Leontine Goins Luke was an early leader of the civil rights movement in New Orleans. As a community leader and longtime president of the Ninth Ward Civic and Improvement League, she worked tirelessly to educate and register African American voters. Luke was trained in nonviolent resistance at the Highlander Folk School in Monteagle, Tennessee, and—as a member of the executive board of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)—she played a key role in the integration of the Orleans Parish public school system.

She began her work to confront the unjust conditions in segregated school facilities as a leader in the parent-teacher associations of several elementary, junior high, and high schools. In conjunction with the NAACP, she identified and persuaded families to act as plaintiffs in the 1952 desegregation case Bush v. Orleans Parish School Board.

In 1954 she helped organize the citywide boycott of McDonogh Day ceremonies by African American teachers and students. An annual event during which schoolchildren would place flowers at the Lafayette Square monument honoring John McDonogh—a wealthy New Orleanian who left a large portion of his fortune to the New Orleans public school system upon his death in 1850—McDonogh Day was racially segregated, with separate ceremonies for white and black students. After subsequent boycotts in 1955 and 1956, the ceremony was integrated.  

Following the November 1960 integration of the New Orleans public schools, Luke worked as a community liaison providing support to the families of the four girls who integrated McDonogh No. 19 and William Frantz Elementary, attempting to alleviate some of the economic consequences they faced by providing them with food and clothing. An advocate for children’s rights, she served on the board of the Children’s Bureau as secretary and vice president. 

Leontine Goins Luke


courtesy of the Louisiana Weekly Photograph Collection, Amistad Research Center

Scottish Rite voter registration school


courtesy of the Amistad Research Center


Leontine Goins Luke (standing seventh from the left) participates in a voter registration event hosted by the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry at

its New Orleans temple, located at 201 Decatur Street.

Ninth Ward Civic and Improvement League Emergency Aid Committee booklet


courtesy of the Louisiana and Special Collections Department, University of New Orleans

Children’s Bureau of New Orleans Seventy-Ninth Annual Report, 1892–1970

New Orleans, 1970

The Historic New Orleans Collection, gift of Children’s Bureau, 2002-1-L.2


As a both a board member of the Children’s Bureau and an employee of the child support division of the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s office, Leontine Goins Luke was a staunch advocate of children’s rights and welfare.