Louisiana governor apologizes for 1972 deaths of 2 students

Fifty years after two students were shot and killed by a law enforcement officer during a protest at Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana’s governor has signed a formal apology for their unjust killings

Baton Rouge
Thursday 17 November 2022 23:36 GMT

Support truly
independent journalism

Our mission is to deliver unbiased, fact-based reporting that holds power to account and exposes the truth.

Whether $5 or $50, every contribution counts.

Support us to deliver journalism without an agenda.

Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas

Editor

Louisiana's governor has issued an official apology for the deaths of two students who were shot by a law enforcement officer 50 years ago during a protest at Southern University.

The fatal shooting of Leonard Brown and Denver Smith, both 20, occurred Nov. 16, 1972, after weeks of demonstrations by students protesting poor funding, inadequate services and the disparity of educational opportunities in the state. Edwin Edwards — the governor at the time — sent police officers to break up the protests, The Advocate reported.

The officer still hasn't been identified, and no one was ever prosecuted for the killings.

“In those dark times, Louisiana failed to uphold its highest ideals. And in the aftermath of that senseless tragedy, the harm to our State and to the Southern University community was exacerbated by the punishment of those students who endeavored to stand up against the unjust treatment of the Black citizens of our State," current Gov. John Bel Edwards, who has no direct relationship to Edwin Edwards, said in a formal letter of apology. "It is only right and just for the state of Louisiana, to make amends to those who were victims of injustices perpetrated by the State.”

In 2017, the Southern University System board’s academic affairs committee voted to award Brown and Smith posthumous degrees.

All week, Southern University and Agricultural & Mechanical College — which is the largest historically Black college or university in Louisiana — has held events in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the students' deaths.

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in