Louisiana unveiling 2 new Civil Rights Trail markers
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Louisiana is unveiling two new Civil Rights Trail markers — one at the room where three Black first graders integrated a New Orleans school in 1960, and the other honoring an African American tank battalion formed during World War II.
Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser will lead ceremonies Tuesday at the former McDonogh 19 Elementary School, for the marker to Gail Etienne, Leona Tate and Tessie Prevost, and Wednesday at Camp Beauregard in Pineville, paying tribute to the 761st Tank Battalion. Each marker on the trail is a 6-foot-tall steel silhouette of a human with a sign explaining the events that took place at the site.
The school is now being developed as a civil rights museum named the Tate, Etienne, Prevost Center. The girls were its only students for months because white parents pulled their children out.
Starting Nov. 14, 1960, U.S. marshals escorted them to school every day. “The girls had recess indoors, ate under staircases, and the windows were covered at all times,” a news release recounted.
On the same day that they were first escorted into school, other U.S. marshals accompanied Ruby Bridges to William Frantz Elementary School.
The tank battalion — like the Tuskegee Airmen, an experimental unit — was created April 1, 1942, at Camp Claiborne in Rapides Parish. Its marker will be at the Louisiana Maneuvers and Military Museum, in a replica barracks at what is now a National Guard facility.
Eight infantry divisions used the unit for direct support.
Gen. George S. Patton asked to have the 761st assigned to his command in 1944, and it “was often at the leading edge of Patton’s advance through Europe,” the National World War II Museum recounts on its website.
“In 183 days in combat, the men of the 761st liberated more than 30 towns, and were awarded 11 Silver Stars,” the museum continues. “In 1997, Staff Sergeant Ruben Rivers was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for action in France in November 1944.”
The Louisiana Civil Rights Trail’s first marker went up in May 2021 at Dooky Chase’s restaurant in New Orleans, where civil rights activists found a safe meeting space when segregation was still state law. Others are at the Old State Capitol in Baton Rouge, Little Union Baptist Church in Shreveport, and the Bogalusa park where Louisiana’s first and longest civil rights march began.
Louisiana’s trail is also part of a national civil rights trail spanning 14 states, including all of those in the Deep South.
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