The Thompson Sisters (Alice, Jean, and Shirley)

The Thompson Sisters and Their Involvement in NAACP and CORE

Between 1959-1960, Alice, Jean, and Shirley Thompson, became members of the Youth Council of the New Orleans branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) . The Thompson Sisters, as they are famously known, soon sought more direct action and in 1960 joined the New Orleans chapter of the Congress for Racial Equality (CORE) under the leadership by Rudy Lombard and later Oretha Castle Haley. They participated in many sit ins and protests, most notably, the Freedom Rides of 1961 which tested the Interstate Commerce Law. They were instrumental in integrating several places in New Orleans including: McCrory’s, Woolworths, Loews State Theater, City Hall Cafeteria, and Audubon Park. Beaten, and sometimes mauled by crowds, these three sisters showed extreme courage as they helped desegregate the south during their high school and college careers.

Alice Marie Thompson

September 25, 1939 – August 24, 2015

Alice Thompson, great great granddaughter of King Atlas, Sr.Alice Marie Thompson

Alice was born September 25, 1939 in Lake Providence, East Carroll, Louisiana. She was the sixth of eight children born to Cora Mae (Atlas) and John Henry Thompson, Sr. and was the granddaughter of Susie Lee and Louis Balfour Atlas, Sr. and Alice Piercey and Norah Thompson.

After the passage of the Interstate Commerce Commission’s (ICC) ruling outlawing segregation on buses, terminals, restrooms, restaurants, etc. on November 1, 1961, Alice and fellow New Orleans CORE members began testing throughout Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Beaumont, TX. Their first test was in New Orleans at the Trailways bus terminal on Tulane Avenue. On November 14, 1961, the group tested in Hattiesburg, MS and Poplarville, MS following a trip to Mobile, AL. In Poplarville, Alice, Patricia Smith, and Frank Nelson were arrested and charged with breach of peace. Alice and Patricia were placed in the same cell as Mack Charles Parker. Parker had been beaten, hanged, and his body thrown in a river two years previous. On November 29, 1961, Alice, Jerome Smith, George Raymond, Doratha Smith, and Thomas Valentine were viciously beaten while testing in McComb, MS.

Alice graduated from Southern University in New Orleans with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Liberal Arts and Sciences. Alice worked for many years as a social worker and retired in 2002. She passed away on August 24, 2015 at age 75.

Civil Rights Activities

  • NAACP Youth Chapter, New Orleans
  • Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), New Orleans
  • 1961 Freedom Rides –  Hattiesburg, MS to Poplarville, MS on November 14, 1961, New Orleans to McComb, MS on November 29, 1961
  • 1962 Louisiana Freedom Summer
  • 1962 Mississippi Freedom Summer
  • 1963 March on Washington

Documents Related to the Freedom Rides

  • November 20, 1961 – Mississippi Sovereignty Commission Report on November 14, 1961 Integration of Greyhound Bus Station in Poplarville, MS
  • December 8, 1961– Mississippi Sovereignty Commission Report on November 30, 1961 Integration of Greyhound Bus Station in McComb, MS , A.L. Hopkins, Investigator

Integration Related Press

  • April 20, 1961Times Picayune (New Orleans) – Arrested for picketing on Iberville Avenue
  • August 24, 1961, Times-Picayune, (New Orleans) – Arrested for sit-in at New Orleans police headquarters
  • November 10 and 14, 1961 Clarion Ledger (Jackson, MS) (with mention of Jean Thompson) – Hattiesburg Freedom Ride
  • November 30, 1961New York Times – McComb Freedom Ride
  • November 30, 1961Jet – McComb Freedom Ride
  • November 30, 1961 – Dispatch (Lexington, NC) – McComb Freedom Ride
  • December 1, 1961Daily News (Jackson, MS) – McComb Freedom Ride
  • December 14, 1961Jet – McComb Freedom Ride
  • December 27, 1962 – Times Picayune (New Orleans) – Arrested for integrating New Orleans City Hall Cafeteria
  • March 28, 1964 – Times Picayune (New Orleans) (with mention of Shirley Thompson) – Arrested for sit-in at Loews State Theater

Jean Thompson (Jean Denton Thompson)

 

Jean Denton Thompson
Jean Denton Thompson, great great granddaughter of King Atlas, Sr.

