The Smoke Stack

Stop 5 of 7 in the 55 in '58: Integrating the University of New Orleans tour

Looking north from the library commons towards Lake Pontchartrain, you can spy the old brick smokestack near the edge of the campus. The smokestack is the only original structure remaining from the decommissioned naval air station that once stood on university grounds.

Arnolie told of her first impression of the new campus: “I can’t believe this is what they are trying to keep me out of,” she recalled thinking. “The classrooms were made out of hangers, airplane hangers, and the heat was terrible.”

Local members of the Ku Klux Klan tried to turn up that heat, even after integrated classes were underway. One morning, just days into school, students were greeted by a KKK flag flying atop the smokestack (pictured below) along with anti-integration signs around campus.

Not to be outdone by the Klan, the White Citizens Council of Greater New Orleans, according to The Times-Picayune, “asked the board of supervisors to close the school rather than conduct classes on an integrated basis.”

Even the LSU Board of Supervisors publicly declared hostilities. According to an article appearing in The Louisiana Weekly, Sept. 20, 1958, the board issued a statement reading in part: “This board wishes to point out that any Negro student whose enrollment is forced upon this university enters as an unwanted metriculant.”

“The atmosphere was not a welcoming one,” Narcisse recalled.

Images

Map