In 1959 Maxine Sarpy was among the first group of African American students at the University of Texas School of Nursing.
“Several of us, the black students got together and talked about the challenges we would probably face during our tenure. I remember so clearly us saying, we’re going to get through. We’re going to make it through.”
After graduation she served on the University’s faculty before moving to Louisiana. Two weeks after Sarpy arrived in Shreveport the unthinkable took place.
“An incident that I would never ever be able to forget.”
In 1963 a memorial service was held at Little Union Baptist Church for the four little girls killed in the 16th Street Church bombing in Birmingham.
After the program the head of the NAACP Harry Blake was beaten by police. Sarpy and her husband, who was a physician rushed to Blake’s side.
“We jumped out of the car and the commissioners said where do you think you’re going?
Thankfully her husband’s medical office was in the building right next to Little Union and they were able to provide medical attention to Rev. Blake.
“When I think of this, I always think of the fact that God works in mysterious ways.”
She didn’t allow what happened at the church to stop her. Two months later Sarpy got involved with getting blacks registered to vote in Shreveport. In 1970 she helped organize BULL – Blacks United for Lasting Leadership.
“Filed a suit against the city for the change of government, which gave blacks an opportunity to serve on the city council.”
Then in 1983 she was asked and accepted an appointment to serve as the first woman on Shreveport City Council.
“I had been a part of so many organizations trying to ensure that blacks would have an opportunity to participate, so I felt when I was asked to serve in these various capacities that I sort of had a responsibility to do that.”
It’s a responsibilty she hopes those coming up now will follow.
“It is imperative that all of our youngsters are aware of these things that have happened, so they can value what is before them today and go forth and do many, many great things.”