African-American history alive in south Baton Rouge
It started as an idea of the McKinley High School Class of 1969 and became a "Pride of Place" tribute to their neighborhood.
In planning for their 40th reunion, the McKinley High School class of '69 decided that rather than just reconnecting with their former classmates, they would reconnect with the history of their community during the 1950s and 60s. From that idea came the exhibition Pride of Place: Stories of Old South Baton Rouge, a year-long celebration of a neighborhood and an era.
Opened in June 2009 at the Louisiana State Museum-Baton Rouge, Pride of Place is the latest effort to expand community partnerships and exhibitions across the State Museum. This exhibition also ushers in the museum's new "free admission" policy.
The culturally rich African-American neighborhood of Old South Baton Rouge was home to world-champion boxer Joe Brown, actress Lynn Whitfield, Randy Jackson of “American Idol” fame, and many others. Planned as a key stop on Louisiana’s African American Heritage Trail, the exhibition explores milestone events in Louisiana and U.S. history such as the 1953 Baton Rouge bus boycott. Additional programming includes performing arts, visual arts, lectures, storytelling, and neighborhood tours.
Brenda Williams, who grew up in the Old South Baton Rouge neighborhood and is a member of the McKinley High School Class of 1969, says members of her class have played an integral role in the exhibit, lending photos, documents and other items to bring the history to life. “What happened during the Civil Rights era in Old South Baton Rouge changed the neighborhood — and the nation — in many ways," she said. "So while this exhibition is about our history, it's also about our present here in Baton Rouge."
The Louisiana State Museum - Baton Rouge is located at 660 North Fourth Street in downtown Baton Rouge. Hours are Tues.-Sat., 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sun., noon-5 p.m. Admission is free.