The Thompson Sisters

On September 22, 1961, the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) outlawed racial segregation on bus transit, requiring the removal of “whites only” signs by November 1 of that same year. The ICC made this decision in response to the efforts of activism, protest, and arrests initiated by the Freedom Riders. Organized by Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), the Freedom Riders planned bus trips that facilitated an upheaval of long-standing white supremacy throughout the segregated South.

The Freedom Riders’ success would not have been possible without the contributions and dedication of Black men and women including New Orleans locals, the Thompson Sisters.

Alice (September 25, 1939 - August 24, 2015), Shirley (May 5, 1943 - October 12, 1990), and Jean (1942 - Present) Thompson, born to Cora Mae and John Henry Thompson Sr., joined CORE and the Freedom Riders in their late teens and early twenties with the support of their parents. Each of the Thompson Sisters made distinct contributions to the civil rights movement, dismantling the foundations of racism across Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi, and Alabama.

This tour comes from the wealth of stories resulting from the New Orleans City Council Street Renaming Commission's (CCSRC) nomination process. In 2019, the CCSRC began the process of replacing the street names of Confederates and white supremacists with those of New Orleans artists, activists, and innovators who made positive contributions to the city's history.

With more nominees than available streets, community partners including the Midlo Center, NOLA4Women, and the City Archives & Special Collections at the New Orleans Public Library, created educational tools to share these stories with the public.

Alice Marie Thompson

On November 1, 1961, Alice Marie Thompson joined other New Orleans Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) members to test the Interstate Commerce Commission’s new policy of bus desegregation at the New Orleans Trailways bus terminal located on Loyola…

Jean Thompson

On May 24, 1961, Jean Thompson, at age 19, participated in the Freedom Ride from Montgomery, Alabama to Jackson, Mississippi as civil rights activists tested the Interstate Commerce Commission’s desegregation of bus transit. Jean’s bus was the first…

Shirley Thompson

Shirley Thompson, the youngest of the Thompson sisters,  joined the New Orleans Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) Freedom Rides as they tested the Interstate Commerce Commission’s desegregation of bus transit. At eighteen years old, and just a few…