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New historical marker in Baton Rouge honors longest march of Civil Rights movement

2 years 10 months 5 days ago Monday, August 09 2021 Aug 9, 2021 August 09, 2021 3:52 PM August 09, 2021 in News
Source: WBRZ

BATON ROUGE - Officials unveiled in a new trail marker at a capital area park Monday honoring the first, and longest, march of the Civil Rights movement.

The Bogalusa to Baton Rouge March began Aug. 10, 1967 and covered 105 miles across southeast Louisiana. The demonstration, often known as the "105-mile gauntlet" was led by activist A.Z. Young, with Robert "Bob" Hicks and Gayle Jenkins. 

Despite facing opposition from law enforcement at the time, the march grew from 25 to 600 people over the course of their journey. It ended 10 days later with a rally on the steps of the State Capitol where Young presented a list of grievances addressed to Governor John McKeithen regarding employment discrimination and the election of 10 African-Americans running for office in Bogalusa. 

Lieutenant Governor Billy Nungesser and the Louisiana Office of Tourism officially revealed the marker at A.Z. Young Park in Baton Rouge on Monday, adding it to the historic Louisiana Civil Rights Trail which details the events that put Louisiana at the center of the Civil Rights movement in the 50s and 60s. The state unveiled the first three markers of the trail back in the spring. 

The markers unveiled to date include...

-Bogalusa to Baton Rouge March where Civil Rights activist A.Z. Young, with Robert “Bob” Hicks and Gayle Jenkins, led the march from Bogalusa to Baton Rouge. Young planned to present a list of grievances to Governor John McKeithen on the steps of the State Capitol. Referred to as the “105-mile gauntlet,” the marchers faced substantial opposition along the way. By the time the marchers arrived at the State Capitol, their number had grown from 25 to 600, with protection from National Guardsmen and police. In his speech on the state capitol steps, Young voiced complaints about employment and discrimination and called for the election of ten black people running for local offices in Bogalusa. The protesters’ efforts were ultimately successful, leading to better hiring and voting practices.

-The Baton Rouge Bus Boycott was a historic effort by black residents seeking fair treatment by the local bus company. They comprised 80% of the city bus ridership but were forced to stand at the back of the bus even when there were seats in the “whites only” section of the bus. The old state capitol was a major site in the boycott, as riders gathered under oak trees to find free transportation to work. It also had broader impact on the civil rights movement. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was inspired by the free ride system pioneered in Baton Rouge and used it as a model for the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott.

-Little Union Baptist Church was the epicenter of civil rights activities in Shreveport. Through the dynamic leadership of Reverend Claude Clifford McClain, members of the congregation strategized resolve civil rights issues peacefully, planned store boycotts to protest hiring practices by downtown stores, and conducted voter registration drives. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. made his last public appearance delivering an inspirational speech from the church pulpit.

-Dooky Chase’s Restaurant in New Orleans gained notoriety as a place where people of all races could sit down and discuss strategies for the civil rights movement. Iconic civil rights leaders Oretha Castle Haley, A.P. Tureaud, Ernest “Dutch” Morial, Thurgood Marshall, Dr. Ralph Abernathy, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. all gathered in the upstairs dining room. Leah Chase, Chef and co-owner with her husband Dooky, famously said, “I like to think that we changed the course of America over a bowl of gumbo.”

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