The Louisiana Weekly, July 1960

Front page July 23 1960

Here is the account from The Louisiana Weekly on July 23, 1960, published the week after the infamous New Orleans “riot” at the Jackie Wilson show . . .a show at which Jackie was never able to perform. I have transcribed the text from the front and back pages of the paper several paragraphs below.

Reading this edition of the newspaper, which was intended for the Black community in New Orleans half a century ago, I was once again stunned to recall the conditions in which Jackie Wilson and all Black Americans lived and worked. The stories and advertisements capture the environment. They include:

  • A front-page story about a white  employer who shot five of his Black workers who had come to discuss their distress at his striking one of them. The employer’s children watched as he shotgunned the workers, killing three at the scene and wounding the other two critically.
  • A half dozen large advertisements urging readers to vote for various men for judge or other elected offices. The men are all white.
  • A story of a meeting of Black citizens gathering to discuss community concerns that ended with forty-five of the attendees being arrested for attempted murder. (The charges were dropped when a demand was made to address the police brutality at the scene.)
  • There is a plea to boycott Budweiser beer after a local distributor barred Blacks from participation in a drawing for prizes. The prizes were hotel and restaurant services at locations that did not serve African Americans.
  • Note that the small space near the end of the article (pictured below) is filled with a reminder to register and vote.

That front-page article next to the one on the concert actually details a situation repeated across the country. Women on welfare could not receive public assistance money to feed their children if a man lived in the same household, because it was expected that he should support the children. However, if there was no man in the household and the woman gave birth to another child, she was considered morally reprehensible and therefore unworthy of the taxpayers’ help.

The article on the concert itself is amazing, particularly the arrests for “reviling the  police” and “being boisterous.” Here is my transcription of the text:

In the aftermath of the near riot at Sunday night’s jazz concert at the Municipal Auditorium, charges of disturbing the peace against “rock and roll” idol Jackie Wilson were dismissed here Monday and $10 fines were lodged against three other persons in Judge Edwin B. Babylon’s municipal court.

The New York singer had been charged in second municipal court with two counts of disturbing the peace and assault on a police officer.

The charges followed a near riot at the auditorium that was provoked by a misunderstanding which resulted in a “free for all” fight that broke out. Several bottles and one brick were tossed at the police. Seven persons were arrested in all.

The commotion started when Larry Williams to sing from a sitting position on the edge of the stage and put on his act on the auditorium floor. Ptn. [Patrolman?] John Raphael, one of 12 officers detailed to the concert, reported that another officer, Ptn. Perry White, went to Williams and told him not to come down to the floor as is was against the policy of the auditorium. A white officer allegedly pushed Williams while talking to Ptn. White.

It was at this point that Wilson jumped down off the stage and pushed the policeman. Five members of the band, playing on the stage began leaping from the stage and hurling objects at the police. Raphael was pasted across the hear with a big sound amplifier.

“Everything then broke loose” Raphael said. Several bottles of whiskey then began to fly. Patrons, which numbered at 3,000  began scrambling toward the exits. Auditorium officials then got the fire hoses ready to break up what looked was the beginning of a riot. Ten (10) patrol wagons came blasting their sirens to the scene.

The show was nearing the end and everyone was waiting for Jackie Wilson to appear at the end of the show, but this was the end of “jumping” show.

LW end of article on riotIn addition to Wilson who was booked with disturbing the peace, inciting a riot and assault on an arresting officer, others arrested were:

Calvin A. Watkins, 19, 536 Webster, for attempted murder and allegedly throwing a brick at an officer; Lionel Pichon, 21, 4508 Allen, obscene langauge [sic] and being boisterous; Thelma Roberts, 17, 2524 Desire St.; and Lloyd Burton, 19, 1124 So. Galvez, both booked relative to reviling police [,] and William Frazier and Johnny Jones, 28, no local address, both booked relative to refusing to move on. They were released on bond and three were later meted out small fines.

Wilson was parolled [sic] at 2:40 Monday by Judge Thomas Brahney “for attorney F. Klein.” Judge Edwin A. Babylon said he had no choice other than to dismiss the charge when Wilson failed to appear and since there was no place to look for him.

A flood of phone calls to the Louisiana Weekly on Monday, all voiced the opinion that it was a white police officer that provoked the misunderstanding that wound up in a near riot. These “eyewitnesses” said Larry Williams was pushed by the white officer and this led to bedlam.

In court Monday, Pichon who hollered about his civil rights was given a lecture on observing the civil rights of others.

The line “William Frazier and Johnny Jones, 28, no local address, both booked relative to refusing to move on” refers to Jackie’s valet, Bill Frazier, and JJ, Jackie’s boyhood friend who was at the time part of Jackie’s traveling entourage.

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