Dr. Leonard Burns and the United Clubs

Written by: Christopher Burton
About: Leonard Burns

In 1953, the United Clubs, comprised of the local musicians' union and four social aid and pleasure clubs, formed to desegregate Municipal Auditorium. Leonard Burns of Urban League and NAACP was instrumental in forming this coalition. The United Clubs first event at Municipal Auditorium was a fund-raiser ball for the United Negro College Fund. The 1954 ball raised $3,200 for United Negro College Fund. City police disturbed the ball, objecting to mixed-race dancing.

In 1957 and 1961, the United Clubs organized the Carnival Day Blackouts, receiving support from 75% of the organizations invited to participate and raising an estimated $60,000 for national civil rights efforts in 1957. The 1961 "blackout" was in direct response to actions and statements by Louisiana elected officials who opposed integration, including United States Senator Russell Long, who urged whites to pull their children out of the New Orleans Public Schools. At the 1961 event (in response to intimidation and legal maneuverings by Gov. Davis and the Louisiana Legislature), Leonard Burns declared: "We intend to prove to the boys in Baton Rouge that we all stand together and can put as much pressure on them as they can on us."