Congress of Racial Equality. Monroe Chapter (La.): Records, 1961-1966


In April, 1963, John Reddix, D.D.S., president of the local NAACP chapter, and leading defender of civil rights in Monroe, Louisiana, made a request of CORE's Southern Regional Office that a CORE voter registration drive be initiated in Ouachita Parish. The NAACP seven year program in this aspect of civil rights was lagging and the local NAACP chapter was all but defunct. To promote a CORE program in the area, CORE workers, Brendon Sexton, Tom Valentine, and Mike Lesser, took over the old NAACP offices in Monroe on December 9, 1963. This fledgling CORE chapter was under the nominal direction of Ronnie Moore, Field Secretary for Louisiana and head of the Baton Rouge office of Southern Regional CORE. Advocating militant, though non-violent “direct action and other pressures,” its position diverged from both the more traditional NAACP and the diffidence of the “White power structure.”

The impetus of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 re-enforced Monroe CORE's active voter education project of canvassing, freedom registration, voters' clinics, transportation for potential registrants, and follow up activities; and resulted in the relative success of the chapter in the registration of Negro voters. Support from the Negro community was thus established, and though neither constant nor universal, was drawn upon to augment programs instituted by CORE on the local, regional, and national level. The CORE task force in Monroe found the most enthusiasm among the high school age group, and utilized this nucleus for sit-ins to test discrimination and segregation policies of libraries and public accommodations. CORE's efforts to interest the Negro farmer in his plight, and to arouse him to strive for the opportunities pursuant to election to the County Committee of the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service proved disappointing. Equally futile were efforts of CORE and a small but active “Unity Committee” of workers to point up practices of employment discrimination at the segregated paper mill and four container plants of Olin Mathieson in West Monroe.

The concerns of the Monroe chapter of CORE encompassed the gamut of social action from the affront of the city dump and garbage burning in the center of the Negro community through the inadequate housing occupied by many Negro families, food and clothing distribution, segregation and discriminatory treatment in hospitals, Freedom Schools, fund raising, a Voters' League, Head Start, and a poverty program. Results varied, and responses among the Negro population were often apathetic or guarded. And, although the Civil Rights Act of 1964 began to be implemented, and the end of segregation in public accommodation in Monroe became a reality by November 11, 1964, “testing” for discrimination and segregation practices continued.

But, following the 1965 Summer Project to promote voter registration of Negroes, and the advent of the federal registrar in Ouachita Parish, the Southern Regional Office of CORE closed and presumably the Monroe chapter was phased out with it in the fall of 1966.