Today, Lieutenant Governor Billy Nungesser and the Louisiana Office of Tourism unveiled the newest marker on the Louisiana Civil Rights Trail honoring the members of the 761st Tank Battalion during a ceremony at the Louisiana Maneuvers and Military Museum in Pineville.
“We are proud to tell this extraordinary story of the Louisiana Military Maneuvers during World War II and the brave men of 761st Tank Battalion who proved their worth during heavy combat from October 1944 through the end of the war in September 1945. This Louisiana Civil Rights Trail marker unveiling continues to recognize and bring to life Louisiana’s role in the modern civil rights movement,” said Lt. Governor Billy Nungesser.
From 1940-1944, Louisiana hosted a series of military maneuvers designed to train soldiers for all aspects of Army Ground Forces operations. The African American 761st Tank Battalion, an experimental unit just like the Tuskegee Airman, formed at Camp Claiborne in 1942. Approximately, 75,000 black soldiers maneuvered in central Louisiana. The 761st was attached to many commands in Europe. Eight infantry divisions utilized this armor unit for direct support. As part of General Patton’s Third Army, its fighting ability became legendary and it acquired the nickname “Patton’s Panthers.”
By showing their prowess, this and other units proved the Army did not need segregated units. On July 21, 1948, and President Harry S. Truman signed Executive Order 9981 desegregating the United States Army. The marker commemorating the courage and bravery of the men in the 761st Tank Battalion is located at the front gate of the Louisiana Maneuvers and Military Museum.
This unveiling is one of three taking place this month. The first marker was unveiled yesterday at the Tate, Etienne, Prevost Center – formerly known as McDonogh 19 Elementary School – in New Orleans. Later this month, a marker will be unveiled at the Robert “Bob” Hicks house in Bogalusa.
In 2021, the first series of Louisiana Civil Rights Trail markers were installed at Little Union Baptist Church in Shreveport, Dooky Chase’s Restaurant in New Orleans, and the Louisiana Old State Capitol and A.Z. Young Park in Baton Rouge.
The Louisiana Civil Rights Trail markers are placed in cities and towns across Louisiana depicting the significant role the state played in shaping American history during the 1950s and 60s and drawing attention to the courage and commitment of the leaders of the movement. The dynamic, life-sized Louisiana Civil Rights Trail markers provide a compelling interactive experience for visitors making them feel a part of the civil rights journey.
About the Markers
The Civil Rights Markers are life-sized metal figures that are cut from steel, weigh over 200 pounds and stand over 6 feet tall. The fabrication of the interpretative markers for the Louisiana Civil Rights Trail is being supported in part by an African American Civil Rights grant from the Historic Preservation Fund administered by the National Park Service, Department of the Interior.
The Louisiana Civil Rights Trail
The trail is a cultural tourism product that informs, inspires, and invites visitors to experience and explore Louisiana’s prominent role in the modern movement. The trail reveals inside stories and examines the civil rights era from culture and commerce to desegregation, protests, and confrontations. Two years in the making, the Louisiana Civil Rights Trail was developed with community vision and public submissions from across the state. Twenty-two meetings were held in every region of the state and university scholars and subject matter experts reviewed all submissions. To learn more about the unique and important history of the movement in the State of Louisiana or to nominate a site, a person, or an activity for inclusion, visit LouisianaCivilRightsTrail.com.