Leona Tate’s Christmas Cards: A Story of Integrating NOLA

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NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA — 60 years ago, New Orleans’ schools were integrated. On Nov. 14, 1960, the families of Leona Tate, Ruby Bridges, Gail Etienne and Tessie Prevost made history by demanding the most basic of rights to fair education.

The NAACP, along with the New Orleans organization Save Our Schools, would coordinate the integration of William Frantz Elementary School and McDonogh 19. They were the first schools to be integrated in the deep south.

“Their first day of school that year was delayed because of some legal wrangling and fights over integration, just before the holiday season. The Louisiana Governor said not to go to school because it was a holiday, but of course the whole reason behind that was to keep white children from going to school with black children,” said Eric Seiferth, curator and historian for The Historic New Orleans Collection.

It garnered attention from all over the country, and just as the weather would turn cold, hundreds of Christmas cards poured in from places like California, Colorado, North Carolina, Massachusetts and Georgia to support the cause as well as the families, including a card from Eleanor Roosevelt.

“It’s in my mind every day. It feels like it was yesterday. For me to get as many cards as I got, was really exciting. It was a while before I was really able to read them and understand what I was reading but my Aunt saved them for me. I had a chance to go through them and they came from all over the world.”

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