College of Education Spotlights Civil Rights Champion A.P. Tureaud
Alexander Pierre Tureaud, a Louisiana attorney who passed away in 1972, was one of the most influential figures in Louisiana’s courts during the decades-long legal battle to end segregation, discrimination and disfranchisement. A new biography about Tureaud, A More Noble Cause, was the subject of a talk Thursday evening, March 21, at Sacred Heart University’s Schine Auditorium.
Sponsored by SHU’s Isabelle Farrington College of Education, the presentation, titled “A More Noble Cause: A.P. Tureaud and the Struggle for Civil Rights in Louisiana,” was conducted by five panelists and attended by faculty from SHU’s education and history sectors, high school and college students and the general public. The panelists included the co-authors of the book Rachel L. Emanuel of Southern University’s Law Center and Tureaud’s son and distinguished speaker, Alexander P. Tureaud, Jr.; Professor Anita August of Sacred Heart; Professor Steve Walkley of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine; and SHU’s College of Education Dean Jim Carl.
“My colleague, Lois Libby, knew my education research interest was Louisiana and introduced me to Tureaud’s son. We thought it would be terrific to host a talk,” said Carl on the evolution of the presentation. “We aimed initially for Black History Month, but it was too soon. We decided to bring in panelists like our own Anita August, who used to live in Shreveport, and whose family personally lived through the civil rights struggles of the 50s, 60s and 70s.”
The talk focused on the powerful story of Tureaud’s lifelong battle for racial justice and the very personal saga of a black professional and his family in Jim Crow-era Louisiana. During a career that spanned more than 40 years, at times Tureaud was the only regularly practicing black attorney in the state. From his base in New Orleans, the civil rights activist fought successfully to obtain equal pay for Louisiana’s black teachers; to desegregate public facilities, schools and buses and for voting rights of qualified black residents. Tureaud’s work, along with that of dozens of other African American lawyers, formed part of a larger legal battle that eventually overturned Plessy vs. Ferguson, the 1896 U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized racial segregation.
In addition to his work as an attorney, Tureaud was an organizer of civic and voting leagues, a leader in the NAACP, a national advocate of the Knights of Peter Claver (a fraternal order of black Catholics) and a respected political power broker and social force as a Democrat and member of the Autocrat Club and Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.
Emanuel said the seed of the book started as her master’s thesis in the 1980s. Her professor suggested she put it into a format that would get more attention, which led to a documentary called Journey for Justice. Emanuel and Tureaud, Jr., began working on the book 12 years ago.
The younger Tureaud described his father as a self-made man who worked in a steel mill and washed dishes to put himself through school.
“Our focus tonight was to bring things forward from the civil rights struggle to today and see how education reform policies had their origins during that era,” Carl said.