What happened to the statewide Black Teacher’s organizations? Who fights the battle for the minds of our children?
Two generations ago there was a statewide organization of black teachers that promoted educational excellence for Black people as well as equal pay for black teachers.
During the 1950’s and 60’s black and white teachers did the same work, but black teachers worked for almost half the salary of white teachers with little or nothing to work with.
Black teachers organized themselves across the state and fought back against institutionalized racism that was embedded in the Louisiana school system.
At first, they called themselves the Louisiana Teachers Association. Later, they renamed it the Louisiana Education Association (LEA).
Among the most noteworthy leaders of the LEA was J. K. Haynes, a school principal and funeral director who was a prolific speaker and organizer.
Under John Kermit Haynes, Sr., Black teachers went to war to gain equity as professionals and to protect our students from educational plans to dilute black leadership by steering young blacks into vocational education rather than college.
As professionals, black teachers had many battles to fight. For example, a certified black teacher’s certificate was embossed with the words “Certified to teach Negro Children.” The LEA went to war with the state to have that designation removed from the teaching certificates of Negro teachers.
Lawsuits were filed across the state challenging the differences in pay between white teachers and black teachers. In Ouachita Parish, Mrs. Louvenia Secrease filed a suit challenging the practice of both the Monroe City Schools and the Parish schools of paying Negro teachers less. She won, and so did others.
In 1954 the Supreme Court ordered all schools desegregated. The LEA pushed to get schools desegregated across the state. In Monroe, that push was led by Dr. John Reddix and his wife Frances who worked with J. K. Haynes and others.
As schools became desegregated the teachers attacked a state plan that threatened future generations of black leaders. The state promoted the use of vocational education in schools and incentivized Negro principals to participate in vocational education programs as college alternatives.
The state concluded that without vocational education Negroes would create a log jam on campuses because they were not college material.
The LEA fought tooth and nail against every vocational plan the state tried to force on black students and they succeeded. What resulted was a hybrid. Vocational education was included as “electives” in nearly every school but was NOT an alternative to a full education.
Soon someone came up with the bright idea of merging the black teacher’s organization with the white organization. J. K. Haynes tried his best to convince Negro teachers that we would lose our strongest educational weapon if the two groups merged. They did not listen.
The result of the merger is the Louisiana Association of Education. It also meant the gradual death of the Louisiana Education Association. Haynes tried to continue the fight by forming the J. K. Haynes Foundation. He continued to fight battles, but it became increasingly clear that the LAE did focus on education issues, but not issues that impacted our children on a statewide basis.
Today, the poor both black and white, have lost their educational advocates. Teacher organizations speak about teacher issues, but very few will raise holy hell about issues such as the “Tops Career Diploma” the new version of the 60’s vocation education trick tried by the state. The teachers know that students who have this diploma have a diploma that does not meet federal standards and is educationally worthless, but no teacher organization will speak against it.
Neither will they speak about the impact of dysfunctional families in the classroom or raise holy hell about classrooms with 29-32 students being manned by substitutes.
Those who do not know the tricks that have been used against us in the past, are doomed to watch those same tricks being played on us in the present.
Jim Crow is not dead. He wears a three-piece suit today. He has changed his name and his style.
He is James E. Crow, esquire.
He is alive and well.