Southern 7 remembered through art

On March 28 1960, seven Southern University students entered the S. E. Kress Building in Downtown Baton Rouge and sat down at the “whites only” lunch counter. After refusing to move to “colored” section, police were called and arrived with the press.

The seven students were placed under arrest for disturbing the peace. After spending six hours in jail they were released.

The next day, nine other students held another sit-in at a different downtown Baton Rouge restaurant. They were also arrested.

Two days later, on March 30, the 16 students were expelled from Southern University for participating in the sit-ins. Then, their legal battles began as civil rights attorney Thurgood Marshall and Louisiana NAACP attorney A.P. Tureaud represented the group before the Louisiana Supreme Court where they lost the case. But, in December of 1961, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the verdict.

These sit-ins were critical components of the national civil rights movement.
“ I have traveled through out the country most of the people I have talked to do understand the role that Louisiana played in the civil rights movement” said Rachel Emanuel.

This year the Kress Gallery Honored the 53rd anniversary of the Kress Building Sit-in.

“The sit-in took place in the same place the gallery is now. As part of a younger generation it is our responsibility to make sure history is passed on,” said Christopher Turner, Kress gallery curator.

Emanuel screened “Taking a Seat for Justice: the 1960 Baton Rouge Sit-Ins,” a documentary on the lives of the students following their arrest. She has traveled throughout the country and even Louisiana residents are unaware of the contributions their state made to the civil rights movement.

Conversations with documentary filmmakers and journalists lead her to the discovering the value of the contributions made to the civil rights movement by these Southern students and other Baton Rouge residents.

“The documentary and it’s production represents what we are capable of doing at Southern University as leaders; and every time I watch this film I look it at with a new appreciation for the University and its students,” Southern University chancellor James Llorens.

On May 14, 2004, 13 of the Southern 16 received honorary bachelor’s degrees in the majors they were studying at the time of their expulsion, three received honorary law degrees at the commencement exercises.

Artist Taufeeq “Feeq” Muhammad unveiled an abstract Cubism painting created in homage to the seven students.

“I hope people take three things from this painting: curiosity to do the research on the civil rights movement in Louisiana , the impact Southern has had on Baton Rouge, and how art can be a catalyst for change,” said Muhammad.

ONLINE: kressgallerybr.com

By Cameron James
City News Manager

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