Into the Fire: A.Z Young marches the people of Bogalusa to Baton Rouge
During the turbulent years of Jim Crow a group of brave residents of Bogalusa made a historical march from Bogalusa to the courthouse in Franklinton to express their concern about the lack of opportunities for African Americans in Bogalusa. The march was led by A.Z. Young and others community leaders.
Since the famous march from Bogalusa to Baton Rouge and Young’s death, little has been said or written about Young. On March 23, 2018 a Louisiana State Historical Marker was dedicated in front of Young home.
Emma Dixon, president of the neighborhood homeowner’s association and head of the local AARP organized the event, said “the goal of this event is to educate our youth and give them more pride in the community.”
Dixon also said, “I want this marker to inspire young people that they could do great thing with their life. Motivate them to achieve academic and economic success and be victorious over generational poverty.”
“When you think of Bogalusa you think of A. Z. Young, the city was known across the nation for the civil rights struggle and its leadership” Dixon said.
The late civil rights leader was remembered for his courage and is an active member of the civil rights movement in Bogalusa.
On August 10, the Bogalusa Voter and Civil League (BVCL) continued their struggle when they embarked on a, 106-mile long march to the state capitol of Louisiana in Baton Rouge. Young planned to present a list of grievances to Governor John McKeithen on the steps of the capitol.
The march dramatized the violent repression of Blacks in the areas along their route. The stretch of highways that the marchers traveled was home to the most active of Ku Klux Klan chapters in the state.
Under pressure from the U.S. Civil Rights Division, Governor John McKeithen agreed to dispatch nearly 700 National Guardsman and 500 state troopers to protect the demonstrators as they walked down the center of Highway U.S. 190.
When the marchers were met in Hammond by local community leaders they slept the night on Greenville Park High School football field.
Just outside of Satsuma, a group of whites, some of them children, broke through the ranks of the troopers and attacked A.Z. Young and others. The march was postponed for one day because of the attack, which allowed Young to demand more troops to protect the weary marchers.
Before more troops arrived, 50 more Blacks from Bogalusa and the surrounding area joined the march, bringing the total number to almost 80 marchers. Angry white onlookers threw eggs and bottles at the Blacks, while others spread roofing nails and broken glass in front of the march. The soldiers found dynamite under one of the bridges the marchers were going to cross, which was later identified as only a dummy.“
When the marchers reached the outskirts of Baton Rouge, Governor McKeithen increased protection to a total of 1,500 National Guardsmen. Pouring rain kept most of the Klansman indoors. The tired and cold marchers took shelter in a wooded area.
That evening allied civil rights demonstrators held a rally at the Capital Junior High School. A youthful crowd of 400 sang freedom songs and rallied behind A.Z. Young and Lincoln Lynch as they addressed the crowd. That same night, the Klan held a rally in a nearby field, where they burned a 15-foot cross and the flag of the Vietnamese National Liberation Front (a political grouping the U.S. was fighting in South Vietnam).
When the marchers reached reach the steps of the capital, more than 600 supporters. Eight robed members of the Ku Klux Klan and 300 more spectators followed the demonstrators up the steps. More than 2,200 National Guardsmen and policemen watched as both groups held separate rallies. There were no reports of violence.
In his speech A.Z. Young voiced complaints about employment discrimination and called for the election of 10 Blacks running for local offices in Bogalusa.
The marchers‘ direct route through Klan territory forced the federal government to ensure that they were protected, a major step forward for the civil rights movement. Young died in 1993.
By Eddie Ponds and Alex Garcia
Featured photo: The 1967 march from Bogalusa to the State Capitol in Baton Rouge. Marchers enter the City of Hammond. Leading the march from left to right R. T. Young, Gal Jenkins, A.Z. Young, and Robert “Bob” Hicks.
Editor’s note part of this article includes exerpts of “From Bogalusa to Baton Rouge” by Alex Garcia