Civil rights memorial on south claiborne

The memorial commemorating slain civil rights activists was installed on South Claiborne Avenue in 2012.

Hey Blake,

What is the dome-like structure at Claiborne and Jackson avenues? It was erected during the tree planting and neutral ground renovation a few years back, and I’m curious about it.

Brian

Dear Brian,

In 2012, Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration announced a $2 million plan to upgrade a mile-long stretch of South Claiborne Avenue from Napoleon to Jackson avenues with palm tree-lined walkways, improved sidewalks and better lighting.

Also part of that effort was construction of a memorial honoring nine slain civil rights activists. The memorial includes a pavilion structure and text inscribed in the pavement detailing the histories of the nine people. A circle on the pavement in the middle of the pavilion bears the words “Equality, Dignity, Civil Rights, Freedom.” It also points the way to the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial a few blocks away.

In addition to well-known figures Malcolm X and Medgar Evers, the men and women depicted at the memorial are figures from civil rights history in Mississippi and Alabama. They include Rev. George Lee, a Mississippi NAACP leader who was active in voter registration efforts and was fatally shot in 1955. Another plaque honors Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner and James Chaney.

Goodman and Schwerner were New Yorkers who traveled to Mississippi in 1964 to take part in the Freedom Summer voter registration campaign organized by the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). In Meridian, Mississippi, they met and worked with Chaney, a local activist. In June 1964, the three disappeared. It later was discovered that they were shot and killed by members of the Ku Klux Klan. Their bodies were found inside an earthen dam.

Three civil rights figures from Alabama also are honored at the memorial: Jimmie Lee Jackson, the Rev. James L. Reeb and Viola Gregg Liuzzo. Jackson, a church deacon from Marion, Alabama, was participating in a peaceful voting rights protest in February 1965 when he was beaten and fatally shot by Alabama state troopers. His death helped inspire the Selma-to-Montgomery march in Alabama the following month.

Reeb, a Unitarian Universalist minister from Kansas, was fatally beaten by a mob while taking part in a march to protest Jackson’s death. Liuzzo was a Unitarian Universalist from Detroit who was taking part in the marches that continued after Reeb’s death in March 1965, when he was fatally shot by four Ku Klux Klan members.