Hammond civil rights leader Henry Jackson honors other heroes during annual event
Accepting an award for Alvin Kenneth Holden, Debra G. Holden tells of her father's legacy as the first Black to vote in Tangipahoa Parish.
Longtime Civil Rights and community leader Henry Jackson held his Black History program on February 13 at the Tangipahoa African American Heritage Center.
Jackson is believed to be the last surviving civil rights leader in Hammond. During the breakfast, he honored the men and women who have helped and are helping to make the community a better place.
Dr. John Willis Hatcher III gave a keynote speech asking the audience, “Are you living in fear or are you living in love? Our civil rights leaders didn’t live in fear.”
“The movement continues,” he said. “We are going backward. Voter rights are under attack...this critical race theory everyone is talking about is a legal way to suppress a population of people and undermine Black History.”
He said, “We must celebrate living history. We have men in this parish who have made history and they put their life on the line, and our boys and girls need to know local history.”
For nearly 100 years, Black Americans in Tangipahoa Parish had been prevented from registering to vote by threats and force.
Black men were called upon in all the wars to sacrifice and give their lives that others might be free. Yet, Black citizens were forcefully prevented from having any part in determining who would represent them at any level of government, said Debra G. Holder, daughter of activist Alvin Kenneth Holden.
She accepted a plaque from the Tangipahoa Parish Second Saturday Breakfast group on behalf of her father who died Dec. 7, 2007.
At 19, he entered the U.S. Army in 1942, serving in northern France during World War II until 1946.
Afterward, he joined the fight for civil rights and integration because of the discrimination he endured in his early life, she said.
Alvin Holden, Bernell Steven, Armad Bulter, Robert Jackson, Leonard P. Holden, Clarence Bernard, Blanche Mitchell, and John Alvin Clark were founding members of the Tangipahoa Parish Voters League, and the organization fought to obtain the right to vote and equal treatment for Blacks.
Alvin Holden led the fight in federal court and became the first Black American to register to vote in the parish.
He was an avid reader who believed that education was truly the key to success and equality, she said.
Debra Holden recounted how he helped lead the fight for the integration of public schools in the parish and became an integral part of the schools.
In 1955 when West Side High School was established for Blacks in Amite, Alvin Holden became the first president of the Parent-Teacher Association and served in that capacity for many years.
After attending the school’s adult education program, he earned a high school diploma. He continued his education after retirement by attending the Louisiana Technical College in Hammond where he completed a 60-hour course in automotive technology. This was an accomplishment he had been denied when he returned from the war because Blacks were not allowed to train as auto mechanics or attend the school.
He later became the first Black campus police officer at Southeastern Louisiana University.
“My father was ahead of his time,” she said. The Holden family has established a college scholarship fund for high school students in memory of their patriarch.
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