300 Oretha (copy)

Oretha Castle Haley co-founded CORE and staged sit-ins to protest segregation.

This week marks what would have been the 80th birthday of civil rights leader Oretha Castle Haley. Many today know the street in Central City that was named for her in 1989. Born Oretha Castle in Oakland, Tennessee on July 22, 1939, she moved to New Orleans in 1947. She graduated from Joseph S. Clark High School and became involved in the civil rights movement as a student at Southern University at New Orleans.

She participated in sit-ins at segregated cafeterias, picketed Canal Street department stores and was arrested several times for taking part in protests. She was also one of the leaders of a lawsuit that helped end racial discrimination at Charity Hospital, where she worked as a deputy administrator.

Castle also co-founded the local chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), and became its president in 1961. Her husband, Richard Haley, whom she married in 1967, was an attorney for CORE. She helped organize political campaigns, including for Dorothy Mae Taylor, the first African-American woman to be elected to the state House of Representatives.

After Haley died of cancer in 1987 at age 48, Taylor, then a city councilwoman, led the effort to rename the first eight blocks of Dryades Street in her honor.