Justice  /  Oral History

NOLA Resistance Oral History Project

This oral history project records testimony from individuals who were active in the fight for racial equality in New Orleans between 1954 and 1976.

NOLA Resistance Oral History Project

The modern African American civil rights movement brought about immense cultural change in New Orleans. The fight for racial justice included voter registration drives as well as efforts to end segregation and curtail discrimination in schools, on public transportation, and in businesses. Local chapters of CORE, the NAACP, and NAACP youth council led the movement.

This oral history project, funded in part by a National Park Service grant, records testimony from individuals who were active in the fight for racial equality in New Orleans between 1954 and 1976. For more information, access the full audio and transcript for each oral history.

The project documented a number of historic events and themes in the interviews with the activists who took part. The ten short videos below highlight these stories from the civil rights movement in New Orleans.

Featured Stories

Public School Integration

In November of 1960, six years after the US Supreme Court’s ruling in Brown v. Board of Education found segregation by race in public education to be unconstitutional, New Orleans’s public schools began the process of integration. That fall, four young girls—Leona Tate, Tessie Prevost, Gail Etienne, and Ruby Bridges—integrated two elementary schools in the Ninth Ward, McDonogh 19 and William Frantz.

The Freedom Rides

During the early 1960s, civil rights fighters pushed for enforcement of the federal ruling to provide integrated facilities for interstate travel by organizing bus trips known as “Freedom Rides.” New Orleanians, including members of the local CORE chapter, trained riders and boarded buses as part of the effort. Dodie Smith-Simmons recalls her experiences as a Freedom Rider, including the day when a colleague told her to “get Bobby Kennedy on the phone.”

The Castles, Freedom House and Dooky Chase's

The Castle family, including Oretha and her sister Doris Jean, were leaders of the local civil rights movement. Their family home, dubbed “Freedom House,” served as a place for visiting freedom fighters to meet, plan, eat, and rest. Dooky Chases’s Restaurant, where family matriarch Virgie Castle worked, provided food to demonstrators and a place for leaders of the movement to convene.