Celebrating city’s legacy of courage, leadership

Published 4:30 am Saturday, August 19, 2017

By Emma Dixon

As the outbreak of inequality and inequities continue to rock the core of our communities nationally, and startle us to knee jerk responses of shock and dismay, this Sunday, Aug. 20, we will commemorate the historic 1967 Civil Rights March from Bogalusa to Baton, led by Bogalusa civil rights icon and leader A. Z. Young.
After a tumultuous and violent trip with clashes from the Ku Klux Klan, the march culminated in Baton Rouge on Aug. 20, 1967.

In Bogalusa, we are proud to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the historic March and the courageous and heroic acts of the leaders and participants of this great event.

As a newly minted member of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, my work includes preserving and protecting national treasures across the country. These treasures are buildings, landscapes, and communities that help to tell the American story.

I am pleased to announce we have received the preliminary approval for a historic marker for the A. Z. Young civil rights home from the State of Louisiana Department  of Culture, Recreation & Tourism — Office of Tourism. Final approval is expected later this month.

In July of last year, our subdivision homeowners association hosted an event, “Illuminating Quantum Leadership,” at the A.Z. Young home with great and outstanding response from the community. We also received phone calls and emails from former Bogalusa natives and residents nationwide. These included letters of support, proclamations, and resolutions.

The historic march highlights the leadership and courage of the Bogalusa Voters and Civic League and then-president A.Z. Young, as well as the former leaders of the organization including minister Reverend B. B. Moses and his son, insurance salesman and radio broadcaster Andrew Moses and others. There are many accounts of the civil rights struggle in Bogalusa and the state of Louisiana in the book, “Race & Democracy — The Civil Rights Struggle in Louisiana 1915 – 1972,” by Adam Fairclough. Bogalusa is particularly highlighted in Chapter 12, “North to Bogalusa.”

In a letter of support from Kathi Mayor of the Washington Parish Tourism Commission she stated, “ever since the State of Louisiana instituted the African American Heritage Trail, the tourism commission has encouraged efforts like yours to include sites in Bogalusa on the trail, as Bogalusa’s rich history and deep involvement in the Civil Rights movement was worthy of inclusion, from the historical perspective.

“Likewise, the tourism commission supported efforts to have sites included on or participate in a birding trail, the West Florida Republic Trail, the Louisiana Northshore Quilt Trail and scenic byways. We understand that, from the tourism perspective, enthusiasts will follow trails of many sorts, if it suits their interests. A trail become a marketing feature. The attractions benefit by being linked together, the power of numbers.

“Five years ago, you and your fellow volunteers pursued an opportunity to enhance and increase visitation to our area, and Greater Ebenezer Church was selected for inclusion on the AAHT because of its connection to the historic Bogalusa Civil Rights Movement and A.Z. Young.

“The story of Bogalusa’s Civil Rights struggle and history still deserves to be told, before too many more sites or witnesses fade away. The local museum presented an exhibit and educational talks several years ago. The African American Museum in Hammond also tells the story and includes material on A.Z. Young. Mr. Young’s significance and stature was also noted in the form of the Department of Social Services building in Baton Rouge being named in his honor, and when that building was removed and replaced, a park was developed that still bears his name.

“It is only fitting that a memorial and historic marker be placed in his hometown. The tourism commission continues to support your efforts to make this happen, as well as developing a driving tour to include other points of interest, and provide education to local children who have no idea what our ancestors went through to secure the rights they enjoy today. It is especially timely this year, the 50th Anniversary of Freedom Summer, and the 1967 March from Bogalusa to Baton Rouge.”

I concur with so many others who state, “I choose love and not hate and I strongly believe in the ideals and tenets of equality, liberty and justice in America, and my hometown of Bogalusa.”

In October we will schedule a monumental celebration on the placing of the marker, on the occasion of Mr. A.Z. Young’s birthday on Oct. 31. I think the recognition of the 50th anniversary March in Bogalusa may help to bring healing, unity and bridge the deep divide in our community and city.

Emma Dixon is the Private George Bailey Subdivision and Young Brothers Homeowners Association President.