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Mon, 05.25.1942

Doris Castle, Activist born

Doris Castle

*Doris Castle was born on this date in 1942.  She was a Black civil rights activist. 

Doris Jean Castle was from Oakland, Tennessee. Both sides of her ancestors were farmers; one landowner and the others were sharecroppers. Her father, John Castle, was a longshoreman while her mother, Virgie Castle was a barmaid for Leah and Dooky Chase restaurants.  Castle recalled her grandmother saying things such as "Don't ever bow to anybody when you feel you're right or you know you're right". 

Her family moved to New Orleans, Louisiana in 1947. Her parents taught her and her sister to be “fiercely independent”. Doris and her sister Oretha attended public schools in the Ninth Ward neighborhood of New Orleans, where the two girls grew up. Castle graduated from Joseph S. Clark High School. Some years later, she went to Southern University at New Orleans but was never able to finish her degree. She followed in her sister's footsteps by joining CORE and helping in civil rights organizations throughout the city.

Castle and Oretha were part of the third generation of New Orleans activist leaders. Castle saw herself as her sister's enabler by being more of a worker in the New Orleans Black community than a leader. She and her sister helped to desegregate New Orleans public service buses, worked for voter registration, and joined boycotts around the city to push for equal employment among Blacks. During one protest against the segregation of the New Orleans City Hall cafeteria, police removed Castle, still seated in a cafeteria chair, from the building. Castle was one of three plaintiffs in a successful lawsuit to desegregate the City Hall cafeteria.  

Many Black Louisiana women activists in the American Civil Rights movement were not given much recognition for their actions. However, throughout the 1960s and the 1970s Castle went to work as a fundraiser for George Wiley's National Welfare Rights Organization, after which she worked for various service agencies in New Orleans, including under Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty Initiative, the Urban League, and Odyssey House.  

In an interview with Shannon Frystak, Castle said, "If I had not been a part of the civil rights movement, I probably would have finished college, married a young man, had three or four kids, a very comfortable home, probably work- and career orientated in some shape, form, or fashion and took part in most of the things that acceptable Americans take part in: go to church on Sunday, work Monday through Friday, picnic on Saturday... I don't know that I would have been as valuable to myself as I feel that I am because of what I did experience in the civil rights movement"   She was one of the youngest Freedom Riders in New Orleans. She was only seventeen years old when she started fighting for civil rights activism.  

In 1987 her sister, Oretha Castle Haley, died of ovarian cancer. Mourning, Castle excluded herself from political involvement in the community. In 1989 she took her sister's place as the night admissions supervisor at Charity Hospital in New Orleans.  Doris Castle who helped African Americans across the New Orleans area alongside her sister, Oretha Castle Haley died on April 16, 1998, from cancer.  Castle was married and divorced twice, to former city councilman Johnny Jackson Jr. and Allen Scott. She had no children.  

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