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Roosevelt Wright, Jr.

An Encyclopedic History of the Movement

Since 1969 the Free Press has been documenting 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 represent the personalities 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 personal and often organized combat against injustices inflicted upon the race.

There were 19 businesses and nine professionals open 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.

Church Histories