The Leona Tate Foundation for Change, Inc. (LTFC) and its partner Alembic Community Development recently announced the purchase of the historic McDonogh 19 Elementary School Building located in the Lower 9th Ward.

The building is one of two sites in the 9th Ward where school desegregation took place in New Orleans on Nov. 14, 1960, when six-year old girls, Leona Tate, Gail Etienne and Tessie Prevost climbed the 18 stairs of of the historic building to desegregate the then all-White school. On that same morning, Ruby Bridges integrated William Frantz Elementary located in the upper 9th Ward. 

The four girls became the first African Americans to integrate formerly all-White schools in the Deep South.

Last November, the Foundation celebrated the 59th anniversary of school desegration in New Orleans with a gala to raise funds to redevelop the buiding that was closed in 2004, damaged during Katrina and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2016, remaining vacant and in disrepair.

The historic building will be renovated and transformed into a museum to be named after the three Civil Rights Pioneers who integrated the school, it will be called the Tate Etienne Prevost (TEP) Interpretive Center. 

The center will host exhibits, including films, photos, oral histories and interactive media related to the history of school desegregation and the integration of other public places during the height of the 1960’s Civil Rights Movement in New Orleans.

School desegregation in New Orleans invoked a pivotal turn for the progress of the Civil Rights Movement. It is so fitting that the Tate Etienne & Prevost (TEP) Interpretive Center will come to fruition in the same year that marks the 60th Anniversary of school integration in New Orleans. In addition to the exhibits, the center has partnered with The Peoples Institute for Survival and Beyond which will provide training, classes and workshops to facilitate its signature Undoing Racism Series as part of their Communiversity.

Over the next year, the three-story newly renovated space will become home to seniors. TEP Interpretive Center will have 25 units of deeply affordable housing for seniors. 

“I’m overwhelmed with unspeakable joy because I’m excited about what this project means for the city of New Orleans and the pivotal role it will play in revitalizing the Historic Lower 9th Ward community.” says Leona Tate, Founder of LTFC.

Jonathan Leit, Director of Alembic Community Development (New Orleans) said “We are all just overjoyed for Leona and LTFC, and so proud to be her partner. Her journey really started in November 1960, along with Gail and Tessie. How absolutely remarkable it is that 59 years later, her organization now OWNS McDonogh No 19. Now her organization is going to be growing its amazing work in that same school building.” 

This building project was made possible by the City of New Orleans, the State of Louisiana, Housing Authority of New

Orleans (HANO) and various generous donors.

The groundbreaking ceremony for the Leona Tate Foundation for Change McDonogh No 19 Building Renovation Project will take place on Monday March 9, 2020. 

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