Blakeview: New Orleans Jazz Orchestra will pay tribute to Oretha Castle Haley | Blake Pontchartrain | Weekly Gambit

The New Orleans Jazz Orchestra on Saturday, August 13, will be present a special concert honoring the legacy of civil rights activist Oretha Castle Haley. It takes place at the New Orleans Jazz Market, located on the Central City Boulevard that bears its name.

Born Oretha Castle in Oakland, Tennessee, in 1939, she moved to New Orleans in 1947. She first became a civil rights activist as a student at Southern University in New Orleans.

She participated in a boycott and protests against the racially discriminatory employment practices of Dryades Street merchants. She also took part in sit-ins in segregated cafeterias, picketed Canal Street department stores, and was repeatedly arrested during protests. She was one of the leaders in a trial that helped end racial discrimination at Charity Hospital, where she later worked.

In 1960, Castle co-founded the local chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and served as its president from 1961 to 1964. Her husband, Richard Haley, was a lawyer for the group.

She also helped organize political campaigns, including for Dorothy Mae Taylor, the first black woman elected to the state House of Representatives.

After Oretha Castle Haley died of cancer in 1987 at the age of 48, Taylor, then a member of the city council, led the effort to rename Dryads Street between Philip and Calliope streets (near the area where one of the first offices of the activist was located) Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard.

For more information on the August 13 concert honoring Haley, visit thenojo.com.


This month marks the 60th anniversary of two pivotal events at the start of the New Orleans civil rights movement. In September 1960, members of the New…


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Henry R. Wright