Sybil Haydel Morial, a civil rights activist, wife of New Orleans’ first black mayor and mother to another mayor, will discuss her new book, “Witness to Change: From Jim Crow to Political Empowerment,” at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the East Bank Regional Library, 4747 W. Napoleon Ave., Metairie. The presentation is free and open to the public.
The book traces her personal story. In 1950s New Orleans, she stepped into her white tulle gown, and her father, a respected surgeon, drove her downtown, where she made her debut into Negro society. Though mesmerized by the rituals, even at 17, she could not help but note their irony in a world where she daily faced the barriers and insults of Jim Crow.
Thirteen years later, Sybil Morial lay sleepless next to her husband, Dutch Morial. Medgar Evers, the NAACP’s national leader, had just been murdered in Mississippi. Dutch Morial, the NAACP’s New Orleans president, had just received another chilling death threat. In whispers, the couple discussed how to protect their three young children.
Sybil Morial had grown up in a middle-class, integrated neighborhood during the 1940s and ’50s. After graduating from Boston University, where she met fellow student Martin Luther King Jr., she became the first African-American to teach in the Newton, Massachusetts, public school system.
Returning to New Orleans, Morial participated in some of the first tests for integration, attempting to enroll at both Tulane and Loyola universities. In 1962, she was the lone plaintiff in a successful challenge to a statute prohibiting public-school teachers from being involved in any organization advocating civil rights. She also formed the Louisiana League of Good Government to help African-American citizens register to vote.
Her late husband was the first African-American to serve in the Louisiana Legislature, later becoming mayor in 1978. In 1994, their oldest son, Marc, began the first of two terms as mayor. He is now president of the National Urban League.
West Bank Writer’s Group: This gang of scribes meets at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Edith S. Lawson Library, 635 Fourth St., Westwego. The group performs writing exercises, discusses points of fiction and critiques member submissions. It meets the second and fourth Tuesdays of every month. Gary Bourgeois is the moderator, and the group is open to all levels.
NANOWRIM O reminder: Anyone writing a novel, short story, play, screenplay or other work of fiction can come to the East Bank Regional Library, 4747 W. Napoleon Ave., Metairie, with laptops, where they can write in the company of fellow writers. It happens from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. every Monday night in November. These five nights are part of National Novel Writing Month, a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing. On Nov. 1, participants began working toward the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 p.m. Nov. 30.
Belle Terre parking: A new paved and striped parking lot is available to patrons of the Belle Terre Library, 5550 Belle Terre Road, Marrero. TNT Construction and Reliable Investments completed the job in two months at a cost of $225,027. Funding was provided by the Jefferson Parish Library and Parks and Recreation Department. The new parking lot expands the number of parking spaces from 26 to 62, with three handicap accessible spaces.
All programs at the library are free of charge and are open to the public. For more information about programs at the 15 branches of the Jefferson Parish Library, go to http://www.jplibrary.net/ or friend the library’s Facebook page for daily programming updates.