Sybil Haydel Morial
The daughter of a well-respected physician in New Orleans, Sybil grew up in a middle-class, integrated neighborhood in New Orleans during the 1940s and 50s. After graduating from Boston University, where she met fellow student Martin Luther King Jr., Sybil became the first African American to teach in the Newton, Massachusetts, public-school system.
Upon returning to New Orleans, Sybil participated in some of the first tests for integration attempting to enroll at both Tulane and Loyola. In 1962, she was the lone plaintiff in a successful challenge to a statute prohibiting public-school teachers from being involved in any organization advocating civil rights. She also formed the Louisiana League of Good Government to help African-American citizens register to vote.
By necessity and choice, Sybil, her late husband, Ernest “Dutch” Morial, and their five children became legal, then political activists. After serving in the Louisiana state legislature as the first African American, her husband became the first black mayor of New Orleans in 1974. In 1994, Sybil’s oldest son, Marc, who is now president of the National Urban League, would also begin two terms as mayor.