NEW ORLEANS — Funeral services will be held Thursday in Shreveport, Louisiana, for one of 16 black demonstrators expelled from historically black Southern University after civil rights sit-ins in Baton Rouge.

JoAnn Morris died Wednesday at a Baton Rouge nursing home of complications from diabetes and two strokes, said her brother, Reginald Morris of Zachary, speaking by telephone Monday from his sister’s Shreveport home. She was 74.

JoAnn Morris was one of seven students booked with disturbing the peace after a lunch counter sit-in at the S.H. Kress department store in Baton Rouge on March 28, 1960. The following day, nine more Southern University students were arrested for sitting at lunch counters in a drugstore and a bus station. All 16 were expelled and barred from other state colleges.

Thurgood Marshall, who later became the first black justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, represented the students before that court, which overturned their convictions in 1961.

In 2004, Southern University awarded honorary degrees to all 16 and the Legislature passed a resolution honoring them.

Morris, then a 19-year-old sociology student in 1960, completed her bachelor’s degree in social welfare at Central State College – now Central State University – in Wilberforce, Ohio, and earned a master’s in English and creative writing at Bowling Green State University, her brother said.

He said she didn’t feel safe returning to Louisiana until 1975, when she moved back to Shreveport, her hometown. She lived after that in Atlanta, New York City and Chicago, and finally in Huntsville, Alabama, where she taught English at Alabama A&M for 10 years and lived for about a decade after retiring.

Her family moved her from Alabama to the nursing home after her second stroke in January 2013, Morris said.


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