The History & Future of McDonogh #19:
McDonogh #19 was one of the first public elementary schools to be integrated in the Deep South during the Civil Rights Era.
On November 14, 1960, six years after separate black and white schools were ruled unconstitutional in Brown v. Board of Education, three first grade girls, Leona Tate, Gail Etienne and Tessie Prevost, were escorted by Federal Marshals through a crowd of protesters to attend McDonogh #19, becoming the first African Americans to attend a formerly white-only school in Louisiana.
However, white resistance and protests were sustained, providing yet another example of white discrimination lasting long after the illegalization of racially segregated schools.
In New Orleans, the Pupil Placement Board created a psychological admissions test that Black students had to pass in order to attend a school with white children. The Board’s test was intentionally challenging, designed to limit the number of applicants able to integrate the schools. It was successful in this regard, the reason why only the three girls were able to attend McDonogh #19 in 1960. The school building, located in the historic Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans, Louisiana, still stands and serves as a testament to the role New Orleans has played in the American Civil Rights movement. Closed in 2004 and damaged one year later by Hurricane Katrina, the building sits vacant. For these reasons, the McDonogh #19 has considerable historic importance and was entered on September 22, 2016, into the National Register of Historic Places for 20th century African American civil rights significance.
New life for McDonogh #19:
In partnership with Alembic Community Development, a firm with extensive experience rehabilitating historic buildings, the Leona Tate Foundation for Change plans to preserve and transform McDonogh #19 in order to create a museum and multi-purpose center, scheduled to open in fall, 2019. The museum will explore the history of school desegregation as a major part of the civil rights movement in New Orleans and beyond, through a permanent exhibition highlighting the courage of three African-American girls and their community in the fight for equal rights and equal education. In addition to the museum, LTFC plans to create spaces in the building for adult literacy programming, a community radio station, office space for nonprofit organizations, and affordable housing for seniors.