites: Ruby Bridges, Gail Etienne, Tessie Provost and Leona Tate. Formal integration of New Orleans Public Schools began in 1960 and was completed by 1972, despite massive White flight to the suburbs.
May 30, 1983
Rally in support of the commemoration of the 1963 Civil Rights March in Washington, DC. Over 700 people were in attendance at Greater St. Stephen's Catholic Church. Speakers included Coretta Scott King, Rev. Joseph Lowery and special local guests.
Armstrong Park redevelopment opposed by the Tremé community. Proposed hotels, restaurants, night clubs and an amusement park known as Tivoli Gardens, were opposed by residents of one of the oldest African American neighborhoods in the U.S. Lead by activist Ron Chisom, opponents cited the threat to Tremé's historic residential character. The New Orleans City Council voted 5-0 to stop the project.
July 4, 1983
"Get NOPSI Back" Brownout deemed success. Planned cut-back of utility usage in protest of high rates and nuclear power prompted a recorded 11010 decrease in kilowatt hours over the same time the previous year. "NOPSI" stood for New Orleans Public Service Incorporated. It is now known as Entergy New Orleans. The action highlighted the electoral effort to regain local regulation of the utility from the state Public Service Commission, a right lost due to an extremely low-turnout, Thanksgiving-Saturday election contest which saw only 8% voter turnout. This public referendum was also distinguished for its source of funding – directly and openly from NOPSI!
ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform NOW) began a squatting campaign of abandoned homes in the Ninth Ward to provide help for the homeless and low-income residents. The campaign lasted more than a year and started off with two houses and evolved into the reclamation of dozens of structures.
October 22, 1983
City referendum to afford unlimited mayoral terms defeated soundly. Referendum to force the return of utility regulation back to the New Orleans City Council failed by a margin of just 800 votes. The transfer thru another vote occurred 2 years later.
November 12, 1983
Creation of the New Orleans Committee Against Apartheid, following public addresses by South African dissidents, at Loyola University's Nunemaker Hall. Protests throughout 1983 and 1984 against trade with South Africa led to the New Orleans City Council passing such a resolution. Four people, including the late Reverend and state Representative Avery C. Alexander, were arrested for trespassing following a sit-in at a coin shop where South African gold was sold.
November 26, 1983
- January 15, 1984
Voices of the New Orleans Movement held an exhibition of Civil Rights photos entitled "We'll Never Turn Back" at N.O. Sickle Cell Anemia Foundation offices on Chef Menteur Hwy. Curator of the exhibit was the late Oretha Castle Haley, the youngest of the group of youths who integrated New Orleans lunch counters, for whom Dryades Street was renamed in her honor.
December 14, 1983
Louisiana reinstates Capital Punishment after a 22-year absence when Robert Wayne Williams was executed for his murder conviction. Louisiana would become the highest per capita rate of executions in the U.S.
Plaquemines Parish canceled the holiday which honored the late Leander H. Perez, Sr. Perez was an arch-segregationist and virtual dictator as District Attorney of it and neighboring St. Bernard Parish, two coastal parishes located southeast of New Orleans, as well as Plaquemines Parish's then-Police Jury President.
White New Orleans Police officer Stephen Rosiere was convicted of Second-Degree murder in the shooting death of a Black teenager, Gerard Glover, during an August 31, 1983 motorcycle chase. Rosiere's partner, Fred McFarlane, granted immunity for his testimony against Rosiere, said Officer Rosiere shot Glover for no reason. Soon after the incident, Rosiere planted a gun two blocks from the dead teen. Rosiere received a mandatory life sentence, This investigation, which was almost thwarted by Orleans Parish District Attorney Harry Connick, was first launched by the Office of Municipal Investigation.
April 12, 1984
The first attempt by the New Orleans City Council to pass a comprehensive public accommodations civil rights ordinance, incorporating race, gender, religious belief, handicap and sexual orientation fails. It deadlocked 3-3, but would ultimately pass unanimously following the defeat of KKK and neo-Nazi advocate David Duke in his bid for Louisiana Governor in 1991.
