The Second Battle of New Orleans: The Hundred-Year Struggle to Integrate the Schools

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9780060168087: The Second Battle of New Orleans: The Hundred-Year Struggle to Integrate the Schools

Chronicles a momentous turning point in our nation's history, in the dramatic story of how the South's oldest city, New Orleans, dealt with and handled the desegregation of the public schools.

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From Kirkus Reviews:

A first-rate case study of the endless struggle for black equality. Baker (The Justice from Beacon Hill, 1991, etc.) portrays the experience of New Orleans as a microcosm of the war over desegregating public schools that should have ended in the Supreme Court's 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education but quite painfully did not. She delineates the city's complex racial dynamics from the antebellum period through the 1960s, showing how the window of promise that Reconstruction opened for blacks was slammed shut in 1896, when the Supreme Court held in Plessy v. Ferguson that Louisiana could pursue the creation of ``separate but equal'' public facilities. The heart of the story is the decades-long war in the courts and the streets that finally led to the end of legal segregation in the city's public schools, only to be followed by the de facto segregation created by ``white flight'' to private schools and the suburbs. Like most good popular history, this book is character-driven; it demonstrates that events are the product, not simply of impersonal forces, but of individuals facing specific challenges. These include J. Skelly Wright, the white federal judge who issued order after order to implement the Brown decision in his native New Orleans and consequently endured years of vicious attacks; black lawyer A.P. Tureau, who strove tirelessly for the equal justice promised by the Constitution; and Leander Perez, the racist mastermind of white Louisiana's resistance. Despite the ultimate legal victory of those who sought to enforce Brown, the ``Second Battle'' of New Orleans is a tragedy. The city's whites, like those throughout the South in the 1950s and '60s, clung tenaciously and often violently to their system of racial superiority, and the city's economic and social elites only exercised the leadership necessary to bring the battle to an end when it proved bad for business. A vigorous, thorough, but ultimately saddening work. (16 pages b&w photos, not seen) -- Copyright 1996, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

From Publishers Weekly:

Baker, biographer of Oliver Wendell Holmes (The Justice from Beacon Hill) has produced a thorough but sprawling account of desegregation in New Orleans. She explains that the book began with a focus on federal district judge J. Skelly Wright, who developed into a civil rights activist; the story then broadened. Still, her best passages concern Wright, whose epiphany came in 1945 when, back in his hometown after WWII, he saw blind white and black New Orleanians led to separate parties at the Lighthouse for the Blind. Baker also unearths the story of A.P. Tureaud, a black Creole lawyer who quietly but insistently fought for civil rights in Louisiana, and whose son integrated Louisiana State University. The author weaves in a large cast of characters, including New Orleans civic leaders and Louisiana political bosses, as well as the story surrounding Brown v. Board of Education. Though Baker writes well, even elegantly, the book seems overstuffed. Nevertheless, her prodigious effort has restored a complex history, and her contemporary update shows New Orleans to be a city where incremental racial progress has brought neither significant school desegregation nor racial harmony. Photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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