by Brenda Williams, retired claims administrator, Louisiana
Kudos to former state Sen. Diana Bajoie (who as a state senator originally pitched the idea of a civil rights museum to the Legislature) for recognizing the need for Louisiana’s stories to be told.She knew what others in Alabama, Ohio, the Carolinas and Mississippi recognized and acted to change.
She knew that people in other states and people in other countries knew that before there was a turbulent Montgomery bus boycott in Alabama, there was a successful, peaceful bus boycott in Baton Rouge.
She knew that the young lawyer who filed the related law suit, Johnnie Jones, was fresh out of Southern University’s law school. And, that Jones was still alive and active in the city of Baton Rouge.
She knew that the young black teenagers who first set foot in previously all-white high schools in Baton Rouge were even more impacted by their experiences than 6-year-olds Tessie Prevost, Gail Etienne, Leona Tate and Ruby Bridges, who integrated New Orleans-area elementary schools.
She also knew that Baton Rouge and New Orleans stories were not the only stories that needed to be told. She knew that the experiences of American Indians and others whose lives were marginalized throughout the state were absent and unaccounted for in state annals.
But, who, in Louisiana, cares about such information? Why should the citizens of Louisiana think that civil rights happenings in Louisiana in the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s — and yes, even now, matter? We live for football, Mardi Gras, feasibility studies and the moment! Let’s forget all of that other stuff. Let it die with the trailblazers.
For those who might be interested, go to Mississippi. Because Mississippi is well on its way to telling its story — good, bad and ugly — to the millions of world visitors who will pick their passion and learn about the history that missed the books of the past, but will live on so that the sordid past will not be repeated.