The Louisiana World Exposition, one hundred years past a similar exposition that led to the creation of Audubon Park and the University District of Uptown New Orleans, opens just upriver from the foot of Canal Street. It would be a financial debacle; though it could also be argued that it sparked creation of the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center and gentrification of an adjacent area known as the Warehouse District. The latter development some suggest led to the virtual dislocation of most Black New Orleanians away from riverfront Uptown neighborhoods - which were particularly highlighted during Hurricane Katrina for being spared flooding that otherwise inundated eighty percent of the city.
May 23, 1984
More than 12,000 mostly women educators rally at the Louisiana Capitol in Baton Rouge to demand pay raises, the first in four years.
Tenants of the Fischer Housing Development in Algiers begin a rent strike until repairs to their units are completed. Many single mothers and all African American, these actions were a prelude to wider attempts for tenant management of their complexes.
August 6, 1984
The American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund file a suit in federal court which ultimately leads to the enactment of "Motor Voter", eliminating barriers to voter registration.
More than 200 public housing tenants march across the Westbank and across the Mississippi River Bridge to the Canal Street federal Housing and Urban Development office, protesting President Reagan's housing policies and fighting to recoup $2 million in utility and rent overcharges. Leading the effort are residents of the Acre Road complex in Marrero, who demanded tenant management of their complex and the Jefferson Parish Housing Authority as a whole. Despite threats by the local HUD representative to withhold funds, Acre Road tenant Beverly Epps was appointed director of the Jefferson Housing Authority November 28, 1984, becoming both the first Black woman and the first tenant to hold such a position nationwide. This also sparked the creation of the Gulf Coast Tenants Organization, along with reinvigorating the New Orleans-based National Tenant Organization.
The Louisiana American Civil Uberties Union filed a lawsuit on behalf of Lance Hill, against Louisiana State Police and Jefferson Parish District Attorney John Mamoulides seeking public records that disclose why the state police and DA dropped charges of arson and conspiracy to commit murder against two avowed KKK and neo-Nazis, brothers William and James Demick. Hill charged that a clear pattern in Louisiana of a failure to prosecute crimes by openly avowed members of white supremacist and neo-Nazi organizations, and his requests were also designed to determine the real depth of Klan and Nazi activity in Louisiana.
(and April 1988)
Resistance to Police Harassment of Central American Solidarity Activists. The Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) joins the National Alliance Against Racism and Political Oppression (NAARPO) in condemning local, state and federal police surveillance of the Committee in Solidarity with the People of EI Salvador (CISPES). Several Central American nationals were intimidated away from this organization, with one of them formally being asked to become an informant, and others being stopped coming off air trips to and from the region. NAARPO spokes member Ron Chisom said that even if no threats by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had been made, the mere fact that people are being questioned about their friends and organizational affiliations created a climate of suspicion, distrust and intimidation -- making it much harder to exercise their U.s. Constitutional rights of free speech and political expression. It would be later found (April 1988) that the New Orleans FBI bureau office disproportionately focused upon the New Orleans chapter of CIS PES which stood out amongst its national chapters for incorporating racism and repression against African Americans as a central part of their critique towards the U.S. war against progressive forces in Central America. While FBI spying of dissent groups was found to have occurred at S2 of S9 of the agency's field offices, more than 6000 pages out of 13,000 pages of released documents in 1988 were devoted to the New Orleans CISPES chapter alone.
The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament voted to make stopping $300million in uranium shipments from South Africa through the Port of New Orleans its main focus, expressing solidarity with the escalating anti-Apartheid movement. CND began regular informational pickets of the Napoleon and Nashville Avenue wharves on the Mississippi River where such ships would off-load their cargo into barges for use in American nuclear power facilities. The group would also sponsor production of the film that would become a national model for relating this international human rights struggle to local communities, From Capetown to Uptown.
March 20, 1985
Under pressure of months of weekly pickets, blockades and arrests, the South African Apartheid-era government closes its New Orleans Consulate, transferring its duties to a less public Houston high-rise.
March 30, 1985
Three St. John the Baptist Parish School Board Members were recalled for their hostile conduct against predominately African American and virtually all female striking teachers following an 8-week strike thirty miles upriver from New Orleans.
April 10, 1985
The Orleans Parish School Board voted 3-2 to construct a new Moton Elementary school atop a hazardous landfill site. The location first had received refuse as the result of Hurricane Betsy twenty years before, resulting in being declared a Superfund hazardous waste site. Much of the surrounding African American community termed the soil cap placed atop the site for both the school and their homes a substandard remediation effort.
