Black Quotidian: Everyday History in African-American Newspapers

November 19, 1960

On November 19, 1960, the Philadelphia Tribune reported that four six-year-old African-American girls, who were attempting to integrate school in New Orleans, faced intense protests from white segregationists. Leona Tate, Tessie Prevost, and Gail Etienne attended McDonogh No. 19 Elementary School, while Ruby Bridges attended William Frantz Elementary School. Bridges was later featured in Norman Rockwell’s painting “The Problem We All Live With” (1964).

The Tribune article describes the violent resistance these young girls encountered. “This was no Little Rock. In a sense it was worse,” the Tribune reported. “In Little Rock there was one mob, and when it dispersed it went home. Here the mob split into segments, and Wednesday night there were 76 arrests on charges of racial violence...After the mob was dispersed, the incidents were what police describe as ‘minor.’  But they were major enough to make an individual hesitate to leave home. A Negro man was stabbed by a gang of white teenagers as he walked to his night-shift job. A white man was shot in the hand by a gang of Negro toughs. A Negro woman riding a public bus was knocked unconscious by a chunk of ice hurled at her though a window. And so it went, all because four little Negro girls had been entered by federal court order, into the first grade of two downtown white schools.”

Two days earlier, the Chicago Defender’s headline declared “Racists Go Mad in New Orleans.”  The Defender carried the United Press International story that read, “A mob of 5,000 persons, mostly teenagers fired up by mothers and segregationist leaders, ran wild in downtown New Orleans Wednesday. Police turned fire hoses on them and charged into them with motorcycles.”

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