Getting closer to the past in the near future

Nearly one year ago today the City of Thibodaux officially condemned acts of violence that occurred 131 years ago, in response to a strike of sugar cane workers in both Terrebonne and Lafourche. It recognized the names of the known victims, and the efforts underway to locate remains of those killed, however many that may be.

The Lafourche Parish Council did the same, also issuing a proclamation, encouraging the efforts to right the wrong that have been underway.

Wrongs like this get righted first and foremost by someone saying something, by the truth being spoken without protest and without defensiveness. And this is what is happening now.

On the grounds of the American Legion’s Raymond Stafford Post 513 at Narrow Street and Gerald T. Peltier Drive remains of those killed in what is now referred to as the “Thibodaux Massacre” are believed buried.

As oral history tells it they were not laid there lovingly by friends and relatives, but dumped and covered up, like the story was covered up.

Wednesday night at the hall members of the community were scheduled to come together, to meet with the archeologists who will head up the first phase of the work.

Her name is Davette Gadison and she is a doctoral candidate at Tulane University. She will be working with other Tulane graduate students, and students and professors at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Students and faculty at Nicholls State University — where mass communication students volunteered last year to aid with messaging and public relations — are also aware and will be able to help.

The event — known at this point as the Thibodaux Massacre — occurred on Nov. 23, 1887. A strike of sugar cane workers turned into a battle concerning race, as the historical record does indicate. Sadly, political and civic leaders of the time were involved, some actually engaging in the violence. As quickly as it occurred, the incident was hushed up, swept into history’s dustbin.

Now, in the 21st Century, much is being done to right the wrong.

For one thing, people are talking. Family memories are coming back, slowly, but still coming back.

The Wednesday meeting was organized to allow Ms. Gadison to speak with the American Legion members and anyone else who is interested, and might want to know precisely what kind of work will be done at the site, which is currently an open field mostly used as a parking lot. Specifically, volunteers will be doing a geophysical survey with some limited coring — passing of a narrow tube into the ground for soil samples — to determine what might lie below.

There are laws about this sort of thing, and the professors at ULL and at Tulane will make sure that it is all done in accordance with the Louisiana Unmarked Human Burial Sites Preservation Act.

There has been help leading toward all of this. Cenac Marine contributed seed money to the Louisiana 1887 Memorial Committee, the non-profit requesting all of this. Rushing Media has contributed. Cannata’s Family Market will be keeping the scientists and their helpers fed.

All of it is evidence of what our communities can do when they come together for a good purpose. If you want to know more go to

The best news of all is that this work is not going to take place some time way in the future. The community meeting was scheduled for Wednesday because the actual preliminary work will begin in just a few weeks.