April 14, 1985
Thirty-nine people were arrested for walking on a road in solidarity with St. Charles Parish public housing tenants, who were protesting poor living conditions. After intervention by Louisiana State Representative and Civil Rights activist Rev. Avery C. Alexander (who was also part of the original 39 that were arrested), the charges were dropped. Another march across the Luling Mississippi River Bridge was held, attracting two hundred marchers demanding tenant management of housing complexes, like those in neighboring Jefferson Parish.
April 25, 1985
Four Mississippi River Bridge Authority police officers were indicted for federal civil rights violations following the April 18 traffic stop of White motorist James Winkler in the 600 block of Camp Street. WDSU- TV African American camera operator Herbert Vigreux filmed the beating incident, only to himself be beaten by the same officers. The incident was recorded on tape, even as Vigreux was forced to drop his video camera -- but fell on the pavement still filming the police abuse of both men. The four officers were convicted in July 1985 and the MRBA settled with the abused out-of-court, resulting in damages and attempted-dissolution of the police agency.
May 4, 1985
The "Get NOPSI Back" campaign scores a 63-37% turnout victory to return to the New Orleans City Council regulation of New Orleans Public Service Incorporated, a gas and electric utility which is now known as Entergy New Orleans. The effort, led by the multi~racial Alliance for Affordable Energy and two New Orleans City Council members, Joe Giarrusso and James Singleton, garnered a 30,000+ voter majority in its second try to reclaim oversight, following transfer in a Thanksgiving 1983 weekend ballot initiative which handed It over to the state Public Service Commission.
May 13, 1985
Spontaneous protests occurred in downtown New Orleans following the Philadelphia, PA police bombing of the MOVE Communal household, in which eleven people were killed, and a whole block of row houses enveloped into flames.
June 20, 1985
The New Orleans City Council voted unanimously to reallocate over $2 million in city pension funds from banks known to do business with the Apartheid-era government of South Africa.
Gordon Plaza residents protest again against the Moton Elementary school construction and demand relocation from their Superfund-situated neighborhood.
October 23, 1985
Unarmed African American Vernell Foster was shot to death Uptown by Gary Garfunkel, a White man who feared being robbed as Foster approached. Though shooting Foster five times, three shots in the back, Garfunkel was formally cleared of wrongdoing by an Orleans Parish Grand Jury and District Attorney Harry Connick, Sr.
into early 1986
The Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) both called and settled a boycott of Winn-Dixie Supermarkets following the finding that the southeast U.S. chain had knowingly relabeled canned pears, peaches and fish to cover their South African-origins. The SCLC also launched a boycott of the locally-owned Nicholson & Loup Food Giant supermarkets, until a formal retraction was made by the stores' owner, State Senator Elwin Nicholson. He publicly suggested that school test scores would improve if Black children's records were removed. Nicholson also said that integration has ruined Louisiana public schools. His stores in Gretna, Kenner and Marrero faced weeks of pickets by African American SCLC members and several White New Orleans activists.
March 26, 1986
Thirty members and supporters of the predominately African American group Fishermen and Concerned Citizens in Plaquemines Parish were arrested for "disturbing the peace" during a parish commission council meeting. They had demanded job and social service relief projects in their community, even as similarly-situated white parish residents were assisted in the face of a major economic downturn in the oil industry.
April 9, 1986
A federal judge ruled that Gretna aldermen must be elected from districts instead of citywide, to give its 5,200 Black citizens (out of 21,000) a more representative voice in government. A similar suit in the other Westbank of Jefferson Parish municipality of Westwego was also awaiting trial.
June 16, 1986
In commemoration of the tenth anniversary of the Soweto Uprising against the South African government, Louisiana State Representative Rev. Avery C. Alexander and other activists began regular pickets of Shell Oil company service stations. Protesters braved heavy rains to call attention to Royal Dutch Shell Corporation's directly-linked support of providing fuel to the South African Security Forces in defense of upholding the strict racial segregation of Apartheid.
June 23. 1986
Local 100 of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) signed a one-year collective bargaining agreement with the downtown New Orleans Hyatt, marking the first recognition of a hotel labor union here in nearly forty years. A year of national boycotts of all non-union Hyatt properties after a five-year impasse with New Orleans Hyatt workers preceded the settlement, which represented 250 mostly female and all African American housekeepers, valets, concierge, bell staff and linen workers. A major catalyst towards settling the dispute was the National Council of Churches cancellation of its spring 1986 New Orleans convention, along with spirited picketing by scores of activists during that year's Sugar Bowl festivities.
