Donald H. Washington
Civil Rights

Donald, a twin to brother Ronald, was born in Shreveport. He was the son of William Cleveland Washington and Lula Mae Washington, and one of eight children. His grandparents, Alonzo and Priscilla Washington, were the ones who "really taught and raised me and gave me the basics of life," he says. He grew up in the Greenwood area, but moved to Shreveport in 1963. After his father died, other males influenced him in his youth, including his schoolteachers and his pastor, Rev. Harry Blake of Mount Canaan Baptist Church. Donald picked cotton and waited tables at Morrison's Cafeteria, graduated from Walnut Hill High School in 1965, and attended Southern University. After two-and-a-half years at school he came home to take care of his mother, who was ill. In the 1960s, Donald became involved in the civil rights movement in Shreveport. As part of a youth council aimed to advance the cause, Donald participated in picketing Stan's Record Shop. The picketing actions eventually persuaded not only the record store but also other downtown merchants to hire African-Americans in Shreveport's central business district. He associated with other along with other movement leaders such as B.J. Mason and Larry "Boogaloo" Cooper. His actions were not without consequences. Donald spent eight days in jail with no food or water, he says. He describes life in the movement as "under the microscope." City public safety officials, he says, kept him and others under nearly constant surveillance. "We had to stay up and watch each other's backs twenty-four hours a day," he recalls. The black community was not united in the civil rights struggle, he recalls. "There were a lot of people walking beside us who would get on the phone or go around the block and report everything that we were doing back downtown," he says. In 1973 Donald married Doris Alpine. They have one child and two grandchildren. In the early 1970s he participated in a march from Booker T. Washington High School to the Caddo Parish school board, where he advocated more African-American job promotions as well as the teaching of black history. Donald helped form BULL (Blacks United for Everlasting Leadership). One of its objectives was to sue the City of Shreveport to change the municipal form of government to mayor and councilmen. In order to hire an attorney for the suit, the group held money-raising efforts, including car washes and dinners. After winning the suit, Donald, who was employed at that time at Cass Metal, ran for a city council seat but lost. He worked as a conductor for Kansas City Southern Railroad for 16 years before leaving that job after a work-related accident. Retired, Donald remains involved in community projects and works on political campaigns.