Today in New Orleans History

June 19

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Algiers Seven Shootings Take-over

June 19, 1981


Photo from the Times-Picayune Archives

Beginning on June 19, 1981, six demonstrators occupied Mayor Ernest Morial's office for three days. From left are: Kalamu Ya Salaam, Macio Duncan, Cynthia Riley, Daniel Johnikin and Martin Lefstein. The sixth protester is out of view inside the doorway. The signs around their necks bear the names of the people killed in what became known as  "The Algiers 7 shootings".  Here is civil rights attorney Mary Howells account of the events:

When a white police officer, Gregory Neupert, was found dead from a gunshot near the Fischer housing project in Algiers on the Westbank of New Orleans, conflict in the community was at the boiling point. And boil it did. "Within days people were calling in about people being harassed by the police, people being thrown up against the wall, young men being marched through the project with their hands up like prisoners of war in massive roundups," Howell says.

The Algiers incident culminated a week after Neupert’s death. Police had tortured two young black men, Johnny Brownlee and Robert Davis, at a swamp in a mock execution to force them to sign affidavits accusing two other black men, James Billy and Reginald Miles, of killing Neupert. On the basis of these affidavits, police stormed the homes of Billy and Miles, killing both men and Sherry Singleton, Miles’ girlfriend. Singleton, who apparently tried to hide at the time of the raids, was found nude in a bathtub.

"We got the call [from Singleton’s family] around noon that their sister had been killed," Howell recalls. "We were there by 3 o’clock that afternoon. We walked in. There had been no effort to secure the crime scene. The place was wide open. We were digging bullets out of the walls. There was bloody clothing all over the place. There was a whole series of things that we were totally unprepared for how to handle."

Howell served as attorney for Brownlee and Davis and for Herbert Singleton, Sherry’s brother, who also had been beaten by police in an effort to get information. She also represented the interests of Cornell, Sherry Singleton’s 4-year-old son, who witnessed the killings. In all, there were 16 plaintiffs in the Algiers case. "Those people were traumatized for life," says Howell.
After six years of legal work, a significant settlement from the City of New Orleans was awarded in these cases, and three officers went to prison for abusing Algiers residents during their probe. But no officers were indicted in the deaths of Billy, Miles and Singleton. (from the article "The Advocate," in the Summer 2001 issue of Tulanian)

The resolution of the case led to a $3.5 million settlement against the city. Furthermore, the police department was restructured, a 911 emergency number phone system was installed, and the Office of Municipal Investigation (OMI) was created in 1982 to investigate citizen complaints of misconduct by police and other city employees.

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Fred J. Luter Jr., born on November 11, 1956 in New Orleans, was elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention on June 19. 2012 He is Convention's first African-American president. (WIKI)

On June 19, 2006, Governor Blanco announced that she would send the National Guard to patrol the streets of New Orleans after five teenagers were killed, in an effort to combat a greatly increased rate of violent crime.

St. Alphonsus Church at 2029 Constance Street, was completed in 1857, serving as a Roman Catholic church for the Irish Catholic community of the Lower Garden District, (Other churches nearby served the Francophone and Germanic Catholic communities, including St. Mary's Assumption Church, the Roman Catholic Church built across the street for the German Catholic community). After church parishes were merged, the building was made a community center. It was declared a National Historic Landmark on June 19, 1996.  (WIKI)

On June 19, 1987, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that a Louisiana law requiring that creation science be taught in public schools whenever evolution is taught is unconstitutional. The case is known as Edwards v. Aguillard (officially EDWIN W. EDWARDS, in his official capacity as Governor of Louisiana, et al., Appellants, v. DON AGUILLARD, et al., Appellees.). This decision overturned the law Governor David C. Treen had signed  into law in 1981.

