Notes from New Orleans: Proposed Civil Rights Museum Burns

Posted on: October 2nd, 2008 by Walter Gallas
Fire damage to the vacant public school in Central City.

Fire damage to the vacant public school in Central City.

In mid-September, a fire damaged a vacant public school on O.C. Haley Blvd. in Central City, one of the four urban Main Streets in New Orleans. Early declarations by Fire Department investigators paint the building as unsalvageable, but all the data isn’t in.

The building had been planned as the locale for a state-sponsored civil rights museum for years. The building dates to 1910 and has been most recently known as Mrytle Banks School, for a long-time Central City educator. With its ties to the early civil rights movement in the South, O.C. Haley, named for a local activist was the center to a thriving African-American shopping district in the days of segregation. Boycotts of the white-owned stores on the strip by its black customers lead to early reforms.

State Senator Cheryl Gray says the plans for a civil rights museum at the site will move forward with or without the school structure which has been vacant since 1994.

Fire damage to the vacant public school in Central City.

Fire damage to the vacant public school in Central City.

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