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Roosevelt Wright, Jr.
An Encyclopedic History of the Movement
Since 1969 the Free Press has documented the struggle of the Ouachita Parish African-American community to achieve the American dream. It began as a fly sheet that was distributed in the local community to give information about the various sit-ins, boycott sites, and other information about the local Civil Rights protest. That original fly sheet was printed weekly on a mimeograph machine in the office of the Antioch Baptist Church. It was called the "Rapping Black." Over years the name of that publication has changed to "Black Free Press" and to the present "Monroe Free Press."
The publisher, Roosevelt Wright, Jr., has been a militant advocate for the poor, minorities, working people and the disenfranchised since its beginnings in 1969.
The Encyclopedic History on this site represents the
and major issues that were peculiar to the African-American march toward the Promised Land in Ouachita Parish otherwise known as "The Movement."
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Black Business History
The first Blacks involved in business in Ouachita Parish came to Monroe with Don Juan Fihiol in the 1700's. The black man operated a trading operation that reportedly fared well. Since that time hundreds of African Americans have been involved in business, especially after the end of the Civil War in 1865.
After the Civil War many freed slaves in the area became craftsmen who sold their services to local plantations. The business community grew until it reached its all time high during the period between 1929-1965. A thriving business community operated between 5th Street and 14th Street that included shops, a theater, tailoring schools, a pharmacy, insurance companies and clubs.
The 1930’s and early 1940’s in North Louisiana many enterprising young blacks stepped into the business community such that they would have an adequate base from which to wage
and often organized combat against injustices inflicted upon the race.
There were 19 businesses and nine professionals in this area during the 1930’s and late 1940’s, a few of which are still operating today using their businesses and professions as a basis for their involvement in the struggle for equality. Some of those businesses were: Carroll’s Twin City Gymnasium In the early 1940’s a gymnasium was built on the property of an adjacent Monroe Colored High School by Morris Henry Carroll that was lauded as a great undertaking in that day. The gym, constructed at a cost of $5,000, was one of the finest of its time. Basketball games between Monroe Colored High and area schools were played in Carroll’s gym. It was also used for dances and other activities. With the construction of the gym Morris Carroll launched his business base and became an outspoken ambassador for the Negro community.
With the onset of desegregation in the mid 1960's the Black business community began to decline in the parish.
Black Church History
Baptist Churches are the core of the African-American religious community in Ouachita Parish. The origins of many of the churches can be traced to one single congregation: the First Colored Baptist Church of Monroe. However, nearly two dozen churches were formed independent of First Baptist. There were a few that were organized by slave masters just prior to the end of slavery. Several began at the conclusion of slavery in Ouachita Parish (1965) and have continued since. While the beginnings of organized religion in this area reflected the Baptist faith there were others. As the 21st century began, a "non-denominational" trend developed and consequentially there are many non-denominational congregations in the Monroe African-American community today.
Black Education History
Education in Ouachita Parish began officially at the end of the Civil War (1865). Many former slaves began efforts to teach themselves to read and write. Many churches sponsored "Sunday Schools" to teach reading and writing with the bible as the textbook. In 1867 nearly 800 former slaves combined their revenues to purchase a piece of land on the corner of 8th and Washington. They erected a small building there and began what was known as the "Wisner School." While many locals attended the Wisner School the Rosenwald Foundations helped establish many schools in the rural areas of the parish and there were several community based attempts to educate black youth. At the turn of the century there was push to build a Negro public school that met resistance from the local Klan. Many churches that promoted the building of the new school, paid for the tax dollars, were burned mysteriously. The new school was built; it was called 'Monroe Colored High." In 1953 it was moved to Renwick Street and renamed Caroll high School. Parish schools were maintained in both east and West Ouachita and in rural areas of the parish, but segregated, just as they were in Monroe. Civil rights suits and federal court orders forced desegregation in the two systems while local blacks continue to fight for quality education in the parish.
Many local Blacks participated in the entertainment profession. From the early Vaudeville style
shows called "Rabbit Foots" to performances on television, recording music, or concert performers. The names of Monroe natives are among the great entertainers of the nation.
