The Rev. Dr. and Mrs. Harry Blake with Councilwoman Rose Wilson McCulloch.
During his last visit to Shreveport in June of 1962, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered a speech at Little Union Baptist Church under the pastorate of civil rights icon Rev. C.C. McLain. At the time, Little Union Baptist Church was the headquarters of the civil rights movement in Shreveport.
In September of 1963, shortly after the death of the four little girls in the Birmingham, Ala., church bombing, Dr. Rev. Harry Blake, then president of the Shreveport chapter NAACP, was at the pulpit addressing a peaceful congregation when police officers rode into the sanctuary on horses and brutally beat Blake nearly to death.
On April 20, a ceremony marked the unveiling of the Historic State Marker at Little Union to commemorate what happened so many years ago on Milam Street. The North Louisiana Civil Rights Coalition, which co-sponsored the event, was joined by area dignitaries, pastors, and onlookers to remember this area’s struggle for civil liberties.
Pastor Calvin Austin, who was a high school student at Booker T. Washington in 1963, also spoke at the event. As a young man, Austin led a protest march against the abuse of Rev. Blake, which resulted in students, faculty and administrators being tear gassed, beaten and even arrested. At the ceremony, Pastor Austin said, “We didn’t come through the trenches like some others, but we came through the misuse and the abuse of power in this city.”
Dr. Asriel McLain, the son of the Rev. C.C. McLain, wrote the words that are etched in the marker. He addressed those who were in attendance, “We can’t forget our history and have to begin to tell our children what happened and about the God that got us over."
The historical marker was unveiled by the Rev. Dr. and Mrs. Harry Blake in front of more than 100 onlookers.
“There are many silent heroes in this movement; there are heroes we haven’t talked about. There’s a lot Shreveport young people don’t know. Our work is not done. We still have a road to travel,” Blake said.
Along with the historical marker, the North Louisiana Civil Rights Coalition is putting together a video of this history, as well as in the process of developing a curriculum to teach in schools as to preserve local history.
The historical state marker can be seen in front of Little Union Baptist Church, 1846 Milam St. in Shreveport.
By Deborah Allen