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New Orleans Saints

Leona Tate Headshot

Leona Tate

Leona Tate is deserving of this honor and has been a life-long activist, Civil Rights pioneer, and community advocate from New Orleans. She was one of the first Black children in the United States to desegregate a public school in Louisiana. 

Her moment as a Civil Rights pioneer began on November 14, 1960 at six years old, when she was 1 of 4 girls who were escorted by U.S. Marshals to desegregate formerly all white elementary public schools in New Orleans and the Deep South, joined by two other girls as they attended McDonogh #19 Elementary School. In 2009, Tate started the fight for equality and justice again which led to the creation of the Leona Tate Foundation for Change (LTFC) and continues to engage in the community through the foundation to this present day.

Tate is the Founder/Executive Director of LTFC. Part of their mission is to provide children in New Orleans with equal access to educational services and to continue to educate the public about the lessons of civil rights and minorities' struggle for equality.  

She continues to wrap her arms around the New Orleans community by hosting business and financial literacy programming for community members along with the G.R.O.W. Adult program which provides GED preparation and tutoring, as well as summer camps to educate youth on the desegregation movement in New Orleans.

Further commitment to the community comes by way of her creation of the TEP Interpretive Center at the former McDonogh #19 school building (she purchased the building that she helped to integrate as a child.) The center was named after Tate, Gail Etienne, and Tessie Prevost.  

The TEP Interpretive Center features The Lower Ninth Ward Living Museum, The People's Institute for Survival and Beyond (which provides anti-racism training and seminars across the country), and an affordable housing Senior Living Center as well. The museum is the first space dedicated to the civil rights movement in New Orleans and the state of Louisiana. The mixed-use facility also features education and exhibition space dedicated to the history of New Orleans Public School Desegregation, civil rights, and restorative justice.