The University of New Orleans

Stop 3 of 7 in the 55 in '58: Integrating the University of New Orleans tour

Just after Robert E. Lee Boulevard, the bus will turn left into the Lakefront Campus of the University of New Orleans (the university was renamed in 1974), where the battle for acceptance began one September morning in 1958. Disembark and look back up the lengthy road that leads to the bus stop. That's how far away Joseph Narcisse's classroom seemed when he caught his first glimpse of what stood between him and his education.

Rows of white students lined either side of his path, "standing there like they were waiting for a parade," he said. "I got off the bus and started walking down the road to my first class.”

He recalled the crowd’s jeers: “What you doing, n-----?” they demand. “Go home, n-----!” “My classroom looked like it was a mile away and that road seemed like a gauntlet,” he said.

“They kept yelling: ‘Go to your own school, n-----!’ There was no security; no one in authority coming out to stop them. So I just kept moving forward. I had my rosary in my pocket. I was praying, and every now and then wishing I hadn’t embarked on this day.”

But Narcisse made it through his first Monday at college, returning Tuesday to find that “they were much better organized the next day,” he said. “I’ll never forget. There was this little short guy with reddish hair. He would whoop up the crowd like an orchestra conductor. They would chant: ‘Two, four, six, eight, we don’t want to integrate.’ Then a rock would fly by my head or a bottle would pop on the ground right in front of me.”

Oddly, the city's daily newspaper, pictured below, made no mention of these hostilities in its report on LSUNO’s opening.

Images

"happily free from...harassment"

"happily free from...harassment"

New Orleans' daily newspaper, The Times-Picayune, delivers a rather lighthearted report of LSUNO's opening. | Source: The Times-Picayune, Sept. 7, 1958. View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Becky Retz, “The University of New Orleans,” New Orleans Historical, accessed March 23, 2017, http://neworleanshistorical.org/items/show/812.
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