New Orleans school integration


Two years following the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision, Federal District Court Judge, J. Skelly Wright, ordered the Orleans Parish School Board to design an effective plan for the desegregation of New Orleans' public schools. The ruling aroused significant local opposition, however, and parents, school board members, city leaders, and elected officials moved to secure state legislation to overturn Wright's decision. After four years of circumventing the court-ordered desegregation, the school board finally put in place a plan to integrate the city's public schools in 1960. The plan called for the integration of two New Orleans schools, both located in the impoverished Ninth Ward, on a one-grade-per-year basis, beginning with the first grade. On November 14, 1960, four girls, shielded and protected by armed United States marshals, integrated the two schools; Leona Tate, Tessie Prevost, Gaile Etienne entering McDonogh 19 and Ruby Bridges entering William Frantz. In the days following the integration, riots led by staunch segregationists erupted throughout the city and student enrollments at the two desegregated schools dwindled, as parents chose to enroll their children in the city's private schools. The integration of New Orleans' public schools drew national criticism from those who condemned segregationists for their hostile reactions and prompted acclaimed American painter, Norman Rockwell, to paint "The Problem We All Live With," which depicted four federal marshals escorting six-year-old Ruby Bridges to school on her first day at William Frantz.

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