The legacy of Ora M. Lewis is one of courage, dedication and faith. Her life was a reflection of her belief in the living word and its enduring power to restore, persevere and heal those who suffered in the present and throughout past generations of degradation. She established herself from the outset as a respected voice in the elite journalistic community of New Orleans and transcended tradition at each turn in her life. Her published journalistic efforts and desegregation negotiations from 1936 through 1964 promoted the establishment of major civil rights and voting rights protections. As an outspoken young Black Catholic journalist, she began her drive to desegregate the Archdiocese of New Orleans with the Archbishop of New Orleans, Joseph Rummel in July 1938 with the publication of her article A Letter To The Archbishop. This ground breaking article inspired Archbishop Rummel to request her presence at their first official meeting that would lead to their ongoing conciliatory discourse on the very painful and divisive segregation of the Catholic Church of Louisiana. Ms. Lewis' writing for the region leading Sepia Socialite voting rights New Orleans newspaper continued to earn her a reputation as an outspoken proponent of social change. Her poignant article series, Black Hands and Yellow Cheeks published in a January 1940 issue of the Sepia Socialite was vehemently acknowledged by US Senator Allen Ellender. Senator Ellender used this issue to deliver a fiery speech on January 29, 1940 before the 76th Congress against voting rights activism of Black voters in Louisiana. Senator Ellender appealed for amnesty from Congress for his connection to the many unconstitutional acts of violence and harassment against Black voters. Ms. Lewis' writings and activities as a member of Sepia Socialite effectively raised awareness of the need for voting rights protections to a national political level and set the stage for major legislative change.
The life, efforts and accomplishments of Ora M. Lewis will be featured in a major forthcoming film. The film will be the first of its kind to reveal the complexities of monumental decisions by Archbishop Joseph Rummel to desegregate the Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans and ultimately its deeply divided schools. The once hidden influence of Ora M. Lewis as a journalist and negotiator will be illustrated in this telling cinematic exploration. Ms. Lewis' visionary voting rights efforts covered a span of 25 years from 1940 through 1965. Her notable journalistic feats were accompanied by her tremendous grassroots work with voters who had been intimidated by blatant harassment and arrests. This will be one of the first films to reveal the actual involvement and source of such damaging tactics against Black voters in New Orleans. By the admission of US Senator Allen Ellender during his 1940 rhetorical appeal to the 76th Congress, voters were "questioned for hours" and even "subpoened before the Federal grand jury" despite their lack of jurisdiction. Senator Ellender's address on this matter sealed voting rights violations as an issue of national and Congressional concern, and Ms. Lewis was at the center of its influence. The film will encompass these dynamics and finally illustrate the impact of Ora M. Lewis upon American history.