St. Aug and Rex made history 50 years ago

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NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) -  Fifty years ago, the St. Aug Marching 100 became the first African-American band to march in the Rex parade, thus integrating Mardi Gras in a way not seen before.

This group of 20 St. Aug men gathered at the Rex den to commemorate a special occasion.

We're used to seeing the Purple Knights march in everything from Super Bowls to the Rose Bowl parade, but back then was a different time and required necessary preparation.

"The priest, and the staff of the band Winchester, Hamp, they kinda prepared us for what was getting ready to happen, that there was going to be some resistance," St. Aug alum Dwight Fitch told News with a Twist.

After all, it was the height of the Civil Rights Movement in our country, and just as there were folks not wanting to see the parades integrated, most embraced the change.

"One of the things I remember is turning on to Canal St. from St. Charles Avenue and seeing people as far as I could see standing, cheering, jumping up and down, and now it was us playing for them," said Dwight Richards, another St. Aug alum.

Not to be forgotten is the role the Rex Organization played in making history back then.  After all, it was their parade.  Rex showed courage back then, and grace in honoring these men today.

"We started brainstorming about how we could celebrate this momentous occasion of 50 years. The first decision was made to include the 1967 band members in our parade," Christy Brown of Rex says.

The old band mates even have commemorative cups sponsored by Cleland Powell and the Libby-Dufor Foundation that they'll throw from the float they're riding.