School Desegregation: A 6-Year-Old Faces Angry Crowds

Tessie Prevost

On Nov. 14, 1960, 6-year-old Tessie Prevost was escorted by her father and U.S. Marshals to protect her from the angry crowds outside McDonogh 19 Elementary School. Two years after desegregating McDonogh, Tessie, Leona and Gail integrated a second New Orleans school — T.J. Semmes Elementary — this time facing hostile crowds on their own.

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, Gail Etienne, Dorothy Prevost, and New Orleans Four Legacy Project Founder Diedra Meredith.

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