New Orleans School Desegregation: Through a Mother’s Eyes

Dorothy Prevost

In 1960, Dorothy Prevost’s 6-year-old daughter, Tessie, was one of three little girls who desegregated McDonogh 19 Elementary School in New Orleans. Prevost recalls the backlash — including harassment and threats of violence against her family — and how U.S. Marshals reassured her that Tessie was safe in their hands.

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 Tessie Prevost, Leona Tate, Gail Etienne, and New Orleans Four Legacy Project Founder Diedra Meredith.

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