Black Political History
The political history of Blacks in Ouachita spans the slavery era to the present. With the abolition of slavery and freedom of local Blacks, many turned to political involvements to secure liberties guaranteed by passage of the 13th and 14th amendments to the U.S. constitution. Blacks associated themselves with the Republican Party, the party of Lincoln, and voted in large numbers to elect Republican or Black leaders of the City of Monroe, Parish as well as the state legislature and U.S. Congress. In the decades that followed local African-Americans have fought off the Ku-Klux-Klan, Lynchings, racial segregation and social stigmas in an attempt to fully enjoy their place in American society.
There were slaves in Ouachita Parish up to the end of the Civil War. Local slave markets were opened by Walter L. Campbell. There were others in Trenton and Natchez. Slaves in the area sold for $500-$900 a piece for adult males. This price was a bargain when compared to the New Orleans quoted price for slaves. Slaves in Ouachita Parish were engaged mostly as farm hands and house servants. There were a few large slave owners, but most slave owners in Northeast Louisiana owned only a few slaves and being poor themselves often worked along side their slaves. Slavery ended in Ouachita Parish in 1865.
Black Struggle for Civil Rights
The Civil Rights movement touched Ouachita Parish just as it did all many other areas of the South. Racial segregation, lynchings and murders sparked protests, marches and court actions in Ouachita Parish. There were many memorable personalities that fought against the segregated system between 1930 and the present. They are joined by thousands of other unsung legends of the movement to gain full civil rights for African-Americans in the local community.
Black Sports History & Legends
Ouachita Parish is the birthplace of many persons who made careers in the national sports arena including the National Football League and the National Basketball Association. Some were born in Monroe and later moved to other areas of the country in their youth, others were reared in the schools of Ouachita Parish and launched their professional careers from experience and training they received in Ouachita Parish. Basketball, football, baseball and track are the fields of note, but there were others as well.
Historic Personalities in the Monroe Black Community
There are many personalities in Ouachita Parish who lifestyle, accomplishments or activities formed the basis of local legends and folklore, many of which are repeated in the local oral traditions. As the years pass, the legends become larger than life as each generation seems to embellish events to mythic proportions. At the core of the legends there is an element of truth that adds to the color and folklore of the local African-American community.
Black Writers, Poets, and Novelists from Monroe
Since slavery many local blacks have written books, plays, and collections of writings that have been published. Many of the writings were self published, others were published by major publishing houses. Combined, they reflect the literary talent of the local community.
Index to All Pages
Adams, Charles P.
Allen Chapel A.M.E. Church
Allen, Walter, Sr.
Antioch Baptist Church
Armand, Curtis J.
Augurson, Cornelius Augie
Ausberry, Benny J.
B. B. and O. ASSOCIATION
Baptist Church Splits
Black Business Overview
Black Church History
Black Civil Rights Struggle
Black Codes of Ouachita Parish
Black Domestic Life in Ouachita Parish 1900-1955
Black Education History
Black Political History
Black Sports History & Legends
Black Writers, Poets, Novelists, Musicians
Black Youth Council
Bonner, Henry Jr.
Bowie, Abraham Sr.
Brass, Bennie & Charles
Brass, Van H. Sr.
Brown, Phillip Rayfield III
Burns, Alex Rev.
Burns, Ollie Hamilton
Carroll High School history
Carroll, Morris Henry
Carver-McDonald Branch Public Library
Detiege, Irma Hall
Facen, Anthony G.
Foster, Harriett G.
Foster, Milliard J.
Gangs of the 50's and 60's in Monroe
George, Henrietta Holmes
Goins, Mary F.
Gospel Music in Ouachita Parish
Goston, Verdiacee Hampton
Harris, James L.
Hill, Rev. Warner W.
Hill, Sullivan Donaldson
Hunter, Ivory Joe
January, Ibra Bradford, Sr.
Johnson, Henrietta Windham
Jones, Charles D.
Keal, Prince Cornelius
Langhorn, Betty (Honey Babe)
Lynchings in Northeast Louisiana
Marbles, Liller Maddox
Miller, Joseph, Sr.
Monroe Black History
N.A.A.C.P. (Ouachita Parish Branch)
Pierce, Abe E. III
Reddix, John I
Robinson, Emily P.
Slavery in Ouachita Parish
Suit to further desegregate Monroe City Schools
Suit to separate Parish and city Schools, ruling confirmed on appeal. 1981
Suit to Seperate Parish and City Schools-Jimmy Andrews vs City of Monroe
Suit to stop discriminatory Ability Grouping in City Schools (1984)
Wright, Roosevelt Jr.
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