On November 14, 1960, four 6-year-old black girls, escorted by Federal marshals through shouting crowds, integrated a pair of all-white schools in New Orleans. Ruby Bridges went to William Franz Elementary on Pauline St. at N. Galvez and Tessie Prevost, Gail Etienne and Leona Tate went to McDonogh 19 on St. Claude Ave.
Ruby Bridges became a household name after the fame brought, in part, by an iconic Norman Rockwell painting of her, but the story of “The McDonogh Three” seemed to disappear from our collective conscience. In fact Leona Tate spent a lifetime not making a big deal about her experience, not having it define her life. But in so many ways it define her life, just as her experience set us all on a path to a better, more equitable world.
Ms. Tate watched as the school was closed in 2004 and then as it was devastated by and abandoned after Hurricane Katrina. She was horrified when the School Board eventually tried to put it up for auction. She said the school board didn’t know what they had, so she put together the Leona Tate Foundation for Change and went to work.
At age 65, on January 31, 2020, her foundation acquired the building. On March 9 of that year, they broke ground on its renovation into the Tate Etienne Prevost (TEP) Center – an interpretive education center focused on desegregation and civil rights. The upper floors will offer – get this — affordable senior housing. The apartments are beautiful and nearly ready for occupancy. The TEP center gets closer every day. The grand opening is planned for November 14 – the 61st anniversary of the day Leona Tate and three other girls changed the trajectory of history.
“I knew it needed to be something educational, for the children.”
If you think about it, you probably know a Champion.
A Champion may even be you. Nominate yourself or someone you know—like a relative, co-worker or neighbor—as a Peoples Health Champion.