by Christopher Harter, Deputy Director
Will public schools be open or will they be shut down?
Will students be able to learn together in the classroom or will alternate teaching methods need to be employed? Will teachers be paid?
What is the role of local and state government in public school education during a crisis?
These are questions that have been on the minds of political leaders, school administrators, teachers, parents and school children since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, these were also the fundamental questions being faced 60 years ago when the first public schools in New Orleans were integrated. In recognition of the 60th anniversary of the November 1960 integration of William Frantz Elementary School and McDonogh No. 19 Elementary School by four brave young girls – Ruby Bridges, Gail Etienne, Tessie Prevost and Leona Tate – the Amistad Research Center has launched a new digital exhibition examining the events leading up to and following what became known as the “New Orleans School Crisis.”
Through a Crowd Bravely: The Beginnings of Public School Integration in New Orleans draws upon Amistad’s wellspring of primary source material related to the events surrounding efforts to expand equality of education in the Crescent City. Included are legal documents and correspondence of attorneys, civic activists and others who led the legal charge against segregated schools, as well as records of organizations that sought to keep public schools open during that time and those that sought to ensure the failure of integration efforts. Also included is footage of a 2010 panel co-sponsored by the Amistad Research Center in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the integration of the Frantz and McDonogh No. 19 schools.
The online exhibition is presented through Amistad’s partnership with the Google Cultural Institute. It is available free of charge via the link above, as well as through Amistad’s educational platform, Amistad on the Go!.
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