Witness To Change:
From Jim Crow to Political Empowerment
About The Author:
Sybil Haydel Morial, former First Lady of New Orleans and author of the compelling new memoir about coming of age during Jim Crow days, is the matriarch of a family synonymous with social progress in New Orleans. After receiving bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Boston University, she married Ernest N. “Dutch” Morial and together they began a remarkable life together. With Sybil at his side, “Dutch” broke down racial barriers and made history achieving many “firsts,” culminating with his election as the first black mayor of New Orleans. A mover and shaker in her own right, her landscape of achievements spans stellar contributions to political change, civic organizations, education, religious groups, government, the arts, and social and human rights institutions, serving on and in some instances leading various boards in the city, state and nation.
When the Louisiana Legislature was enacting racists laws in response to the court decisions outlawing segregation in 1962, she was the sole plaintiff in a successful challenge to the Louisiana statute denying public school teachers the right to be members of any organization advocating integration. In 1962, she founded the Louisiana League of Good Government (LLOGG), a women’s non-partisan voter and civil rights advocacy organization which engaged and educated many women in government affairs and helped elect them.
When the Louisiana World Exposition announced it was coming to New Orleans in 1984, Sybil, believing that a Black presence was imperative in a city with a majority Black population, initiated and led the creation and funding of the Afro-American Pavilion which presented the contributions of African Americans to this country.
In 1987, while Associate Dean at Xavier University, she was executive producer of the acclaimed film, A House Divided, narrated by James Earl Jones, documenting desegregation in New Orleans. Among the organizations who benefit from her time and talent are the International Women’s Forum, a global organization of preeminent women, the Louisiana Women’s Forum, the Board of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana, the Board of Liberty Bank and Trust Company, a financial institution founded in New Orleans, initially to provide access to capital for Afro-Americans which has a presence in eight cities. She is active in and serves of the Board of Directors of PICO National Network of Community Organizing, an influential organization operating in 16 states and three foreign countries. She continues to serve on the Educational Broadcasting Foundation, Inc. (WLAE-TV public television station), The Public Law Center, The Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center Foundation, the Louis Armstrong Jazz Camp, the Advocates for Science and Mathematics Education, and the Amistad Research Center.
Ms. Morial’s earliest career was teaching, first as a classroom teacher in Newton, MA, Baltimore, MD, and New Orleans and later for 28 years as an administrator at Xavier University of Louisiana where she was Associate Dean of the Drexel Center, Vice President of Public Affairs and Communications, and Vice President of External Affairs. Her five children all are successful professionals and include son, Marc Morial, who, like his father, served two terms as Mayor of New Orleans. Today, he is President and CEO of the National Urban League and is married to CBS correspondent Michelle Miller.