Local author’s book recounts experiences as a volunteer leader of the Louisiana ACLU from 1966 to 1977
On the evening of a day when the struggle to secure civil rights for all is front and center, Bloomsbury Books will host author Herbert Rothschild Jr. reading from his new book, “The Bad Old Days: A Decade of Struggling for Justice in Louisiana,” which depicts in vivid detail the kind of local work that transformed the Old South, according to to the Ashland bookstore’s announcement.
In this blend of grassroots history and memoir, Rothschild tells story after story of confronting injustice, the announcement says, adding that his accounts bring to life a world that, while still recognizable, no longer exists as it did when he confronted it.
“I grew up in New Orleans in the 1940s and 1950s,” Rothschild recalls. “During those years nothing prompted me to question the prevailing culture. It was the Civil Rights Movement that stirred my conscience, beginning with the desegregation of New Orleans schools. Footage of the white crowd cursing and threatening 6-year-old Ruby Bridges as she walked so bravely into the Frantz school was shocking. My conversion was completed when James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner were murdered in Mississippi in 1964. I resolved to return South after I finished my graduate work and find a way into the struggle.”
The way turned out to be the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). While teaching at Louisiana State University (LSU), Rothschild formed and directed an ACLU chapter in Baton Rouge, then later served as state president and finally legislative director. Defending constitutional rights involved him in myriad struggles. In some, such as the Civil Rights and women’s movements, he played a supportive role. In others, such as protection of First Amendment exercise, reform of the criminal justice system, and rights of students and the mentally ill, he was prominent.
Rothschild has made his home in the Rogue Valley since 2009. He continued his work for justice and peace by chairing Peace House in Ashland from 2012-2015. When Ashland lost its daily newspaper in 2021, he helped found Ashland.news. His weekly column, “Relocations,” which the Ashland Daily Tidings began publishing in 2014, now appears there every Friday.