New Orleans civil rights chief Raphael Cassimere Jr. to talk at UNO graduation ceremonies | Training

Raphael Cassimere Jr., a New Orleans civil rights activist who served as president of the New Orleans NAACP Youth Council in the 1960s, headed boycotts of major New Orleans corporations, said will be the keynote speaker at the University of New Orleans opening ceremonies in the spring of 2021.

The UN will award an honorary doctorate to Cassimere Jr., professor emeritus of history who has taught at the UN for nearly four decades.

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“Dr. Raphael Cassimere is quite simply one of the most influential people in the history of our institution,” said UN President John Nicklow. “During his remarkable life, he has positively influenced so many people in and outside of the classroom through teaching, scholarships, mentoring and activism.”

Cassimere began his tenure in the New Orleans branch of the NAACP as Chairman of the Youth Council, a position he held from 1960 to 1966. In an interview with the UN, he said that although he had become an influential figure on the ground, he had never taken a position as part of the civil rights movement to make history.

At the time, he was a student at the state school then known as LSUNO, and had followed a friend to an NAACP meeting and got “caught up” in the movement.

“I wasn’t even a member and was elected vice president,” he said.

He stayed to try to end racial discrimination, including by directing a boycott campaign of local businesses on Canal Street that refused to hire African American workers in 1962, except as janitors and cooks at the UN.

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Cassimere said the tactic designed to pressure shopkeepers to meet NAACP demands for equal access and better jobs eventually worked, even though the organization lasted two years.

He then became secretary of the NAACP New Orleans office and chairman of the organization’s regional office in the Southwest.

In 1967 Cassimere became the first African American teaching assistant at the UN and in 1969 the first African American instructor to be hired there.

He holds both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in history from the University of New Orleans and a PhD in history from Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

During his lifetime, he received the ACLU’s Benjamin E. Smith Civil Liberties Award, the NAACP’s Lifetime Presidential Award in Louisiana, the Omicron Delta Kappa-UNO Circle’s Living Legend Award, and the State Department’s Outstanding Citizen Diplomacy Award.

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The UN will hold four separate personal opening ceremonies for 2021 graduates and graduates from 2020 at the Lakefront Arena from May 19-20 to comply with COVID-19 guidelines. The ceremonies will be broadcast live to graduates and their family members who are unable to attend. Cassimere will talk about them all.

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