Natalie Midlo was a nurse, wife, and mother who was active in the Temple Sinai Sisterhood and the National Council of Jewish Women. Her involvement with local and national civil rights organizations led to her activism in the areas of civil rights and school desegregation. Midlo was actively involved in the Save Our Schools group, which sought to fight against the demand by some residents to close public schools rather than allow them to integrate.
As an activist, Natalie Midlo collected plenty of material relating to the Civil Rights Movement. Her collection contains correspondence, bulletins, newspaper clippings, and sermons that reflect her civic activism and support of civil rights and school desegregation. A unique component of her collection, though, is what she collected that represented the other side - material that is anti-integrationist, anti-Semitic, and/or anti-communist in nature. The material in her collection shows how organizations like the Citizen’s Council, the Louisiana State Sovereignty Commission, and others tried to proselytize their message through letter campaigns, “informational” brochures & posters, and even through comic books geared toward children.
In one particular circular sent out by the Louisiana State Sovereignty Commission, a letter explains that there are attempts to destroy the tradition of the “American Way of Life.” They request that Dr. Midlo (Natalie Midlo’s husband) place their supplementary comic book, “We the people…,” in the hospital reception room to encourage others to learn about these attacks on their traditions.
The comic book starts out innocently enough, a boy tells his father about the secret “Muner” club he has formed with his friends and the father uses it as an analogy to explain the U.S. Constitution. The father quickly jumps to the real issue - federal judges are forcing schools to integrate. This mandate is equated to being forced to allow girls in the son’s boys-only club. The father even accuses “those same people in Washington” of wanting to promote fair employment standards by suggesting that employers “can’t pick their own employees.” The blame for this overreach is placed on power-hungry politicians and subversive communists. With its brightly-colored pages and specious analogy, the booklet was likely intended for children to read as they waited for to see the doctor.
The comic book stood out to me because the argument seemed illogical. As someone who grew up in a diverse school, I had never given any thought to people who would be against integration. The thought of it being up for discussion was from a bygone era. So when I came across this booklet that tries to compare integration with communist subversion, it sounded ridiculous, but it offered a look inside the mind and rationale of segregationists. It completely snakes around the reality of unequal schooling in Louisiana and turns it into an attack on tradition, namely the exclusionary tradition of private clubs. The connection between public schools and private clubs is not made in this short booklet, but there is a call to action to prevent further change to the “American way of life.”
You can read the comic book in its entirety below:
Images are from the Natalie Midlo collection. Amistad Research Center’s website, newsletters, and blogs may not be reproduced without permission.