By: Phebe Hayes
Painting By: Paul Schexnayder
On Nov. 15-16, 2019, the Iberia African American Historical Society (IAAHS) hosted a free community-wide symposium in recognition of the 75th anniversary of the 1944 incident that resulted in the violent expulsion of all Iberia Parish’s black doctors (Eddie L. Dorsey MD, Howard C. Scoggins MD, Luins Williams MD, Ima A. Pierson DDS) and the leaders of the local NAACP chapter (Herman Faulk, J. Leo Hardy, Octave Lilly, Jr., & Franzella Volter).
For the first time, citizens of the parish gathered to hear the truth about this incident as told by premier researchers of the case, Dr. Adam Fairclough and Prof. Margaret Burnham. The public was invited to attend this important and free two-day event in New Iberia at the Sliman Theater (129 E. Main St.)
Southern University Law Center partnered with IAAHS to sponsor the Fri., Nov. 15 opening night dinner and speaker in observance of the “1619 Project” that marked the 400th anniversary of the beginning of slavery in the United States and its vestigial connections to Jim Crow-era violence, like the one that occurred in New Iberia in 1944. The opening night speaker was prominent law professor, Margaret Burnham of Northeastern University School of Law and founder of the Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project. Prof. Burnham’s work has been instrumental in casting light on unsolved cases of Jim Crow-era violence.
Thanks to a 2019 Rebirth Grant awarded by the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities (LEH), IAAHS hosted a day of activities on Sat., Nov., 16 (10 a.m.–3 p.m.) including a presentation by featured speaker and retired professor, Dr. Adam Fairclough (Raymond and Beverly Sackler Professor of American History, Leiden University).
Other Saturday activities included a panel composed of descendants and/or relatives of the doctors and NAACP leaders; the premiere of an original poem composed and read by Louisiana’s Poet Laureate (2019-2021), John Warner Smith; the unveiling of an original painting by local artist, Paul Schexnayder; and dramatization of the 1944 event in a national podcast by Stinson Liles of Southern Hollows.
The day culminated with the unveiling of an official Louisiana state historic marker honoring the doctors and NAACP leaders. The marker was placed at the site of Dr. Eddie L. Dorsey’s former home (500 French St., New Iberia). The Iberia Comprehensive Community Health Center partnered with IAAHS to provide a complimentary lunch for the Saturday symposium attendees.
IAAHS is a small nonprofit organization (501c3), that relies on donations from the public to fund the commemorative markers and related activities. Donations are always appreciated and may be mailed to:
The Iberia African American Historical Society
P.O. Box 9923
New Iberia, LA 70562
For additional information, check Iberia African American Historical Society's website, Facebook or call Phebe Hayes at (337) 519-3957.
If you enjoyed this blog, read:
- Honoring Louisiana's First Black Female Physician
- The Iberia African American Historical Society's Journal