Congress of Racial Equality. Louisiana, Sixth Congressional District: Records, 1963-1965


In April 1962, the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) launched a Voter Education Project (VEP), designed to educate and register many blacks throughout the South during the following two and a half years. As CORE workers moved into the Sixth Congressional District of Louisiana that summer, they encountered massive hostility from local white citizens and from parish registrars, many of whom had either completely excluded blacks from voting since 1900, or purged thousands of black voters from the rolls in 1956-1957. Despite the fact that CORE state headquarters were moved to Plaquemine, and efforts were extended in 1962, only 307 black residents were registered in the 6th District by March 1963. Workers had no success in the rural parishes of East and West Feliciana, where the white minority retained exclusive political control.

The Voter Education Project was CORE's chief project in Louisiana during the summer of 1963, and a task force of forty whites and blacks assembled to work in the parishes of Ascension, East and West Feliciana, Iberville, Pointe Coupee, St. Helena, and Tangipahoa. Again, they met widespread hostility and intimidation in the rural parishes, while encountering rivalry and opposition from local black organizations in relatively urbanized Tangipahoa Parish. Local chapters were organized in East and West Feliciana, but were never very active. At the end of the summer, local officials in Clinton obtained a court order forbidding further CORE activity in East Feliciana Parish; CORE's program there remained inactive until the injunction was lifted in May 1964. However, a law-suit filed against the West Feliciana registrar and sheriff during the autumn of 1963 produced the first registration of a Negro voter in more than sixty years, and served to awaken local blacks as well as produce new interest in CORE's campaign. Boycotts of retail merchants also helped pressure parish registrars and officials. By the end of the year, the VEP had accomplished the registration of some blacks, but progress was slow; nor did workers succeed in developing the local leadership necessary to carry on programs.

The 1964 CORE summer project in Louisiana again saw modest advances in registration, while encountering the opposition of conservative black leaders, and hostility of whites. CORE's program of testing places of public accommodation also had mixed results. The decline of the program after 1965 was partially related to the waning influence of CORE on the national level, and the rise of Black Power. Decreased membership and activity, increased criticism of CORE leadership, and the erosion of the commitment to non-violence, all hampered CORE programs in the South.