A six-foot metal protester to mark Dooky Chase’s Restaurant’s position within the Civil Rights motion | Leisure/Life

A 6-foot steel silhouette of a figure holding a protest sign will be unveiled in front of Dooky Chase’s restaurant on Orleans Avenue on Monday, symbolizing the fearless pioneers of the civil rights movement in Louisiana.

The life-size sentry post is one of the first three markers installed by the Louisiana Tourism Bureau across the state to raise awareness of black Louisians’ struggle for equality. The Louisiana Civil Rights Trail marking project will eventually include 15 locations.

Project spokeswoman Glenda McKinley noted that Dooky Chase’s was a gathering place for civil rights leaders including Oretha Castle Haley, AP Tureaud, Thurgood Marshall, Thurgood Marshall, Dr. Ralph Abernathy and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as well as a pantheon of black animators including Duke Ellington, Lena Horne, Count Basie, Sarah Vaughn, and Nat King Cole. Decisions were made under the umbrella of the restaurant that would profoundly affect the future of New Orleans.

Sybil Morial, a former dean of Xavier University, writer and wife of the late Ernest “Dutch” Morial, New Orleans’ first black mayor, was an avid observer of the Jim Crow era in New Orleans. In a video produced to promote the Louisiana Civil Rights Trail website, she pointed out that laws banning blacks and whites from assembling were among the major obstacles to civil rights advancement.

“The law banned integrated groups from meeting and eating together,” she said. But it was different up with Dooky. Legendary chef Leah Chase greeted the Citizens, Black and White.

“Leah said, ‘Come on in, let’s go to this private room where you can continue your meeting and I’ll bring you good Creole food,'” Morial recalled. “History was made in this room.”


The 11-seat guests wait in line and are greeted by Edgar Chase III before lunch on Maundy Thursday. They celebrate Leah Chase’s gumbo z’herbes and of course the fried chicken at Dooky Chase’s restaurant on Orleans Ave. in New Orleans on Thursday, April 1, 2021 (employee photo by David Grunfeld, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate)

But not everyone who passes the popular restaurant knows its history.

Likewise, the public may not be aware that the Little Union Baptist Church was the last place Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. preached in Shreveport before he was assassinated in 1968. Most people may know that blacks were once forced to ride back rows in church that eventually led to a landmark bus boycott in 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama. However, you probably don’t know that there was a bus boycott two years earlier that focused on the old Capitol building in Baton Rouge.

These two locations are also marked with silhouettes to highlight their historical significance.

The new steel guards, designed by Ernest M. English and Benjamin Clay of the GMc + Co Strategic Communications team, are designed to dramatically highlight these locations in a way that a more discreet bronze plaque couldn’t. As McKinley explained, the colorful, life-size sculptures are intended to convey the unwavering bravery of “those people right on the front lines.” The locations were selected from a pool of potential locations nominated by the public by a committee of the Office for Tourism, which included representatives from the Universities of South and Grambling.

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Louisiana draws millions of visitors for its unique cuisine, music, festivals, and Mardi Gras celebrations, McKinley said. The new markings could help the same visitors add stops on the Louisiana Civil Rights Trail to their itineraries.

Lt. Governor Billy Nungesser said the Louisiana Civil Rights Trail was inspired by the US Civil Rights Trail, which was established in 2018 and includes locations in several states across the country. Work on the project began two years ago.

Nungesser, 62, said when he was in school, civil rights history was not part of the curriculum. He hopes that attention to the movement’s landmarks will lead to educational opportunities. According to Nungesser, each of the markers will contain links to the Louisiana Civil Rights Trail website, which has backstories, interviews with historians, and other information about the fight against racism in the state.

Nungesser said he is aware that some of the locations will create “some painful stories” but he believes it is important to raise generations to fight the struggle. “There is no better time than now to honor these heroes,” he said.

The marker will be revealed after a private meeting in the restaurant around 1:30 p.m. More information is available at louisianacivilrightstrail.com.

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