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A Lifetime of Achievement: Sybil Morial Papers

by Jasmaine Talley, Curator of Manuscripts & Rare Books

Portrait of Sybil Morial, circa 1978
Portrait of Sybil Morial, circa 1978

As we celebrate National Women’s History Month, the Amistad Research Center is proud to announce that the papers of Sybil Morial are open and available for research. This project was completed with funding assistance from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) grant project, “A Range of Experiences: Documenting African American Women’s History and Achievements. The papers of Sybil Morial, which includes correspondence, organization records and photographs, represents a lifetime of achievement, activism, civic engagement and a commitment to education.

Sybil Gayle Haydel was born in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1932, to Eudora Arnaud and Clarence C. Haydel, the second of four children. She grew up in a middle-class Black Creole family in the Seventh Ward.

Sybil Haydel was educated in parochial schools in New Orleans and graduated Xavier University Preparatory High School. She attended Xavier University of Louisiana before transferring to Boston University and graduating with a bachelor of science degree in elementary education in 1952. She earned a master’s in education from Boston University in 1955. In 1955, she married Ernest N. “Dutch” Morial, a prominent civil rights lawyer. They have five children: Julie, Marc, Jacques, Cheri and Monique. From 1959 to 1971, Sybil Morial worked in the Orleans Parish School System in New Orleans, Louisiana. In 1977, she became the director of the Special Services Program at Xavier University of Louisiana, the year before Dutch Morial would become the first African-American mayor of New Orleans. She would spend the next twenty-eight years at Xavier University in many different capacities before retiring in 2005.

Other activities documented within her papers include her organizing the Louisiana League of Good Government; its mission was to increase Black voter registration and turnout. She also established the Ernest N. Morial Asthma Center at the LSU Medical Center for the study of asthma, the condition that contributed to her husband’s death in 1989. A larger portion of her papers also document her work with the International Women’s Forum and its regional chapter, the Louisiana Women’s Forum. These records demonstrate Sybil Morial’s commitment to mentoring women in leadership, particularly in New Orleans. She also is a longtime member of the Amistad Research Center board of directors.

Today, Sybil Morial remains dedicated to the city of New Orleans and to lending her experience and knowledge to future generations of leaders and activists.

Institute of Museum and Library Services

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