In 1963 Booker T. Washington students organized a march from the school to Little Union Baptist Church to protest the beating of Shreveport civil rights leader Pastor Harry Blake.
The student march was met with violence by the Shreveport Police Department.
“During my time here, no such thing would ever occur again,” Shreveport Police Chief Wayne Smith said. “The rights and liberties of our citizens of America is important to me and will be adhered to.”
In 2022 city council member Tabatha Taylor authored legislation extending a formal apology to those students and Little Union Baptist Church from the City of Shreveport. Taylor has a personal connection to the students who attended the school during that time.
“My dad was a 1965 graduate of this class, at Booker T. Washington, so he was here when these events were occurring,” Taylor said.
Students watched black-and-white footage from the march and saw firsthand what happened when police broke up the protest. BTW Principal Crystal Barnes thought it would be best for the students to complete the walk in 2023. 60 years after their predecessors were aggressively interrupted.
Former students, current students, police, and elected officials marched together from BTW to Little Union all these years later. This time no one stopped them.
H. Calvin Austin, III led the student protest down Milam Street 60 years ago.
“The beating of a preacher and the marching at Booker Washington – all took place because we were not gonna stay on the bottom, we had to get to the top but we got stopped. But here today, we didn’t get stopped.”
Students expressed pride in being about to complete something that started so long ago.