BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – Governor John Bel Edwards signed a formal letter of apology to the families of two Southern University students who lost their lives in an unjust incident that occurred exactly 50 years ago.
According to a Wednesday, November 16 news release from the Governor’s office, the year was 1972 and it was a Thursday morning on November 16.
After weeks of demonstrations to protest the disparity of educational opportunities in the state, students at Southern University and A&M College gathered peacefully in Baton Rouge for yet another protest.
Leonard Brown, 20, and Denver Smith, also 20, were among the participants.
Sadly, after the crowd was inundated with tear gas, a law enforcement officer who was never identified or prosecuted fired shots into the scrambling mass of students.
Brown and Smith were killed in the incident.
Even after their deaths, justice was not served.
The Governor’s Office explains, ” In the aftermath, the Louisiana State Board of Education unjustly and unduly punished nine student leaders involved in that protest.”
In hopes of addressing the miscarriage of justice, Governor Edwards on Wednesday stated, “Fifty years after the senseless tragedy of November 16, 1972, when officers wielding the power and authority of the state of Louisiana unjustly killed Leonard Brown and Denver Smith, it is time to try to make amends.”
His statement continued, “In those dark times, Louisiana failed to uphold its highest ideals. And in the aftermath of that senseless tragedy, the harm to our State and to the Southern University community was exacerbated by the punishment of those students who endeavored to stand up against the unjust treatment of the Black citizens of our State. It is only right and just for the state of Louisiana, to make amends to those who were victims of injustices perpetrated by the State.”
The Governor’s official letter to the families of the deceased victims can be viewed below.