Life of Oretha Castle Haley

Written by: Tachmonite Butler
About: Oretha Castle Haley

In 1959, Oretha Castle (who would later be known as Oretha Castle Haley after she married fellow civil rights activist Richard Haley) became involved in activism when she joined the Consumer League’s Dryades St. Boycotts while she was a student at Southern University in New Orleans and a worker at Hotel Dieu Hospital. Castle emerged as a founding leader of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), which started in 1960 and would go on to take lead in direct action and civil disobedience work in New Orleans’ 1960’s civil rights movement.

Oretha Castle actively recruited other young people to CORE, including an initially reluctant Matt Suarez and Oretha’s sister, Doris Jean Castle, who started going to Consumers’ League meetings with Oretha after she learned while on vacation in Chicago that Oretha had been arrested on a picket line.

In addition to her protest activities, Oretha Castle participated in the Citizens’ Committee, a coalition of black organizations represented by Lolis Elie and Revius Ortique in negotiations with white merchants and political leaders to end segregation.

As an adult Oretha Castle Haley continued as an activist for social justice and civil rights, particularly in the areas of health care and education.