Louisiana – StoryCorps
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“Fear” Wasn’t A Word His Father Knew: The Origins Of A Civil Rights Leader

Rev. Harry Blake grew up working on a cotton plantation in Louisiana. At an early age, he learned the delicate balance between standing up for yourself and survival. Entering adulthood he was drawn to the ministry, eventually becoming the Pastor of Mount Canaan Baptist Church, where he served for many decades.

Rev. Harry Blake in the mid 1960s as a young Pastor of Mount Canaan Baptist Church courtesy of Monica Mickle.

Blake became active in the Civil Rights movement and was invited by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to work for him at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. He survived beatings, arrests and even an assassination attempt. 

Rev. Harry Blake (c) talks with Shreveport police outside a memorial service at the Little Union Baptist Church on Sept. 22, 1963. Local authorities refused a permit to hold a memorial for four girls killed in a bomb blast in Birmingham, Ala., several days earlier. When it appeared a march would be held anyway, a tense confrontation ensued. © Langston McEachern, Port Huron Times Herald via Imagn Content Services, LLC

In 2017 Rev. Blake came to StoryCorps with his daughter Monica Mickle. At the age of 85, Rev. Harry Blake Died from COVID-19 in the early months of the pandemic.

Top Photo: Monica Mickle and Rev. Harry Blake at their StoryCorps interview in Shreveport, Louisiana on October 30, 2017. By Madison Mullen for StoryCorps.

This broadcast is supported in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Originally aired on January 13, 2023 on NPR’s Morning Edition.



With your support, StoryCorps is able to record more stories that help lift up underrepresented voices, bridge political and social divides, and preserve personal histories for the future.


The Chief of a Louisiana Tribe Reflects on Being Displaced by Climate Change

Members of the Jean Charles Choctaw Nation are slowly leaving the land they’ve lived and farmed on for generations… as stronger and more frequent storms hit the Louisiana coastline. 

Chief Albert Naquin remembers growing up on Isle de Jean Charles, LA in the 1950s. He came to StoryCorps with his nephew, Démé Naquin Jr., who also grew up on the island. 

Middle Photo: Démé Naquin Jr., looking out on the Jean Charles tribe’s ancestral burial ground on Isle de Jean Charles, Louisiana. By Von Diaz for StoryCorps.

Hurricanes are common across the region, but climate change has increased the frequency and destructiveness of these storms, leading to flooding and coastal erosion, and destroying homes and local infrastructure. 

Chief Naquin believes relocation is crucial for his community to keep them safe and preserve their history and culture. Since 2002 he’s made multiple attempts to acquire the funds and support needed to move the remaining families off the island and reunite the tribe in a new community on higher ground. But his efforts have been stunted by numerous factors, including the inability to reach consensus within their tribal council, and a planned move that was halted when community members in neighboring Bourg, Louisiana protested the tribe’s relocation there. 

 At StoryCorps, he spoke with his nephew about their memories of the island, and their shared hope for their entire community to be together again.

Top Photo: Chief Albert Naquin and Démé Naquin Jr. at their StoryCorps interview in Montegut, Louisiana on September 17, 2022. By Zanna McKay for StoryCorps.
Bottom Photo: An abandoned home on Isle de Jean Charles, with a sign reading, “Isle de Charles is not dead. Climate change sucks.” By Von Diaz for StoryCorps.

This broadcast is supported in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Originally aired September 23, 2022, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

“Mama Was a Daredevil:” The Firefighting Pilot Who Blazed a Path for Women

Mary Barr made history when she became the first woman to fly for the U.S. Forest Service in 1974, a time when few women were professional pilots.

Mary Barr (center) poses with her daughters Molly Barr (left) and Nevada Barr (right). Courtesy of Molly Barr.

She flew a tiny propeller airplane into wildfires across the American West, finding a safe path through the flames so larger tanker aircraft could follow in behind her and dump smothering chemicals on the blaze.

Her daughters Molly and Nevada came to StoryCorps to remember an adrenaline-loving aviator with a hidden side. 

Mary Barr in her U.S. Forest Service uniform. Courtesy of Molly Barr.

This broadcast is supported in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Originally aired August 19, 2022, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Her Father’s Piano And A Page From WWII History

Loretta Berning’s father, Air Force Pilot Major Harold Martin, spent most of World War II training other pilots stateside. But just after the war he was stationed in Germany, flying relief supplies to Allies trapped behind Soviet lines in Berlin.

Harold was also an accomplished musician, playing saxophone in Big Band Jazz groups. Loretta and her younger sister grew up in a house full of music and were expected to learn the piano from a young age.

Harold Martin (5th from the Left in the back row) posing for a photo with Purvis Henson and his orchestra at Macdill Air Force Base in 1947. Photo courtesy of Loretta Berning.

While in Germany, Harold had found a rare and precious object that he had flown back to the States after his tour. It was a Victory Vertical Piano, made by the Steinway and Sons piano makers. In 1942 Steinway was tapped to make war-proof pianos for troops in the field.  In total they made about 2,500 pianos  built to be strong enough to be dropped out of supply planes, resistant to the humidity of the Pacific, and small enough to fit on submarines. Each piano was delivered by parachute from a supply plane.

Loretta Berning, age 15, pictured with the family’s Victory Vertical piano. 

When Harold brought the piano home after the war, it was one of the few to make the roundtrip journey back to the States. For Loretta, it was a lifelong reminder of her father and his love of music.

Top Photo: Loretta Berning at her StoryCorps interview in Mandeville, LA on May 11th, 2022. By Katie Fernelius for StoryCorps.

