NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) — An exhibition in the Ninth Ward showcases the story civil rights. The Trail They Blazed is a traveling exhibition from The Historic New Orleans Collection, in partnership with the Tate Etienne and Prevost Center.
The TEP Center is a cultural hub in the present, but it used to be McDonogh 19 Elementary School, a school integrated by three six-year-old African American young women in 1960.
Eric Seiferth is a curator and historian at The Historic New Orleans Collection and well-versed in the history of human rights. Seiferth was proud to work on the exhibition, saying, “It’s kind of mind boggling to stand in this space where school integration happened at the first school in the deep south in 1960 with Dr. Tate. I pinch myself to think about it because these are important for us as a people in this city and country. I’m honored that we get to help with the telling of that story.”
Leona Tate is the TEP Center Founder & Executive Director. Tate is also one of three girls who integrated McDonogh 19 Elementary School and says, “I find that this story needs to be told, our children in the classes today don’t know that experience. When they come here and see the film of what happened during that time, they come out thinking differently. They think these things happened years ago, when it’s still current. When they see me, that is another story! They think we are no longer here anymore and when they find out we are, they are excited to touch somebody and feel that experience.”
The pictures of the exhibition are breathtaking in more than one way. They exist as sobering pillars of change and snapshots of New Orleans and the country’s past. The pictures are in black and white and show a distinct experience of two types of citizenship in America.
There are surprises with the exhibit. Interactive displays have buttons that play the voices of heroes who fought for change.
“We were able to build in our oral histories into the story telling. For each story, there are answer and quotes from the activists. You can also hear their voices telling you their history,” explains Seiferth.
Tate has been collaborating with The Historic New Orleans Collection for years and says, “this was a beautiful experience for me because I got to share that experience with other leaders the community and see the people that were involved in this kind of movement.”
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