Providing for Our Communities, Protecting Our Race, Proving Ourselves: African American Activism and Protest in Depression Era New Orleans

Michele Grigsby Coffey, University of South Carolina


On February 10, 1930, Charles Guerand, a white police officer, killed a fourteen-year-old African American girl named Hattie McCray in a New Orleans restaurant when she refused to consent to a sexual relationship after repeated coercion. In response, three African American organizations, the New Orleans branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Federation of Civics Leagues and the black newspaper, the Louisiana Weekly, formed a coalition to hire a special prosecutor in Guerand's trial. As they sought contributions, McCray became a symbol of black womanhood in need of protection from bestial white men, spurring donations from hundreds of individuals from various religious, socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds. The organizers emphasized McCray's respectability and attempted to appeal to black men in particular to donate as a means to prove that they would protect the virtue of all African American women.