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The History & Future of the McDonogh #19 School Building


The Leona Tate Foundation for Change Inc. (LTFC), People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond (PISAB), and Alembic Community Development (Alembic) are partnering to redevelop the historic McDonogh #19 school building, located at 5909 St Claude Avenue in New Orleans’ Lower 9th Ward, into an innovative educational facility with an overall mission to promote Civil Rights and undo structural racism.

The 1929 building, totaling 35,000 square feet on more than an acre of property, was one of the initial two schools integrated in New Orleans. On November 14, 1960, six years after separate black and white schools were ruled unconstitutional in Brown v. Board of Education, six-year old Leona Tate, Gail Etienne and Tessie Prevost were escorted by Federal Marshals through a crowd of shouting protesters to attend McDonogh 19, becoming the first African Americans to attend formerly white-only schools in Louisiana. The three young girls attended class alone – and under the protection of United States Marshals – in an otherwise empty building for a year and a half while their white peers and neighbors went to parochial and private schools elsewhere.

Despite this seminal history and being entered into the National Register of Historic Places in 2016, the building has remained vacant and blighted for 13 years following its closure in 2004 and the subsequent devastation of the Lower 9th Ward by the Katrina levee failures.


The renovated building will include:

  • The first New Orleans Civil Rights museum and educational space operated by the Leona Tate Foundation for Change Inc. that is dedicated to teaching New Orleans’ Civil Rights history.

  • PISAB’s Communiversity, a place to learn from one another and teach community the dynamics of racism and humanistic organizing through classes that range from early childhood to higher education.

  • Affordable housing for seniors.


By preserving and repurposing the 90-year historic building with this innovative educational program, the partnership will offer early childhood through graduate-level education that is grounded in racial equity principles, teaches the past and present of Civil Rights in New Orleans, and trains diverse populations in anti-racism skills. In addition, the project will create much-needed affordable housing units for low-income seniors, create job opportunities for low-moderate income residents of the Lower 9th Ward, and provide free anti-racism and organizing services to community members. The project is currently in pre-development and anticipates beginning renovation work on the building in early 2019.

Ms. Leona Tate standing in front of the abandoned historical site of McDonogh #19

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