1952-1964 - Voter Registration Efforts in North Louisiana

“The Story of Courage, Lest We Forget: Dr. C.O. Simpkins” is an online book authored by his daughter, Deborah Simpkins-Savage. It relates his struggle to dismantle racial segregation and discriminatory voting practices in North Louisiana. In 1957, working with several ministers, Dr. Simpkins helped form the United Christian Movement Conference on Registration and Voting which sought to promote voter registration across Caddo Parish and to challenge biased enrollment tests.

The United Christian Movement held its first voter registration conference in August 1958 at the Galilee Baptist Church. It was around that time that the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) was formed with the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., as its president. Dr. King spoke at the UCM conference in Shreveport. After that point, Shreveport gained recognition as a site where efforts to expand civil rights were underway, with Dr. Simpkins leading that charge.

During his evenings, Dr. Simpkins worked with religious leaders in mobilizing voter registration drives. Newspaper accounts from the 1960s, reported the many injustices and even acts of unspeakable hostility he and his family faced, all because of because of his community leadership and voter registration efforts. During that time his malpractice insurance was cancelled for no apparent reason. He received harassing phone calls and veiled threats from community leaders. Crosses were burned and the carcasses of dead animals were left on the front lawns of his homes. Perhaps the most shocking was that two of the Simpkins family homes in Shreveport were firebombed and those images are on file in the Library of Congress. From time to time, police officers stayed overnight at the Simpkins home to offer whatever protection they could, but the family’s security was tenuous at best.

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