The 1992 United States Olympic track and field trials were held at City Park's Tad Gormley Stadium from June 19 - June 28. It was organised by USA Track and Field and served as the national championships in track and field for the United States. The results of the event determined qualification for the United States at the 1992 Summer Olympics held in Barcelona, Spain. (WIKI)

Juneteenth, also known as Juneteenth Independence Day, Freedom Day, or Emancipation Day, is a holiday in the United States that commemorates the announcement of the abolition of slavery in the U.S. state of Texas in 1865. The event was made a Texas state holiday beginning in 1980. in 1994 a group of community leaders gathered at Christian Unity Baptist Church in New Orleans, Louisiana to work for greater national celebration of Juneteenth. (WIKI)

On June 19, 1973, the Bank of Louisiana building at 334 Royal Street was placed on the National Register of Historic Buildings.

Eugene Joseph Bremer, born in New Orleans on July 18, 1916 was an American pitcher in Negro league baseball who played between 1937 and 1948.  He died in Cleveland, Ohio on June 19, 1971 at the age of 54.

The Liberty ship Cyrus Adler was launched by Delta Shipbuilding Company on June 19, 1944.

Shirley Goodman (born Shirley Mae Goodman on June 19, 1936 in New Orleans,  was an American singer known best for "Shirley and Lee", a 1950s duo. Later in her career, she had a resurgence with the disco hit, "Shame, Shame, Shame" in the 1970s. Ms Goodman died on July 5, 2005 in Los Angeles. (WIKI)

Greater New Orleans Homestead (now the Bank of New Orleans (BNO) was chartered by New Orleans attorneys Jacob D. Dresner and Henry Mooney on June 19, 1910.

Sarah Rosetta Wakeman is one of several women who disguised themselves as men in order to fight for the Union in the U.S. Civil War. She died while enlisted on June 19, 1864 at the age of 21 at the Marine USA General Hospital in New Orleans. (WIKI)

Antoine Blanc was appointed on June 19, 1835 as the first archbishop of New Orleans. Upon the elevation of the diocese, its territory outside the state of Louisiana became the Vicariate Apostolic of Indian Territory East of the Rocky Mountains. (WIKI)

On June 19, 1819, Mr. Allard sent a letter and other documents to the Cablildo concerning his road undertaking on the left bank of the bayou (Bayou St. John.  Allard's land would later become City Park).

On June 19, 1801, A controversy was in progress between the Cabaildo and Intendant’s Office concerning the rights of the city to certain portions of ground in the city; and a reference is made to the fact that the King had permitted the construction of a granary for the storage of rice on a lot which became vacant after the last fire, located between the Fort of St. Louis and the New Street. (NOPL)

On June 19, 1799, the Cabildo received a letter from Governor Manuel Gayoso de Lemos, announcing that he has been appointed General Captain by His Catholic Majesty.

Jean Saint Malo (in French), also known as Juan San Malo (in Spanish), was the leader of a group of runaway slaves in colonial Louisiana, then under rule by Spain. Saint Malo and his band encampted to a marshy area of Lake Borgne, with weapons obtained from freed persons of color and plantation slaves. The runaways lived in the swamps east of New Orleans and made their headquarters at Galliard from 1780-1784.The Spanish had mostly suppressed the slave revolts by 1783, and more than a hundred of the runaways were captured. Saint Malo was condemned to death by hanging, on charges of murder. The execution was carried out on June 19, 1784 by the alcalde Mario de Reggio on June 19, 1784, in front of St. Louis Cathedral (the present Jackson Square, New Orleans).The town of Saint Malo, Louisiana, was named after him. (WIKI)

Don Andrés Almonaster y Rojas (sometimes also Almonester and Roxas) (born Mairena del Alcor, June 19, 1728; died New Orleans, April 25, 1798) was a Spanish civil servant of New Orleans, today chiefly remembered for his numerous charitable benefactions to the city. (WIKI)

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Abreviations used on this site: NOPL (New Orleans Public Library), LOC (Library of Congress), LDL (Lousiana Digital Library), HNOC (Historic New Orleans Collection), WIKI (Wikipedia).

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