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New La. Civil Rights Trail marker unveiled at A.Z. Young Park

Published: Aug. 9, 2021 at 11:52 AM CDT
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Information provided by the Louisiana Office of Tourism:

BATON ROUGE, La. - Lieutenant Governor Billy Nungesser and the Louisiana Office of Tourism today (Monday, August 9) dedicated the fourth marker along the Louisiana Civil Rights Trail. This marker, located at A.Z. Young Park in Baton Rouge, honors the first, and longest march at 105 miles, in the Civil Rights Movement. The Bogalusa to Baton Rouge Civil Rights March started 54 years ago, on August 10, 1967. Led by Civil Rights Activist A.Z. Young, with Robert “Bob” Hicks and Gayle Jenkins, the Bogalusa to Baton Rouge March was referred to as the “105-mile gauntlet.” While facing substantial opposition requiring protection from National Guardsmen and police, the march grew from 25 to 600 people during the journey. On August 20, 1967, during a rally on the steps of the State Capitol, Young presented a list of grievances to Governor John McKeithen regarding employment discrimination and the election of ten African Americans running for local offices in Bogalusa.

“I’m honored to dedicate this marker on the anniversary of the march,” said Lieutenant Governor Billy Nungesser. “It took courage and determination to make it from Bogalusa to Baton Rouge and we are proud to recognize this historic event on the Louisiana Civil Rights Trail as we share with visitors the impacts that our residents had on a national level in the Civil Rights Movement.”

The Louisiana Civil Rights Trail brings together the events of the 1950s and 1960s that placed the state of Louisiana at the center of the national Civil Rights Movement and narrates the compelling stories and experiences of the people who dedicated themselves and their lives to making civil rights real in Louisiana.

Lt. Governor Nungesser unveiled the first three markers on the trail this past spring in New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and Shreveport. The Louisiana Civil Rights Trail will play a vital role in telling Louisiana’s story to residents and visitors alike.

The Louisiana Office of Tourism is requesting $50,000 from the National Park Service’s African American Civil Rights Grant Program to assist in the fabrication and installation of 12 interpretive markers at significant sites in Louisiana on the Louisiana Civil Rights Trail. A total of 16 Louisiana Civil Rights Trail interpretive markers will be fabricated and installed to tell the stories and demonstrate the power of the people – young, old, black, white in Louisiana during the Modern Civil Rights Movement to “Make Rights Real.” The overarching goal is to create a cultural tourism experience that invites visitors to explore sites and learn more about the events significant to the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 1960s.

The interpretive markers are a dynamic alternative to traditional historical markers used around the country, reflecting the uniqueness of the Louisiana Civil Rights Trail. The interpretive markers are in human silhouettes, seven-feet-tall, with photos and text depicting the people and activities that helped to shaped history. In honor of the participants, the signage for the physical sites is designed to provide travelers of the trail with a compelling, interactive (selfie-ready) experience making them feel like they are a part of the journey of Making Rights Real. Photos of the interpretive maker design are included as attachments.

The Louisiana Civil Rights markers unveiled to date include:

  • Bogalusa to Baton Rouge March where Civil Rights activist A.Z. Young, with Robert “Bob” Hicks and Gayle Jenkins, led the march from Bogalusa to Baton Rouge. Young planned to present a list of grievances to Governor John McKeithen on the steps of the State Capitol. Referred to as the “105-mile gauntlet,” the marchers faced substantial opposition along the way. By the time the marchers arrived at the State Capitol, their number had grown from 25 to 600, with protection from National Guardsmen and police. In his speech on the state capitol steps, Young voiced complaints about employment and discrimination and called for the election of ten black people running for local offices in Bogalusa. The protesters’ efforts were ultimately successful, leading to better hiring and voting practices.
  • The Baton Rouge Bus Boycott was a historic effort by black residents seeking fair treatment by the local bus company. They comprised 80% of the city bus ridership but were forced to stand at the back of the bus even when there were seats in the “whites only” section of the bus. The old state capitol was a major site in the boycott, as riders gathered under oak trees to find free transportation to work. It also had broader impact on the civil rights movement. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was inspired by the free ride system pioneered in Baton Rouge and used it as a model for the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott.
  • Little Union Baptist Church was the epicenter of civil rights activities in Shreveport. Through the dynamic leadership of Reverend Claude Clifford McClain, members of the congregation strategized resolve civil rights issues peacefully, planned store boycotts to protest hiring practices by downtown stores, and conducted voter registration drives. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. made his last public appearance delivering an inspirational speech from the church pulpit.

Dooky Chase’s Restaurant in New Orleans gained notoriety as a place where people of all races could sit down and discuss strategies for the civil rights movement. Iconic civil rights leaders Oretha Castle Haley, A.P. Tureaud, Ernest “Dutch” Morial, Thurgood Marshall, Dr. Ralph Abernathy, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. all gathered in the upstairs dining room. Leah Chase, Chef and co-owner with her husband Dooky, famously said, “I like to think that we changed the course of America over a bowl of gumbo.”

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