Two LSU Civil Rights Pioneers Share Their Experiences
Ignorance and fear of the unknown are parasites within human nature that can subsist on one another, making each stronger. Over centuries together, the two have led to some of the greatest injustices that man has perpetrated on man.
LSU civil rights pioneers A. P. Tureaud Jr. and Jinx Broussard have seen them both firsthand on the grounds of a much different campus than most of us would recognize today. In honor of Black History Month, we share their stories as a way of honoring their sacrifices and those of countless others.
As the son of a well-respected civil rights attorney, A. P. Tureaud, Jr. had many options from which to choose when deciding on what college to attend. But, in 1953, one year before the landmark case Brown vs. the Board of Education, in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled so-called “separate but equal” public schools for blacks and whites unconstitutional, it was assumed his choice would be a black college like Dillard or Howard.
So, when Tureaud told his father that he wanted to attend a then-segregated LSU based on time he spent here travelling with him on business, the elder Tureaud was wary, but resolute to fulfill his son’s wish. After a lengthy court battle, the younger Tureaud was allowed entry into LSU as our first African American undergraduate. His painful, yet inspiring, story is recounted here through his own words:
Deciding To Attend LSU
"My guidance counselor thought I was being a wise guy..."
Racism In The Courtroom
"At 17, I didn’t have the patience and the forbearance that I have now to tolerate racial slurs."
Worst Experience Ever
"I was totally rejected by the adults, by the faculty, and by the students."
Symbol For Integration
"I'm ready to leave, because I can’t do it."
Coming Back To
"These experiences shape you."
Nearly a generation removed from the travails of Tureaud, Jinx Broussard entered LSU in 1967 straight out of life on a plantation in Vacherie, La., where, after the untimely death of her mother, she helped her father to farm and assisted in raising her five siblings.
By this time, President Lyndon Johnson had signed into law the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the tide of intolerance that met Tureaud when he entered LSU was beginning to turn, albeit at a snail’s pace.
In the 14 years between Tureaud leaving and Broussard entering, a handful of African American students had graduated from the university. Discrimination was still prevalent among the student body and even among some administrators and faculty, but the LSU that Broussard encountered was much different. Now a Manship School professor, the first African American graduate of the journalism school recounts her time here:
First Day At LSU
"I remember saying my rosary on the way here, asking God not to let me be the only black person in the dorm."
"I made my experience at LSU."
Life Back Home
"Quitting and going somewhere else? That was not in my frame of reference at all."
A Direct Path
"I chose the place that gave me the direct path to journalism."
"I was given every opportunity to maximize my talents and abilities."
By ignoring the history of any great institution, no matter how troubling, we do a disservice to those who helped make that institution great. LSU has come a long way since the 1950s and 60s in no small part due to the perseverance of A. P. Tureaud Jr., Jinx Broussard and others like them. As Black History Month ends, the LSU of 2011 acknowledges our past and is grateful to all who sacrificed to make our present and future inclusive and respectful of all.
Names of Note in LSU History
Leander Perez – As the former District Attorney of Plaquemines Parish, Perez was a staunch segregationist and racist, who argued against A. P. Tureaud Jr. being admitted to LSU in addition to numerous other integration cases.
Judge J. Skelly Wright – Wright was a U.S. District and Appellate court judge who was a leader in the battle for desegregation. His first desegregation order was for the LSU Law School in 1951.
The biography “A More Noble Cause-A.P. Tureaud and the Struggle for Civil Rights in Louisiana” will be released by LSU Press in April. Please check back to LSU.edu soon for more information.
Video courtesy Louisiana Public Broadcasting.