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.