Breaking Louisiana's Racial Barriers
The City of New Orleans was very segregated until the late 1960's with evidence visible in schools, churches, public lunch counters, public buses and more. There were no Black elected officials until 1967. It was during this same year that all-black St. Augustine High School (St. Aug) won a Federal Court ruling on its discrimination case against the all-white Louisiana High School Athletic Association (LHSAA).
St. Aug's 1967 football team became the first black team to compete against whites and it proved to be a major part of the Civil Rights movement in New Orleans. Why? Because sports are so visible. White and Black communities could look on the field of play and both see and feel the competition. Reactions of the crowds could also be seen and felt. This engagement of the communities created a social impact that was bigger than the sports impact.
The St. Aug football team represented the entire Black community and carried the burden of achieving success. It also carried the burden of adversity that came from unfavorable LHSAA rulings and biased calls from game officials. From 1969-79, under the leadership of head coach Otis Washington, St. Aug battled all the adversity to become the number 1 ranked team in the state. They revolutionized the game with new offensive plays - some of which were precursors to the West Coast offensive style. Washington's innovative approach was a catalyst to winning an astonishing 87% of his games over an eleven-year career. The success of St. Aug's football team and school invigorated New Orleans' black community during this contentious period and helped transform New Orleans from the era of segregation.
In an effort to celebrate this unique part of New Orleans history, Before the West Coast: A Sports Civil Rights Story will premiere on WLAE-TV and be offered to PBS stations throughout Louisiana February 2020 - Black History Month. The story is told through the narration of acclaimed actor Wendell Pierce, archival films, photographs, and interviews with former players, coaches, journalists and community members. The film's sound track includes songs from St. Augustine's renowned Marching 100 Band of 1973.
Funding opportunities at various levels will give those wishing to partner on this broadcast a chance to acknowledge the journey to one of New Orleans· greatest strengths - its diversity. This rare partnership offer is available for consideration for a limited time.
Serving as executive producer, writer and director of the film is Oyd Craddock. Craddock was also a St. Aug student-athlete and co-captain of the school's 1975 State Football Champions - first Black team to win an LHSAA football title.
WINNER - AUDIENCE AWARD
Best Louisiana Feature Film, New Orleans Film Festival - 2016
It was the 1970’s in New Orleans, civil rights and integration were taking hold, African Americans were beginning to participate in places no one had ever gone before. St. Augustine High School’s ability to compete and excel is one of the great stories of our city’s history. Marc Murial | President + CEO, National Urban League; Former New Orleans Mayor
Before the West Coast has both an exciting subject and excellent production values. It’s an important story that I think is even relevant today. Clint Bowie | Programming Director, New Orleans Film Festival
The social impact was bigger than the sports impact. Henry Rando | Former Catholic League Coach
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