In this WSB newsfilm clip from November 14, 1960, two African American girls integrate the previously all-white McDonogh 19 Elementary School in New Orleans, Louisiana, watched by white policemen and by cheering African Americans.
The clip begins with a car driving past the camera; inside a young African American girl with a white bow in her hair looks out the window. Next, white policemen in dark uniforms get off a bus. A white federal marshal walks with an African American woman and young girl up the stairs of McDonogh 19 school. The clip then shows African American women cheering and clapping their hands before the camera turns back to the African American woman and girl entering the school. Another woman and girl climb the steps and also enter the school. Finally, the camera again focuses on policemen as they get off a bus.
During the clip, an unseen reporter narrates the action. The clip audio is inconsistent and comments may not be completely recorded. The reporter indicates that the four African American girls integrating the two elementary schools in New Orleans were driven by United States marshals, who "made sure no harm came to the children or their parents as they entered and left school." The reporter also explains that while white policemen were there "to see that integration took place without trouble," segregationist spectators yelled at the children and their mothers, and African American spectators applauded the integration.
Although federal judge J. Skelly Wright overturned New Orleans school segregation laws in 1956, pressure from the Louisiana state legislature helped the Orleans Parish School Board resist integration until 1960, when Judge Wright ordered the school board to begin a grade-a-year integration plan, starting with the first grade, that fall. The school board accepted 135 applications from African Americans seeking to transfer to white schools and then chose four first-grade girls to attend two schools in the Ninth Ward. Officials from Norfolk, Virginia, who had undergone a court-ordered integration in 1959, warned the Orleans Parish School Board against integrating poor schools first. The board rejected this advice and assigned the girls to William Frantz and McDonogh 19 elementary schools in the poor Ninth Ward of the city. On November 14, 1960, about 150 federal marshals were in New Orleans to ensure integration would proceed as ordered by the courts and against the wishes of the Louisiana legislature. Federal marshals wearing yellow armbands escorted the four girls and their mothers into the two schools. African American demonstrators applauded and cheered as the girls entered school while white demonstrators, tipped off by the presence of police at the schools, protested the integration by screaming at the children and their mothers. The "cheerleaders" as they came to be known, protested the same way every morning and afternoon throughout the school year. The girls, Leona Tate, Tessie Prevost, and Gaile Etienne at McDonogh 19 and Ruby Bridges at William Frantz, later reported that the noise and the crowds at the schools made it seem like Mardi Gras. By the end of the first day of integration, so many parents had taken their children out of the schools that only forty students remained at McDonogh 19. The Citizens' Council encouraged parents to boycott the integrated schools, and for most of the year the only students at McDonogh 19 were the three African American girls.
Title supplied by cataloger.
The Civil Rights Digital Library received support from a National Leadership Grant for Libraries awarded to the University of Georgia by the Institute of Museum and Library Services for digital conversion and description of the WSB-TV Newsfilm Collection.
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Cite as: WSB-TV newsfilm clip of African American first-grade girls integrating McDonogh 19 Elementary School as they are watched by white policemen and by cheering African Americans in New Orleans, Louisiana, 1960 November 14, WSB-TV newsfilm collection, reel 0160, 47:38/48:05, Walter J. Brown Media Archives and Peabody Awards Collection, The University of Georgia Libraries, Athens, Ga, as presented in the Digital Library of Georgia.