Jean was born in Lake Providence, East Carroll, Louisiana. She was the seventh of eight children born to Cora Mae (Atlas) and John Henry Thompson, Sr. and was the granddaughter of Susie Lee and Louis Balfour Atlas, Sr. and Alice Piercey and Norah Thompson.

At age 19, Jean was one of only two women who were part of the group who went from Montgomery, AL to Jackson, MS on May 24, 1961. That bus was the first one that safely made it to it’s destination as the previous buses were burned (Anniston, AL) and riders were beaten (Montgomery, AL). She later participated in a ride on November 14, 1961 where her sister Alice was arrested in kept in the same cell as Mack Charles Parker who was lynched two years earlier. Jean also participated in Louisiana and Mississippi Freedom Summers as well as several other integration efforts across the south. She is now a retired advocate for the special needs community and speaks and appears regularly to discuss her time in the Civil Rights Movement.

Civil Rights Activities

  • NAACP Youth Chapter, New Orleans
  • Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), New Orleans
  • 1961 Freedom Rides – Montgomery, AL to Jackson MS on May 24, 1961; Hattiesburg, MS to Poplarville, MS on November 14, 1961
  • Freedom Highways Project
  • 1962 Louisiana Freedom Summer
  • 1962 Mississippi Freedom Summer

Documents Related to the Freedom Rides

  • Roster of Riders – May 24, 1961 – Includes: Bernard Lafayette, Jr., James Luther Bevel, Harold Andrews, Alexander Matthan Anderson, David Dennis, Cordy T. Vivian (Rev. C.T. Vivian), Matthew Walker, Joseph Carter, Julia Aaron, James Morris Lawson (Rev. James Lawson), and Paul David Deitrich.
  • List of Charges

Integration Related Press

  • May 24, 1961 – WSB-TV (Atlanta, GA) – Arrest in Jackson, MS for Freedom Ride
  • May 25, 1961 – Times Picayune (New Orleans) – Jackson Freedom Ride
  • May 27, 1961 – Times Picayune (New Orleans) – Jackson Freedom Ride
  • June 1, 1961 – Clarion Ledger (Jackson, MS) – Jackson Freedom Ride
  • June 2, 1961Washington Post – Jackson Freedom Ride
  • June 15, 1961Jet – Jackson Freedom Ride
  • August 1961 – Ebony – Jackson Freedom Ride
  • November 10, 1961 – Times Picayune (New Orleans) – (with mention of Alice Thompson)
  • December 28, 1961 – Daily News (Jackson, MS)

 

Shirley Thompson

May 5, 1943 – October 12, 1990

ShirleyAnnThompson
Shirley Ann Thompson, great great granddaughter of King Atlas, Sr.

Shirley was born May 5, 1943 in Lake Providence, East Carroll, Louisiana. She was the youngest child born to Cora Mae (Atlas) and John Henry Thompson, Sr. and was the granddaughter of Susie Lee and Louis Balfour Atlas, Sr. and Alice Piercey and Norah Thompson.

Shirley boarded a bus bound for Jackson, MS just days after graduating from high school in New Orleans. She was the only woman who was on her ride on June 6, 1961 and was arrested and sent to the dreaded Parchman State Penitentiary for her actions. Shirley participated in a multitude of integration activities in New Orleans and the U.S. before passing away at age 47.

Civil Rights Activities

  • NAACP Youth Chapter, New Orleans
  • Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), New Orleans
  • 1961 Freedom Rides – New Orleans to Jackson, MS on June 6, 1961
  • 1962 Louisiana Freedom Summer
  • 1962 Mississippi Freedom Summer
  • 1963 March on Washington

Documents Related to the Freedom Rides

  • Roster of Freedom Riders – June 6, 1961
    Includes: Ernest Newell Webber, James Robert Wahlstrom, James Thomas McDonough, Abraham Brassford, Johnny Frank Ashford, and Terry John Sullivan.

Integration Related Press

Sources