July 21, 1986
In solidarity with the opponents of South African Apartheid, the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club cancelled a then-much vaunted tourism trip by New Orleans Carnival's largest African American-led parading krewe to the country.
August 13, 1986
New Orleans Police officer Romallis Stokes pled guilty in the September 18, 1985 electric stun gun torture of Patrick Ledet, and of Thomas Merricks four days later.
Jefferson Parish Sheriff Harry Lee retracts public comments that suggested that Black people should be stopped by police if seen in White Jefferson Parish neighborhoods.
Two streets leading from the predominately Black Pigeontown section of Uptown New Orleans into the predominately White Jefferson Parish community of Southport were physically blocked by parish public works road barricades, at the suggestion of Sheriff Harry Lee, who said it would curtail street crime in the area. Pigeontown residents called for the teardown of "our Berlin Wall", which led New Orleans Mayor Sidney Barthelemy to order a Department of Streets backhoe to uproot the metal barricades. Jefferson Parish officials were subsequently found to have improperly blocked entrance to a state highway (Montecello Ave.).
June 20, 1987
2000 union workers and their supporters protest the three-year plant lockout of 370 workers at the BASF Chemical Corporation facility in Geismar, fifty miles upriver from New Orleans.
October 10, 1987
Civil Rights activist Oretha Castle Haley dies of complications from cancer at the age of 48. As a youthful organizer with the Congress On Racial Equality (CORE), Castle-Haley played a major role in the sit-ins and pickets of downtown New Orleans lunch counters to protest Jim Crow segregation. In her later years she sparked the consciousness of retaining African American community and Civil Rights movement history. The New Orleans City Council renamed the business-portion of Dryades Street after her in recognition of her activism and community leadership.
Amnesty International assails the State of Louisiana as an abuser of human rights for its number one per capita ranking in its use of the death penalty. In the summer of 1987, Louisiana gained international notoriety for executing 8 convicted murderers in 8 successive weeks. As of this time since 1722 Louisiana officially had killed 867 persons by hanging, electrocution and beheading.
Tulane University battles over Apartheid. An announcement by Tulane University officials to formally grant with an honorary doctorate anti-Apartheid and human rights activist Bishop Desmond Tutu -- while it simultaneously held steadfast to investments in corporations doing business in South Africa -- sparked student demonstrations on the Uptown campus. Four protest shanties made of cardboard and scrap wood, signifying the squalid housing occupied by many Black South Africans in the townships where they are relegated are erected, first on the University Center Quad, then in front of Gibson Hall on St. Charles Avenue April 17-30. Students hold 24-hour a day vigils through the conclusion of the spring semester, protesting university hypocrisy in not divesting its funds from such corporations while honoring the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town with the degree during commencement exercises. Tulane protestors reflect 137 other campuses nationwide demanding their respective university officials to empty their portfolios of these companies whose economic capital props up the white-minority Apartheid regime. Maki Mandela, eldest daughter of then-imprisoned anti-Apartheid activist Nelson Mandela, spoke across from the shanties at Mc Alister Auditorium April 19. A sit-in at the campus administrative office prompts Tulane University's board to meet to consider student demands. Offering the bizarre counter argument that the "free speech and inquiry" would be adversely affected were Tulane to agree to protestors' demands, the board declines the portfolio change. Hearing of this, Bishop Desmond Tutu declines the planned Tulane University honorary degree May 9: "I regret that the university did not fully share with me its position on South Africa at an earlier stage. I am willing to accept the degree in a year's time should Tulane review its decision not to divest."
May 4, 1988
NOPD kills Black teen seen with toy gun. Sixteen-year-old Michael Preston Foley Jr., a 9th-grade special education student at Nicholls High School was playing with his younger cousin, 14-year-old Tyronne Conners, using an air pistol behind their apartment at 7215 Chef Menteur Highway. An employee of the nearby American Bank and Trust Company at 7201 Chef called police and summoned them to the apartment complex. Seeing this, the teens ran back to their home. According to police accounts, Foley had pulled out the realistic-looking .45 caliber pistol and pointed it at officers. Foley's family said that one uniformed and one plain-clothes officer had pursued the teens and kicked-in their door. Seeking to comply with their request to drop the "weapon", Foley pulled it out from under his shirt, only to be Instantly shot in the chest by plain-clothes officer Sgt. Anthony Chetta. Foley stumbled towards his aunt and parental guardian, Jessie Howell, before collapsing and dying at the scene. The Liberation League led community protests the next day and organized legal support for the family. Later that summer an Orleans Parish Grand Jury declined to indict Sgt. Chetta.
