Date of Award

1989

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

History

First Advisor

Mark T. Carleton

Abstract

In the two decades between 1954 and 1974, the State of Louisiana progressed from a closed, white-dominated society to an open, multi-racial society with legal safeguards in place to assure equal protection and equal opportunity for all residents regardless of race or color. Prior to 1960, the vast majority of blacks were unable to vote, serve on juries, buy homes in decent neighborhoods, use publicly-owned facilities or frequent hotels, restaurants and other public accommodations. In addition to these humiliations, they were required to utilize inadequate "separate but equal" public parks, playgrounds, swimming pools, schools, waiting areas and correctional facilities until the mid-1960's. Most of the state's segregated institutions were desegregated between 1964 and 1969. The major desegregation battle was fought in public elementary and secondary schools. As the 1960's came to a close, the foundations had been laid for the creation of unitary school systems, desegregation of correctional facilities and prohibition of racial discrimination in housing and employment. With the dawn of the 1970's, a more conservative mood swept the nation, but a more progressive decade began in Louisiana. Although the enigma of a dual system of higher education continued to escape resolution and discrimination continued in employment and housing, the political arena was brighter for blacks. They were voting in large numbers and thus were able to secure the election of local and state candidates who were less hostile to black aspirations. In 1971, a coalition of black and Cajun votes was able to elect a liberal, populist governor. Once the new administration assumed office in 1972, existing segregation statutes were repealed, and in the following year, a new constitution was written with guarantees of equality and equal protection for all citizens of the state. By 1974, de jure segregation was dead and blacks had the means to assure that its demise was permanent. Although the thornier issue of de facto segregation remained unresolved, there was hope and promise that it, too, would be eradicated one day.

Pages

429

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