Catholic Schools to End Racial Segregation
March 27, 1962
On Tuesday, March
27, 1962, Archbishop Joseph Francis Rummel met with Catholic School Superintendent Henry C. Bezou and a group of parish priests
at Notre Dame Seminary on South Carrollton Avenue. At 7 p.m. Monsignor Bezou announced that all New Orleans Diocese Catholic
schools would accept all qualified Catholic children (as determined by age and readiness testing), with no exceptions, who
might apply for the upcoming school year. No mention of race was included in Bezou's statement but, as Rummel had been
outspoken regarding ending segregation in his schools because it was morally wrong and sinful, the message was clear.
Segregation in Catholic schools would end at the start of the 1962-1963 school year. The only other major change
in Catholic school policy would be the addition of a common registration date -- April 13 and 14.
At this time, 18,851 Negro students were enrolled in 30 racially segregated Catholic schools. Twelve Black
children attended 12 different otherwise white schools. In New Orleans alone, 15 Negro schools served 7254 elementary
students and Negro high schools had an attendance of 1724. The archdiocese' population of 1, 142,907 included 527,400
Catholics. The total Catholic school enrollment was 61,025 in 116 elementary schools with 14,682 in 37 high schools.
Civil parishes comprising the Archdiocese of New Orleans included Washington, St. Tammany, St. John the Baptist, St. Charles,
Orleans, St. Bernard, Jefferson, Lafourche, Terrebonne, Plaquemines, and part of St. Mary parish.
When asked if racial segregation would be accepted by area Catholics, Bezou responded, "As one who has
lived here all my life, I expect Catholics will show the same loyalty demonstrated in many other dioceseses, including those
in Southern states". Copies of Reverend Robert Guste's "For Men of Good Faith" were distributed at the
press conference because it, according to an archdiocese spokesperson, accurately presented archdiocese views on segregation.
Eight women picketed on the South Carrollton Avenue
sidewalk in front of the chancery building, including Mrs. B. J. (Una) Gaillot, president of Save Our Nation, Inc., who had
announced their plan on Monday. She would later (on April 16) be excommunicated from the church, along with Leander Perez
and Jackson Ricau, by Rummel.
That evening, in Pointe-A-La-Hache,
state Senator E. W. Gravolet, vice-chairman of the Legislative Joint Committee on Segregation, predicted "A mass boycott
will greet the integration" of Catholic schools in New Orleans. In an Associated Press interview, Gravolet said,
"They may have larger boycotts than we had when they first desegregated Frantz and McDonogh 19 schools [by federal court
order -- see November 14, 1960
]. In fact, McDonogh's enrollment of 500 students had dropped to 15 White and 5 Negro students since being integrated.
At Willam Frantz school 100 Whites and one Negro attended -- the prior enrollment had been 450.
Bezou's expectation that area Catholics would accept desegregation of their schools proved accurate. Rather
then a decline in enrollment, new schools were added, including Archbishop Rummel, Archbishop Chapelle, Archbishop Shaw, and
Archbishop Blenk -- all high schools which first opened in September, 1962.
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Born in Milneburg in 1898, trumpeter Gustave Joseph (Sharkey) Bonano
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