May 9(?), 1988
NOPD shoots another person with a toy gun. Gerald A. Mathieu filed suit May 26 in Civil District Court after a grand jury refused to indict NOPD officers Gary Guggenheim and Armando Asaro for negligent injury. A homeless man, Mathieu was shot as he was resting under a tree near a nursing home, despite protests by neighbors who said the man was harmless and that his pistol was a toy. The $28 million suit claims the officers over-reacted.
Organizing for the Republican National Convention raises charges of movement racism. Hundreds of mostly white activists converge upon New Orleans to dissent against the Reagan/1st Bush administration. Concerns were raised over the impact that these protestors would have upon local issues and neighborhoods. The latter concern rose after a protest encampment was initially proposed for Armstrong Park. The request was withdrawn after the mostly-white and out-of-town activists acknowledged they failed to seek consent from the Treme community to camp there (ultimately their encampment was six blocks away from the Morial New Orleans Convention Center. Due to the intense heat of convention week, only a few campers were present at the treeless, then-windswept site). The very arenas of protest were also under dispute, this time by some local activists, who pleaded with national protest organizations NOT to agree to NOPD-deslgnated areas -- lest the rest the city becomes off-limits for protests. An official lIfree-speech" stage was erected in Lafayette Square, while those who dared to protest outside the park were harassed or jailed for the duration of the convention. There were a few significant protests, including a labor march down Poydras Street, a "die-in" by anti HIV/AIDS activists at the Morial Convention Center, and a few disruptions of right-wing evangelical preacher revival meetings (by "Ladies Against Women", targeting Pat Robertson; and "The Church of the Great Green Frog", targeting Jerry Falwell) resulting in several arrests.
Formation of Angola State Penitentiary's "Native American Brotherhood". Incarcerated Native Americans and Black prisoners with links to the Mardi Gras Indians organize to assert recognized spiritual and religious practices, demanding equal treatment with other religions practiced by prisoners within the jurisdiction of the Louisiana Department of Corrections.
New push to free “the most rehabilitated man in America.” Prisoner solidarity activists, led by Ted Quant of the Twomey Center for Peace with Justice, re-Ignite a campaign to free acclaimed prison journalist Wilbert Rideau. Then in Angola State Penitentiary for 27 years, Rideau, a Black man, was convicted in the February 16, 1961 murder of a White female bank teller during an armed robbery at a Lake Charles bank. Despite numerous awards for his co-founding and editorship of The Angolite and proclaimed even by prison officials as rehabilitated, a succession of Louisiana governors fail to agree with their own hand-picked pardon board recommendations and denied Rideau clemency, Then-Governor Buddy Roemer became the latest to do so December 7, 1988, then again near the close of his administration in 1989. The U.S. Supreme Court threw out Rideau's first murder conviction, citing prejudicial treatment because of his race. He was retried and convicted of manslaughter on March 15, 2005 and was sentenced to the maximum 21 years in prison. Having already served 40 years for his now discarded murder conviction, Rideau was immediately released. Rideau then won a state district court ruling which barred Calcasieu Parish from assessing him $127,000 for court costs borne because of his retrial. Rideau currently resides in California.
George Herbert Walker Bush is elected President of the United States, in a land-slide victory over Michael Dukakis, continuing and extending the Reagan-era for four more years.
