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LSU Civil Rights Symposium Celebrates the Life of Legendary Civil Rights Leader A.P. Tureaud

At the corner of South Stadium Drive and Forestry Lane, next to the Dairy Store, sits Tureaud Hall. Named on March 23, 1990, many students, faculty and staff are unaware of the legacy of the building's namesake.

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As the nation acknowledged the sesquicentennial anniversary of the firing on Fort Sumter marking the start of the Civil War, LSU honored Tureaud Hall namesake and Civil Rights pioneer Alexander Pierre Tureaud, one of the most influential men in 20th century Louisiana.

"This is the day that the war that eventually resulted in the emancipation of American slaves commenced, and we're here talking about a period of history where the vestiges of slavery were very present in this state and throughout the South," said Robert Mann, Manship Chair and co-director of the Reilly Center for Media & Public Affairs in the LSU Manship School of Mass Communication.

LSU held a Civil Rights Symposium on Tuesday, April 12, in conjunction with LSU Press' release of "A More Noble Cause: A.P. Tureaud and the Struggle for Civil Rights in Louisiana," discussing the life and legacy of the New Orleans attorney's lifelong battle for racial justice.

"The life of Alexander Pierre Tureaud Sr. is a story of a Civil Rights lawyer who, with keen legal know-how, worked to obtain Civil Rights for African-Americans and improve race relations and the quality of life for all people in Louisiana," said Rachel Emanuel, co-author of "A More Noble Cause" and the writer and producer of documentaries including "Journey for Justice: the A. P. Tureaud Story" and "Taking A Seat for Justice: The 1960 Baton Rouge Sit-Ins."

"A More Noble Cause: A.P. Tureaud and the Struggle for Civil Rights in Louisiana" is the first comprehensive account of Tureaud's life, written by Emanuel, an LSU alumna who is the director of publications and electronic media at the Southern University Law Center, and A.P. Tureaud Jr., Tureaud's son and LSU's first African-American undergraduate student.

An engrossing story of a key legal, political and community figure, "A More Noble Cause" provides the first full-length study of Tureaud and is the culmination of more than 20 years of research. It offers insight into Tureaud's public struggles and personal triumphs, offering readers a truly candid account of a remarkable champion of racial equality.

"When we got this book last week, it was like holding my parents close," said a visibly emotional Tureaud Jr. "This has been remarkable."

For the panel discussion moderated by Mann, Emanuel and Tureaud Jr. were joined by D'Army Bailey, a retired judge, Civil Rights activist, author and actor who attended Southern University and founded the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tenn.; and LSU alum Keith Finley, the assistant director of the Center for Southeast Louisiana Studies and an instructor of history at Southeastern Louisiana University.

The discussion touched on various aspects of the Civil Rights movement and the role that Tureaud played in bringing about the end of segregation in Louisiana. While Emanuel and Tureaud Jr. provided insight into Tureaud Sr. on a professional and personal basis, Tureaud Jr. and Bailey added personal accounts from their lives during this tumultuous time, and Finley provided the historical context for the movement.

"It's important to understand why someone like A.P. Tureaud was such a challenge to Southern politicians because his position and what he stood for undermined one of the essential myths of all of segregation ideology," said Finley. "That myth was that both whites and blacks were perfectly happy with the way things were.

LSU Civil Rights Symposium
To purchase a copy of "A More Noble Cause: A.P. Tureaud and the Struggle for Civil Rights in Louisiana," co-authored by Rachel Emanuel and A.P. Tureaud Jr., visit the LSU Press' website at www.lsu.edu/lsupress/bookPages/9780807137932.html.

"That is what made Tureaud so very important," Finley continued. "He challenged the prevailing mythology that the white population had about the South, that everyone was happy here. Tureaud very much challenged that idea."

During his lengthy and influential career, there was a time when Tureaud was the only regularly practicing black attorney in Louisiana. Based in New Orleans, he fought successfully to obtain equal pay for Louisiana's black teachers; to desegregate public accommodations, schools, and buses; and to secure voting rights for qualified black residents.

"My parents were both college-educated people, having both attended Howard University at different times," said Tureaud Jr. "They had an expectation that they would go back to Louisiana and take their education and work with others to make the lives of their children and their grandchildren better. And they did that. But they did it in partnership with hundreds of people."

