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Ora M. Lewis
Prolific Journalist
Ora M. Lewis
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An Extraordinary Life
SEEDS In The Wind
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Ora M. Lewis' Journalistic & Editorial  Career
 

Ora M. Lewis was a highly regarded journalist in Louisiana who began her writing career at the age of nine. Her story, The First Christmas was published and recognized by The Times Picayune as early as 1927. Her poem, Life of Cotton was also published in the Young People's Pages of the Times Picayune in 1933. At the age of 18, Ora M. Lewis secured employment on the staff of the major voting rights newspaper in New Orleans, the Sepia Socialite. Ms. Lewis wrote highly significant desegregation and voting rights articles, serial stories, and conducted the columns Along with Time, Downtown, Big Sister, and News and Comments for the Sepia Socialite. Ms. Lewis held the title of Feature Writer for the Sepia Socialite from 1936 thru 1941 and earned her place among the journalistic community for her work with this influential Black newspaper. She joined the staff of two major American daily newspapers, the Item and the Sunday Item in 1937 and 1938. Most notably, her article A Letter to the Archbishop, published in the Sepia Socialite on July 23, 1938, was instrumental in obtaining recognition for Black Catholics during the Eighth National Eucharistic Congress in New Orleans and the first ever removal of the physical racial barriers of segregation at the New Orleans City Park Stadium by Archbishop Joseph Rummel, against strict City laws. To affirm this desegregation milestone, Ms. Lewis published her groundbreaking article Interracial Harmony In The South in Preservation of The Faith in February 1939 documenting her desegregation victory under the leadership of Archbishop Rummel. Her timely article A Catholic Challenges Catholics, published on June 3, 1939 in the Sepia Socialite was an appeal to Black Catholics to exercise initiative in the use of the educational opportunities they had received, and to unite in an organization which would make them independent of discrimination. Ms. Lewis' article series Behold The Black Man published in 1939 in the Sepia Socialite critiques racial epithets and the use of the label "black." In Ms. Lewis' 1939 serial story, Bachelor Dean, the character Eppy taught the Dean the meaning of matrimony by exploring Catholic Christian concepts (Sepia Socialite). During the spring of 1939, Ms. Lewis published another serial story entitled Creole Sunday that was a combination of fiction and fact concerning the atmosphere and the activities of the B. V. M Sodality. From July to December 1939, Ms. Lewis consistently wrote the columns Socially Speaking and The Man on the Street Thinks for The Louisiana Weekly gaining a great deal of interest. The following year, her historic serial story Black Hands And Yellow Cheeks, published in the Sepia Socialite was literally waved on the floor of the United States Senate by US Senator Allen Ellender during his tirade against Black voting rights in January 1940. Her January 20, 1940 short story, Cheated illustrated the possibility of having of Black elected leaders in Louisiana and it also caught the attention of US Senator Allen Ellender. Her February 10, 1940 Sepia Socialite column A Carnival Kick On The Zulu Parade evoked thought in the minds of readers on the depiction of Africa in a dim light. As a writer for the New Orleans Sentinel newspaper, Ms. Lewis was featured on the front page for the national publication of her short stories by the Catholic Our Sunday Visitor newspaper as “Prolific” in 1941. During the summer of 1942, Ms. Lewis wrote the columns Heart to Heart by Cousin Adele, Jim Crow Checkerboard, and Magazine Page for the New Orleans Sentinel. Her poems Creation and Beauty were both published in the New Orleans Sentinel in June of 1942. Ms. Lewis' nationally published stories, Southern Laughter, Keep Sweet, Down The Levee and Prom Night in Our Sunday Visitor caused a stir in the national Catholic community for the edgy and controversial topics addressed. After an interruption of seven years, Ms. Lewis resumed her studies at Xavier University of Louisiana, classified as a Freshman in 1941, with a major in English and a minor in Sociology. She began writing as a staff member of the Xavier Herald university newspaper and was eventually selected as the Editor In Chief in 1944. Ms. Lewis was encouraged when her article The Historian and Negro History was finally accepted for national publication by Dr. Carter G. Woodson's Negro History Bulletin after a 4 year wait in March 1943. Her critique of segregated perceptions of Africa was six pages in length and included a portrait of the author. As a staff writer for Xavier Herald university newspaper, Ms. Lewis voiced her strong faith and hope for peace in two memorable pieces entitled Peace Is The Work Of Justice and The Crisis during World War II. These two published statements alone set a tone for the Xavier University student body and the future of journalistic advocacy for peace. "In most of our minds, however, we have come to the conclusion that there can be no peace without victory, and victory without complete annihilation of the human enemy. But have we ever considered the kind of peace we could have without Virtue?...For in times of war no factor is more important in international relations than the virtue of justice." (Peace Is The Work Of Justice, Ora M. Lewis 1944) Ms. Lewis' articles and short stories on segregation were also accompanied by her recipes in Home Hints and advice on love in Cousin Adele and Big Sister to letters to the editor on contemporary issues. She also wrote a collection of poems on marriage including A Bride's Prayer in the summer of 1937 that was published in the Louisiana Weekly newspaper. Ms. Lewis founded a literary magazine that became a source of encouragement for World War II soldiers in the Pacific, known as Twinkle Magazine in 1944 with her fiance Lawrence Martin, Sr. Ms. Lewis served as the Editor of Twinkle until 1949 and Mr. Martin held the position of Managing Editor throughout the existence of the magazine, even during his tour in the Pacific. Ms. Lewis' career as a journalist continued as she shifted her focus to conciliatory efforts in desegregation, exercise of voting rights and education. Ms. Lewis cofounded the Ninth Ward Voting League with Black leaders who would eventually gain key political positions in the City of New Orleans. Ms. Lewis' and Mr. Martin's grassroots literacy efforts and voting rights outreach materialized into accomplishments that were once visions for a deeply segregated New Orleans. Ms. Lewis would witness the unfolding of the desegregation of American public and Catholic school systems for over two decades. The historic novel, SEEDS In The Wind, was her final major work published in August 2000.

 

*Source: Sr. Mary Anothony Scally, R.S.M's 1945 Bio Bibliography.

 
DISCOVERING HER LEGACY TODAY
 
The 100th Birthday Of Ora M. Lewis Celebrated

"Shadows Across The Doorsill" Dedication

Her Early Published Work

1927 Thru 1943

The Ora M. Lewis Film

The Ora M. Lewis film on her profound journalistic desegregation and voting rights works is forthcoming. The film will challenge and inspire the mainstream understanding of how the Louisiana Catholic Church was desegregated.

Coming Soon...

Action Words: Journey of a Journalist

Published in February 2017, the desegregation novel reveals the extraordinary story of Ora M. Lewis in 1935 and 1936 at the outset of her professional writing career.

Order A Novel...

 
Celebrating Her Life

Happy 99th Birthday To Ora M. Lewis.

Read more...

 
 
THE ORA M. LEWIS LEGACY
 
  • SODALIST
  • JOURNALIST
  • EDITOR
  • NOVELIST
 
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