Why was the trail created?
There are so many untold stories of civil rights heroes in this state – people like AZ Young, who organized a 10-day, 105-mile civil rights march from Bogalusa to Baton Rouge. Or Ruby Bridges and Leona Tate, two of the first girls to desegregate the education system when they joined previously all-white schools. They were six years old and had to be escorted to their classes by federal marshals.
We are setting up a series of beacons at important sites, which you can locate through the trail website. It was important to us that these were places you can always visit – a place to engage in history, not just read it. For example, we unveiled one near the oak trees outside the Old State Capitol, the site of the Baton Rouge bus boycott in the early 1950s. Blacks formed a free service where you could meet under. trees and drive to work. This was the model for Martin Luther King Jr.’s bus boycott in Montgomery a few years later.
Do you have any favorite sites?
I think everyone should stop by Dooky Chase restaurant in New Orleans – it has been serving the most amazing Creole food since 1941. Chef Leah Chase owned the place with her husband when he was still there. illegal for blacks and whites to get together, even for dinner. They secretly hosted many activists: Doctor King, Thurgood Marshall, Oretha Castle Haley – they all met there. Chef Leah once said, “We changed the course of America with a bowl of okra and fried chicken! ”
Why is a project like this important today?
We started creating the trail in early 2019 – the group who designed it traveled 3,000 miles, all over the state, speaking with people who had been on the front lines, collecting these authentic stories. Since then, there has been a wake-up call about the African-American experience. Right now, people are passionate about these issues and yearn to learn more. The course reminds you that one person can make a difference and makes you think, how can I contribute?
Where else would you recommend going?
I would definitely recommend the Whitney Plantation, if you want to understand what things were like during slavery. They do a good job telling the whole story and not just part of it.
Learn more about the Louisiana Civil Rights Trail
Discover more stories from the American Deep South
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