November 11-23, 1988
The Louisiana Great Toxics March. Arguably one of the first substantive collaborations of White environmentalists, industrial union workers and Black community activists under predominate Black leadership. The march began in Baton Rouge, and was routed through what it defined (and hence is now Widely termed) as "Cancer Alley": the 90 miles of communities and petrochemical industrial facilities along the Mississippi River, into New Orleans. It was met variously with proclamations of welcome .- through most predominately African American communities located right next door to massive industrial complexes; from the Mississippi River Bridge Authority, to march on the bridge itself into New Orleans; and from then-newly elected Mayor of Gretna Ronnie Harris. Harris and the MRBA in particular countered the official blocking of the march through Jefferson Parish by Jefferson Parish Sheriff Harry Lee -- the latter originally threatening marchers with arrest if they traversed the parish. Eight March organizers were arrested by New Orleans Police upon arrival at Armstrong Park. State Representative Rev. Avery Alexander, then-leader of the Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus, led the remaining 200+ marchers on its final day to attempt to block the eight arrests (by surrounding police vans) until police threatened greater force (guns were drawn, tear gas was threatened). Ultimately the charges of "incitement to riot" and "marching without a permit" were dismissed. A second march would be held going from New Orleans to Baton Rouge two years later, strengthening ties amongst the participants, and advancing the area of participatory sociological inquiry and action known as "Environmental Racism."
February 18, 1989
David Duke is elected to the Louisiana State Legislature. He won the District 81 seat, representing the suburban New Orleans neighborhoods of Old Metairie and Bucktown against John Treen, the brother of former Louisiana Governor Dave Treen (who was the first Republican to hold the office since Reconstruction). Duke would use this win to nearly score electoral victories for the U.S. Senate (1990) and Louisiana Governor (1991) -- both inflaming racism and resistance to it. His primary base of white supremacist support comes from the white working class parishes surrounding New Orleans.
Louisiana Coalition Against Racism and Fascism comes together in response to the election of David Duke. The coalition is a multiracial but mostly white group that spearheads the organized opposition to Duke when he runs again in 1991 for governor of Louisiana.
Duke's platform is opposition to affirmative action, support of the concept of "reverse racism" against white people, opposition to welfare, denomination of poor Black women, and equation of Black men and "criminals." He wins 55% of the white vote in the statewide election: 156,119 in New Orleans, 665,409 statewide.
Building on Black opposition to Duke's vicious racism, Jewish opposition to Duke's admiration of Nazism, and white corporate fear that a Duke election will damage the tourist trade; the Louisiana Coalition builds an electoral front grounded in the massive Black vote in New Orleans that defeat's Duke.
THE BUSH, CLINTON AND BUSH YEARS: 1990-2005: RACISM, PATRIARCHY, AND CAPITALISM/IMPERIALISM WIPE OUT THE GAINS MADE BY OPPRESSED PEOPLE OF COLOR OVER THE LAST 60 YEARS
Critical Resistance, an organization devoted to the abolition of prisons, forms its Southern chapter after a highly successful conference in New Orleans.
Incite! Women of Color Against Violence, a national organization committed to ending all forms of violence against women, holds its conference in Tremé, the oldest continuous Black community in the U.S.
NEW ORLEANS BLACK COMMUNITIES CONTINUE TO STRUGGLE. THIS HISTORY NEEDS TO BE RESEARCHED. THE FILES OF THE PEOPLE'S INSTITUTE DOCUMENTING THE POWERFUL COMMUNITY ORGANIZING OF THIS PERIOD VANISHED IN THE FLOOD. EVEN THOUGH AFRICAN AMERICAN, LATINO, AND ANTI-RACIST WHITE NEW ORLEANIANS ARE SCATTERED THROUGHOUT THE COUNTRY, THE STORIES OF THEIR SURVIVAL AND THEIR RESISTANCE NEED TO BE TOLD.
(1) "Together Apart: The Myth of Race," a 6-part series in the Times Picayune newspaper of New Orleans, May 9 -Nov. 18, 1993. Part 2: "Chained to History," week of June 13, 1993, provided most of the historical data for the time line.
(2) Philip Foner, ORGANIZED LABOR AND THE BLACK WORKER: 1619-1973. NY: International Publishers, 1974, p. 89-92 for sections on Black workers.
(3) For information on Deacons of Defense, googling, watching the film, and stories from activists back in the 1960's.
(4) For material from The People's Institute, the St. Thomas Residents Council, and the St. Thomas/Irish Channel Consortium, training materials from the People's Institute in the mid-1990's. See www.pisab.org.
This timeline was compiled by Sharon Martinas of the Challenging White Supremacy workshop. Your constructive criticism is welcome! Please email cws [at] igc [dot] org. Thanks to K. Bradd Ott for his many helpful additions from his independent study project.