“They Didn’t Want Us” – The Experience of Desegregation

Gail Etienne

Gail Etienne Stripling is one of four little girls who desegregated New Orleans public schools. Etienne Stripling remembers looking out the window of the car driven by a U.S. Marshal, as they made their way to McDonogh 19 Elementary for the first day of class. She recalls seeing an angry mob of people, and fearing that they would hurt her if they could reach her. Two years later, she and others desegregated a second school, and experienced daily mistreatment by white students and teachers.

Desegregation of New Orleans schools “with all deliberate speed” was ordered in 1956 by U.S. Circuit Judge J. Skelly Wright. By 1960, integration had not yet taken place and Judge Wright issued a federal order to gradually desegregate New Orleans schools, beginning with students in first grade, and expanding one grade level each year as the students progressed.

For more on the New Orleans Four, read our feature article, and watch our interviews with Leona Tate, Tessie Prevost, Dorothy Prevost, and New Orleans Four Legacy Project Founder Diedra Meredith.

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