The struggle for Civil Rights was long and hard, taking its toll on those who were oppressed by the social and political systems in place in Louisiana and throughout the South. The fight was especially taxing on those who tried to change the system, but they knew that if they succeeded, the world would be a better place.

"I left Louisiana in 1960 because I didn't want to be restricted in anything that I wanted to do as a person of color," said Tureaud Jr. "Growing up in 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, and having to travel and not have a place to stay, having to sit in segregated train cars, having to buy gasoline at the gas station and go into the bushes to use the restroom, and go to back windows to buy food as we went from state to state, those were all demeaning experiences. We were segregated in every aspect of our lives.

"But, if you educated yourself and you partnered with other people and you used the written constitutional law of this country, you could prevail. And there was no bitterness or anger or the desire to destroy anything. The hope was that we could become a part of this wonderful society and country that we live in."

Bailey began his involvement in the fight for Civil Rights while he was a student at Southern University, across town from LSU in Baton Rouge. Bailey participated in the fight against segregation through boycotts and picketing. His activism eventually led to his expulsion from Southern, but the spark had been lit and he continued a life of public service as an activist, attorney and judge.

"It was the work of lawyers like Tureaud that provided protection and guidance to us young people right here in Baton Rouge," said Bailey. "Not just in Louisiana, but throughout the South, we were engaged in a struggle in the streets and were given protection and valuable guidance and legal representation by the A.P. Tureauds and the other black lawyers who had the courage to stand up and go out there and fight and make a difference."

At the end of the discussion, Tureaud Jr. touched on what it meant for him to be back at LSU more than 50 years after having integrated the undergraduate ranks in 1953, one of the most difficult periods in his life that culminated with the court revoking his admission only eight weeks after enrolling.

"I never thought that I would ever want to step on this campus again when I left," said Tureaud Jr. "All of the people that worked with me for years never knew that I had this history because it was just too painful and too anxiety-producing to relive again. It was just something that I wanted to get away from."

Although this was not his first trip to campus since he left, it took 35 years for Tureaud Jr. to return to the university. However, his first trip back to LSU helped open the door to his tell his story about his time at LSU and his involvement in the Civil Rights movement.

"Rachel and a group of students contacted me in 1988 when they decided that it was time for black students to have an alumni reunion on this campus, and invited me to come here and speak," said Tureaud Jr. "And I thought, 'Why would I go back? I don't need to go there and speak. What am I going to say? Thank you? Thanks for treating me the way that you did?' But I did come, and it was truly a remarkable experience. Everyone was gracious, but I didn't let LSU off the hook. Some of the leaders of the university came to hear what I had to say. It was a beginning.

"From that point on, I left here and went back to New York and began sharing my involvement in the Civil Rights movement with people who were interested in the Civil Rights movement itself. It created a different perspective for me. It opened up opportunities for me to talk with other people. People who were writing books about the Civil Rights movement called to talk about Thurgood (Marshall) because, although I was a small part of it, I had some active experience with these leaders."

With each trip Tureaud Jr. has made back to LSU, he is encouraged by the diversity the university is embracing and hopes that this generation of students is having the college experience that he wanted but was denied.

"I think that I've been welcomed back here five or six times to various events and each time I come, I look at how this university has grown physically and how it's grown in its diversity, how it's grown in its diverse faculty and how it hopefully is welcoming people who need to have this kind of experience," said Tureaud Jr.

With the March 1990 dedication, A.P. Tureaud Hall on LSU's campus became the first, and still the only, building on the university's campus named for an African-American. The A.P. Tureaud Sr. Black Alumni Chapter of the LSU Alumni Association also bears his name.

"There have been generations of students, faculty and staff who have heard his story and have been inspired," said Emanuel. "Then, there are generations of students, staff and faculty who haven't hear his story, and don't know A.P. Tureaud. They don't know why there is a building on campus named for him or why the alumni chapter bears his name. More people need to know about him and his tremendous contribution to our lives."

The Civil Rights Symposium was sponsored by the LSU Office of Academic Affairs; LSU Office of Equity, Diversity, and Community Outreach; LSU Press; A.P. Tureaud Sr. Black Alumni Chapter; and A.P. Tureaud Legacy Committee. For more information on joining or supporting the A.P. Tureaud Sr. Black Alumni Chapter, please visit www.lsublackalumni.com.