Originally aired July 30th, 2022, on NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday.

This broadcast is supported in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

A Family Remembers A Civil Rights Activist On The 60th Anniversary Of His Killing

Herbert Lee, Sr. was a businessman, farmer and activist for racial equality in 1950s Mississippi.

On September 25, 1961, he was murdered in Liberty, MS. His white killer, Mississippi state legislator, E.H. Hurst, was acquitted the very next day.

On the 60th anniversary of his death, Shirley Lee Riley — Lee’s youngest child — and her son, Clifton Franklin, sat down for StoryCorps to remember Herbert Lee’s civil rights legacy.

Herbert Lee’s daughter, Shirley Lee Riley, and her son, Clifton Franklin. Courtesy of Clifton Franklin.
Top Photo: Herbert Lee, Sr. and Prince Estella Lee. Courtesy of Clifton Franklin.

“We Missed Knowing Each Other:” 50 Years After Desegregation, Two Classmates Remember

On October 29, 1969, the Supreme Court ordered schools across the country to desegregate, in the little-known but milestone case Alexander v. Holmes. It was 15 years after schools had resisted Brown v. Board of Education, and most black students in the South still attended all-black schools. 

Eli Brown and Natalie Guice Adams met in third grade, when their school in Winnsboro, Louisiana first integrated. Brown is black, and Adams is white. As two of the top students, their lives were academically intertwined through elementary and high school, yet deeply separate.

Adams and Brown would go on to become co-valedictorians of the Winnsboro High School class of 1980. Today, Brown is an OBGYN in Birmingham, Alabama, and Adams is a professor at the University of Alabama. At StoryCorps, they sat down to remember life after integration for the first time.

Top photo: Natalie Guice Adams and Eli Brown at their at their StoryCorps interview in Birmingham, AL on October 2, 2019. By Emilyn Sosa for StoryCorps.
Middle photo: Natalie Guice Adams and Eli Brown pose as two of Winnsboro High School’s “Most Likely To Succeed” students. Black and white recipients of the distinction were photographed separately. Photo from the Winnsboro High School 1980 yearbook.

Originally aired October 25, 2019 on NPR’s Morning Edition. 

Nudist Couple on Falling in Love and the Mistake Only a Nudist Would Make

We’re used to people baring their souls at StoryCorps, but this is a story about baring quite a bit more.  

Ten years ago, on Tracia Kraemer’s 40th birthday, she wanted to do something she’d never done before. So she gathered her courage and paid a visit to the last surviving nudist park in the state of Louisiana, Indian Hills.

She figured she’d at least wind up with a good story, but as she remembers in this conversation with her husband Patrick, she came away with a whole lot more.

Patrick and Tracia Kraemer

Tracia and Patrick married in 2013. Together they managed Indian Hills for several years.

Last fall, they took off in an RV for a year-long adventure visiting nudist establishments across the country.

Top photo: Patrick and Tracia Kraemer pose nude behind a tractor at the Indian Hills Nudist Park in 2015. Courtesy David Grunman / The Times-Picayune.

Bottom photo: Patrick and Tracia Kraemer at their StoryCorps interview in New Orleans, Louisiana in February of 2018.

Originally aired May 4, 2018, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Friends and Climate Change Scientists on the Personal Cost of their Work

Dr. Lora Koenig and Dr. Zoe Courville first met over a decade ago in the middle of the Greenland ice sheet.


Their friendship formed while conducting research in some of the most remote corners of the world. As field researchers, they’re often away for weeks at a time, drilling ice cores and using ground-penetrating radar to study the impact of climate change.

Through the years, they’ve helped each other navigate the challenges of balancing their work and personal lives. They came to StoryCorps to talk about it.


Top photo: Dr. Zoe Courville and Dr. Lora Koenig at their StoryCorps interview in New Orleans, Louisiana in December 2017.
Middle photo: Dr. Zoe Courville taking snow density measurements in the field. Courtesy of Robin Davies.
Bottom photo: Dr. Lora Koenig with her son, Seelye, on a rare visit to the Russell Glacier in Greenland. Courtesy of Marilyn Koenig.

This interview was recorded in partnership with the American Geophysical Union, the world’s largest organization of Earth and space scientists.

Originally aired March 9, 2018, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Burnell Cotlon and Lillie Cotlon

For New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward, the section of the city hit hardest by Hurricane Katrina and the flooding that followed, recovery has been slow.

Nearly ten years after the storm, the neighborhood still did not have a single grocery store. But Ninth Ward resident Burnell Cotlon (pictured above, right) set out to change that.

before and after

Using money saved while working at fast food restaurants and dollar stores, he bought a dilapidated building on an empty block. And in 2014 he opened the Lower Ninth Ward’s first grocery store since the storm. At StoryCorps, he sat down with his mother, Lillie (pictured above, left), to remember the days after the flood.


This story is featured in Callings: The Purpose and Passion of Work, a collection that celebrate the passion, determination, and courage it takes to pursue the work we feel called to do.

Callings is now available from Penguin Books. Get the book at our neighborhood bookstore, Greenlight Bookstore, or find it at your local bookstore.

To help Burnell further his dream of expanding the Lower 9th Ward Market, visit his Go Fund Me page.

Originally aired August 8, 2015, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Photos courtesy of Daniel Schergen, Ian Spencer Cook, and Hanna Rasanen for StoryCorps.

Jerome Smith and Carol Bebelle

Jerome Smith tells Carol Bebelle about an experience he had as a young man on a streetcar in pre-Civil Rights era New Orleans that made him the person he remains today.

Originally aired December 1, 2006, on NPR’s Morning Edition.