On February 14, 1957, New Orleans' New Zion Baptist Church hosted a meeting of local pastors. The Reverend Martin Luther, Jr. was in attendance, and by the end of the day, the Southern Leadership Conference (SLC) was formed. A precursor to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), the spiritual leaders would elect Reverend King as president later that same year.
African American churches were at the heart of the Civil Rights Movement in New Orleans. Highly visible and outspoken, pastors led the fight for equal rights, desegregation, and justice for New Orleans' African American communities. The churches served as community hubs for protesters and allies through group meetings, fundraisers, strategy sessions, voter registration drives, economic planning, and counseling for non-violent strategies. As a result, pastors were targeted by the police, harassed, jailed, and dragged out of public buildings during protests and sit-ins. Many of the participants were targeted by police while going about their daily lives.
One of the most striking images of New Orleans Civil Rights Movement is Reverend Avery Alexander's arrest at the City Hall sit-in, as he was dragged by his heels down the stairs. The video can be viewed in the articles below.
During the Civil Rights Movement, New Zion Baptist Church was led by Reverend A. L. Davis. One of the oldest and largest African American churches in the city, New Zion played a central role in leading, inspiring, and supporting Civil Rights protesters.
Located across the street from Shakespear Park, New Zion Baptist Church was central to protests and civic engagement through the founding and participation in The Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance of New Orleans, NAACP Youth Council, Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), and the Consumers League of Greater New Orleans (CLGNO).
Below, Don Hubbard recounts his experiences as a young man in New Orleans during the Civil Rights Movement. He describes his involvement and gives several examples of how local ministers were involved. He is interviewed by Dr. Raphael Cassimere, a former UNO student and professor, also active in the Civil Rights Movement. The men discuss their memories and the consequences of their participation in the fight for Civil Rights.