In this compilation WSB newsfilm clip from November 1960, a reporter interviews school board member Matthew Sutherland; white men meet in offices and outside office buildings; Louisiana attorney general Jack Gremillion speaks to a reporter; state legislators speak against court-ordered school integration; white demonstrators protest school integration; an unidentified white man speaks at a Citizens' Council rally; and reporters speak to several local leaders outside of district court in New Orleans, Louisiana.
The clip begins with a reporter interviewing Orleans Parish School Board member Matthew Sutherland following his November 8 reelection to the board. Sutherland explains that he views his reelection as an indication that "the people of New Orleans want the public schools open." He also believes that citizens accept pupil placement, since it was the only option to keep the schools open at election time. Asked if he believes New Orleans schools will be open Monday, November 14, the day of court-ordered desegregation, he expresses his uncertainty about the situation, citing the "contest between the state and the federal government."
Next, several white men in suits are seen moving through an office and speaking to each other. At one point, Harry Booth, an attorney from Shreveport and a member of the state Democratic committee is seen standing to the right of another man to whom he is speaking. Later, State Representative Risley Triche from Assumption Parish, chair of the legislative committee appointed to replace the Orleans Parish School Board, sits in a conference room; Triche appears to be speaking, but his comments are not recorded. Other members of the committee included Representative Parvey P. Branton, Senator Charles E. Deichmann, Senator E. W. Gravolet, and Representative Val M. Deloney. Louisiana attorney general Jack P. F. Gremillion appears later in the meeting. After a break in the clip, white men leave a building and walk along the sidewalk; some of the men wear hats, others are bare-headed. One of the men in the group is Leander Perez, political boss of Plaquemine Parish and influential segregationist. The Louisiana state legislature attempted to prevent school desegregation by passing legislation removing the elected Orleans Parish School Board and replacing it with a committee appointed to lead the school board until a new board, presumably one that would maintain segregation, could be elected. The New Orleans Times-Picayune reported on November 10 that Representatives Branton, Deloney, and Triche and Senators Gravolet, and Deichmann had been appointed to the replacement school board. While the federal courts ruled against such action, on November 11, members of the committee met with members of the state sovereignty commission, the joint legislative segregation committee, and the "interposition" committee, which sought to place the authority of the state legislature between the federal government and local New Orleans officials as another way of preventing integration. The joint meeting consulted with several lawyers, including Girard Rault, C. C. Woods, Wade O. Martin, Jr., Scott Wilkinson, and J. R. Fuller. The meeting was guarded by state police detective sergeant Leon Kordek, lieutenant Ben Skidmore, and trooper Winton Bordelon.
After this, a reporter interviews state attorney general Jack P. F. Gremillion. Gremillion, responding to a question that was not recorded, indicates that the transfer between the elected Orleans Parish School Board and the legislature-appointed replacement board went smoothly, and that the replacement board "is only following the dictate of the legislature and the governor of our state." Asked if he will resign as attorney general if the committee moves to close the schools, Gremillion states that he does have enough information to answer the question, but does not support closing the schools. Answering the next question, Gremillion reports that he himself does not know the names of the five African American girls the Orleans Parish School Board selected to transfer to white schools. Although five African Americans were originally selected to integrate New Orleans schools, the fifth girl withdrew her application when it was discovered her parents were not married when she was born.
The clip breaks and then shows several white men standing together in a room. The men appear to be listening to a radio or recording device. Next, another man holds a radio or recording device to up to a microphone in a legislative chamber so the men in the audience can hear. An African American choir of students stands on the steps of the state capitol and later walks inside the building.
Following this, several white men speak in a legislative chamber. The clip breaks several times; comments may not be completely recorded. The first man, a member of the House of Representatives, declares that only those who elected him have the right to restrain his activities. He asserts that the federal courts do not have the right to limit his activities and refuses to comply with an order he does not view as "valid, legal, or binding." The next man recognizes that federal judge J. Skelly Wright, the judge that ordered New Orleans school integration, was obligated to rule the way he did or he would have been removed from office. However, the speaker does not defend Judge Wright but instead condemns the federal court for preventing the legislature from speaking for the citizens of the state. The subsequent speaker chastises the Orleans Parish School Board for refusing to observe a school holiday implemented by the legislature on November 14, the day scheduled for school integration. The state department of education had declared November 14 a state-wide school holiday in an attempt to buy more time for the legal fight against desegregation. The Orleans Parish School Board was the only school system in the state that did not observe the school holiday, in part because of the court order they were under to desegregate the schools that day.
The clip jumps to show McDonogh 19, one of the two schools in New Orleans integrated November 14. Cars and trucks drive down the street in front of the school; white demonstrators stand on the corner of a sidewalk protesting the school's integration. An African American mother and her daughter walk past police and up the stairs to the school entrance. White women walk along the sidewalk and over a bridge as a car drives past. Later police help a woman into a car as the protesters appear to yell at her. White people get out of a car and wave at the camera above them.
Later an unidentified white man speaks at a Citizens' Council rally held at the municipal auditorium in New Orleans on November 15, the day after the schools were integrated. The speaker praises the teachers in the Orleans Parish school system. He stresses that violence is not a good solution and will bring disgrace to the city. He urges parents to follow the governor's advice and boycott the integrated schools, insisting that there is no longer a compulsory education act in the state and that truant officers will not pick up parents or their children for staying home. Nearly all the parents from the two integrated schools, McDonogh 19 and William Frantz, followed the counsel of the Citizens' Council and of the governor and boycotted the integrated schools. Students in the fourth through sixth grades were allowed to enroll in the neighboring St. Bernard Parish schools, and parents created a cooperative school for first through third grade students that was eventually absorbed into the St. Bernard system. However, nearly three hundred white children from the two schools were not sent to school during the first year of integration.
The clip ends with images from the United States District Court in New Orleans. The camera focuses on the outside of the building, showing the sign for the district court. Inside men sit on benches or walk around the room. New Orleans superintendent of police Joseph Giarrusso walks into another room. A reporter speaks to African American attorney Daniel Byrd, but his comments are not recorded at that time. Dr. James Redmond, superintendent of Orleans Parish schools is also seen in the hallway. Later a reporter interviews Matthew Sutherland of the school board. Sutherland states he believes the restraining order the judge issued against the legislature and the replacement school board allows the elected school board to continue running the schools. Next African American attorney Daniel Byrd refuses to comment on issues under the consideration of the court and indicates he does not know when the court will issue a ruling. Another man speaking to the reporter expresses that he does not doubt the governor's sincerity in school matters, but does think the governor has erred in some of the legislation he has supported. Finally a reporter asks Dr. Redmond about the schools' condition. Dr. Redmond's reply is not recorded.
In 1956 federal judge J. Skelly Wright overturned New Orleans school segregation laws. Legal maneuvering by the school board and the Louisiana state legislature delayed integration until Judge Wright ordered the school board to begin desegregating the first grade in the fall of 1960. The legislature held several special sessions both before and after the November 14 desegregation date and passed legislation seeking to prevent integration; all the legislation passed was eventually overturned by federal courts.
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.
Local identification number: Clip number: wsbn43669