THE ICON: Oretha Castle Haley
THE LEGACY: When Oretha Castle Haley sat down at the lunch counter at McCrory’s five-and-dime on Canal Street, she knew good and well she wasn’t going to be served. Not lunch, anyway. This was 1960 New Orleans, after all, and Jim Crow was still the law of the land in the South — which is precisely why Oretha Castle and three other student protesters sat down at the all-white McCrory’s lunch counter. It’s also why they were promptly arrested. It would be just the start for Haley, however. That sit-in — which spawned a noteworthy Supreme Court ruling — launched a career of activism that would, for the rest of Haley’s life, cast her as an unrelenting voice in the fight for civil rights in New Orleans.
THE ARTIST: Jessica Strahan, WhereYart.net
THE INSPIRATION: “There has been progress on one level: We have successfully addressed overt racial discrimination. But mostly, we have an illusion of progress. Racism, which is quite different, is embedded in every institution. Reforms must begin with education. Otherwise, we are an obsolete people. The cotton has all been picked.” — Oretha Castle Haley, in a 1980 interview with The Times-Picayune