Historic Markers

April 6, 2017

The Pythian Temple Marker Dedication

Side 1

Original Facade and history of the Temple

Side 2

Portrait of S.W. Green and the History of the Knights of Pythias organization

Under the leadership of S.W. Green, a formerly enslaved man and a self-made millionaire, the Colored Knights of the Pythias of Louisiana (officially known as the The Grand Lodge Knights of Pythias of Louisiana. Jurisdiction: North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia) commissioned the Pythian’s construction in 1908. Reporting on the building’s dedication ceremony in 1909, the Times Picayune described it as “the biggest enterprise ever attempted by the colored race of the United States.”

During its heyday, the Pythian Temple—called so because it was the order’s official headquarters—hosted a number of African American businesses such as Green’s Liberty Independent Life Insurance company (Homer Plessy was an employee), a bank, the Negro Board of Trade and the Louisiana Weekly newspaper; a theater, which hosted a number local and traveling theater troupes; and a rooftop garden music venue, which featured a number of jazz legends including Louis Armstrong and Manuel Perez. 

November 14, 2010

McDonogh NO. 19  Elementary School Marker

Unveiling-crop

In September of 1952, Thurgood Marshall, Robert Carter of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and legendary New Orleans attorney A.P. Tureaud, initiated a suit calling for the end of the segregated school system in Orleans Parish.

On November 14th, 1960, four six-year-old girls bravely entered McDonogh #19 and William Frantz elementary schools despite year-long daily protests and threats from segregationists. Their story marked New Orleans’ dramatic entrance into the modern Civil Rights Movement and captivated the nation in 1960.

On November 14, 2010, Leona Tate, Gail Etienne Stripling, and Tessie Prevost unveiled a historical marker to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the desegregation of public schools in New Orleans. The event took place on Sunday, November 14 at 9A.M. – the exact time the children were escorted by federal marshals into their schools — on the neutral ground in front of McDonogh #19 (5909 St. Claude Avenue in the Lower Ninth Ward).

The event featured appearances by AP Tureaud Jr., Justice Bernette Johnson, Dr. Raphael Cassimere and Damon T. Hewitt of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and music by Mrs. Karen B. Favorite. The US Marshals who escorted the girls into the school were also in attendance.

The Plessy & Ferguson Foundation, The Crescent City Peace Alliance, The Leona Tate Foundation for Change and the Institute for Civil Rights and Social Justice sponsored the plaque and the event.

Video of the 50th Anniversary Ceremony.