2010 Press Releases

12.2.2010: Leah Chase, Civil Rights Leader, To Receive Award From ACLU of Louisiana

Leah Chase, restaurateur and stalwart of the civil rights movement in Louisiana, will be presented the 35th Annual Ben Smith Award by the ACLU Foundation of Louisiana. This award honors people who have demonstrated a commitment to the advancement of civil liberties in Louisiana. It is named for the late Ben Smith, a founder of the ACLU of Louisiana and a civil rights lawyer who was arrested for his work to end segregation and for participating in mixed-race gatherings.

Chase, best known for her family's restaurant Dooky Chase, is often forgotten for her bravery during the 1960's when simply meeting with someone of another race was a crime in Louisiana. Leah and her husband, Edgar "Dooky" Chase, opened a back room in their restaurant for the use of civil rights workers - and risked both arrest and the loss of their business. During the heyday of segregation, her restaurant was the place of refuge for civil rights workers, and it was one of the only places where blacks and whites were allowed to socialize together.

"Leah Chase is a true beacon of civil liberties in Louisiana and in the United States," said Marjorie R. Esman, ACLU of Louisiana Executive Director. "We're proud to honor the woman who helped bring Ben Smith's dream of racial equality closer."

A dinner honoring Leah Chase will be held on February 12, 2011 at the New Orleans Marriott at the Convention Center in New Orleans. The keynote speaker will be National Urban League President and former New Orleans Mayor, Marc Morial.

Information on the dinner in honor of Leah Chase is available here.