Does the education of Black children matter in Tangipahoa?
The Fight Continues: 50th Years of Moore v. TPSB
The fight to ensure equality for all children and employees in the school has extended through its fiftieth year. On May 3, 2015, the lawsuit filed by M.C Moore against the Tangipahoa Parish School System turned fifty with no resolution to the desegregation suit. The lawsuit was initially filed on behalf of his daughter, Fannie Moore, who was disenfranchised and not given an opportunity to receive an equitable and fair education, which is guaranteed under the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. The name of this case was later changed to Joyce Marie Moore v. Tangipahoa Parish School System, and was named after his younger daughter, thus becoming a Class Action Lawsuit with the plaintiffs being the class of Black parents and their children in Tangipahoa.
Fifty years later, the question remains whether or not education in the lives of Black children matter. The answer is emphatically, yes it does, because the fight continues for equity in this school system. Unfortunately, there is very little resolve towards settling this decades old desegregation lawsuit.
Moreover, many are keen to talk about or write pieces about what happens or does not happen in the public school system in Tangipahoa Parish. Consequently, I process and attempt to find balance with personal ties to the conflicts in Tangipahoa Parish race relations and injustices found in our school system that have had my attention for decades now.
As we begin to reflect on the importance of this lawsuit, we think of the lawsuit being filed in 1965. As a result of this filing, Mr. Moore was ostracized. For instance, he and his family were threatened, and his livelihood and means of providing for his family were taken away through his logging business being sabotaged, which resulted in his having to bake cakes to sell to provide for his family. Men guarded his home at night after his home was shot into early one morning. His wife heroically crawled through grass and weeds to a neighbor’s home to call the police because their telephone lines were cut on the outside of their home. Those bullet holes remain in Mr. Moore’s home to this very day. Despite having his life threatened and his livelihood compromised, Mr. Moore pressed on. Thank you, Mr. Moore, for your courage and tenacity in ensuring equality for African-
American children, and ultimately all children.
After this case was filed and opened in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, with the late Honorable Alvin Benjamin Rubin as the presiding judge, the Tangipahoa Parish School System was forced to integrate its public schools in 1969. Judge Rubin ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, stating, in pertinent part, that the Tangipahoa Parish School System was segregated and did not provide equitable educational access to African-American students. As a result, the school board was ordered to reinstate the jobs of all terminated African-American employees as one of the wrongs the Tangipahoa Parish School System committed following forced integration in 1969.
The plaintiffs’ case was led by Attorney Nelson Dan Taylor, Sr., who is now the Lead Attorney in the Moore Case. This case was Attorney Taylor’s first case as an attorney for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Legal Defense Fund.
Unfortunately, the school system did not comply with Judge Rubin’s order, and the case became dormant following Honorable Alvin Benjamin Rubin’s untimely death.
The case was later reopened in 2007 at the urging of the Greater Tangipahoa Parish Branch NAACP because of numerous complaints of the school system’s wronging of African-American children and African American employees. Evidence was provided to prove that the same segregated conditions still exist in Tangipahoa Parish School System. The test case used to reopen the M.C. Moore desegregation case was the case of Coach Alden Foster, who became the first African-American head high school football coach hired in Tangipahoa Parish. Coach John Williams was reportedly the first African-American head high school football coach in Tangipahoa Parish. However, after speaking to several others, including Coach Williams, we discovered that he was not given the position of head football coach at Hammond High School in Hammond, La., despite being appointed by Judge Rubin. Instead, Coach Carmen Moore, a white coach, was named as the head football coach at Hammond High.
The discourse of this article is too long to write all of what has happened over the past fifty years in the Moore Case, however, a Master Thesis done by Dr. Wayne Brumfield is found in the Southeastern Louisiana University public library.
As we commemorate the lawsuit’s fiftieth anniversary, let us remember to thank God for the stamina of Mr. Moore, his trials endured, and triumphs he and others made for every child attending school in the Tangipahoa Parish School System. Let us be mindful, as well as thankful for all of the accomplishments seen and unseen in this case having been reopened, because without such, sitting conservative judges would have dismissed this case due to its inactivity.
While there are some 36 unopened desegregation cases, let us be mindful that the M.C. Moore lawsuit has set a precedent for subsequent desegregation cases. As President of the GTPB NAACP, and as I walk in the shoes of the late Mr. M.C. Moore, I feel his pain many times, and my heart breaks as I continue to witness the disenfranchisement of African-American children in the Tangipahoa Parish School System. Despite the many wrongs of this school system, I am reminded by Ecclesiastes 9:11 that “the race is not given to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor the bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill, but time and chance happeneth to them all.” With these words in mind, the fight for equality will not end, and it cannot until “justice rolls down like a mighty stream” for every student and employee in this school system. There can be no other way, and no person will be left behind.
NAACP Tangipahoa Branch President