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Acadiana Lifestyle

“The World Will Move”

02/03/2015 10:14AM ● By Aimee Cormier

By Michelle Matthews Calloway

In 1986, Congress passed into law the designation of the month of February as “National Black History Month.” Though Presidents Ford, Carter and Reagan had each issued Presidential Messages commemorating the event, President Ronald Reagan holds the distinction of presenting the first Presidential Proclamation, which proclaimed “the foremost purpose of Black History Month is to make all Americans aware of this struggle for freedom and equal opportunity.” President Reagan’s proclamation stated further that this special month was a time “to celebrate the many achievements of African Americans in every field from science and the arts to politics and religion.”

This year, citizens throughout Acadiana are invited to visit the Jeanerette Bicentennial Museum to view a special presentation of the traveling exhibit, “The World Will Move: Civil Rights & Public Transportation in Louisiana 1860s-1950s” now through March 6. 

The exhibit from the Louisiana State Museum uses vintage photographs, prints, newspaper articles and artifacts to tell the story of African Americans who challenged discrimination on streetcars, steamboats, trains and buses. The museum will also present photographs of local transportation.

Louisiana’s Pivotal Role In Civil Rights History

In June 1892, Homer Plessy, an African-American man, boarded the East Louisiana Railroad #8 train in New Orleans bound for Covington, and took a seat in the first-class compartment of a “whites-only” train car. His intention was to test a Louisiana law that allowed separate railroad cars for blacks and whites. Little did Plessy know that the result would be one of the most pivotal civil rights cases in American history, decided four years later by the United States Supreme Court. In the case of Plessy v. Ferguson, the U.S. Supreme Court sanctioned the doctrine of “separate but equal,” legalizing segregation in the United States for the next 58 years until the decision was overturned in Brown v. Board of Education in 1954.

Jeanerette’s Role In Transportation History

Jeanerette Museum Vice Chair Gail Garcia shares how the museum will showcase the city of Jeanerette’s role in stories concerning transportation in Louisiana during the period of Plessy v. Ferguson. “The new exhibit on transportation will help the museum to highlight Jeanerette’s own unique transportation history,” Garcia says. Continuing her explanation, she says, “The Teche Transfer Company bus line began in Jeanerette, became the Teche Lines and later in history was consolidated into the Greyhound Lines. The Jeanerette Museum is planning to present this history through photographs and materials while also hosting history talks.”

View A Centennial Slice Of History

This traveling exhibition observes the upcoming 100th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark 1896 decision, analyzing the events leading up to Plessy’s arrest on the train, Plessy’s trials and appeals and the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court decision. Easy-to-read text panels and reproductions of original photographs and documents relating to the case are used to illustrate the circumstances surrounding the Plessy v. Ferguson decision in the context of the Civil Rights Movement in the South, particularly Louisiana.

In conjunction with the exhibit, the museum is hosting a public film viewing of the Louisiana Public Broadcasting film, “Signpost to Freedom” at 6 p.m. on February 11. For more information contact the Jeanerette Museum Tuesday-Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. by calling 337-276-4408. You can also email the museum at or like the museum on Facebook.