ROSA FREEMAN KELLER:

A LEGACY OF SOUTHERN ACTIVISM


This is the on-line version of an exhibit in the Louisiana Division of the New Orleans Public Library (third floor, 219 Loyola Ave.) All of the text and some of the images from the original exhibit are included in this site. The exhibit will be on view at the Library through January 1996.


Rosa Freeman Keller was raised in an atmosphere of wealth and privilege, yet she has devoted her life to social activism, most notably in the arena of civil rights. During the turbulent period of desegregation in this city, she broke ranks with the majority of her "Uptown" peers and worked tirelessly in support of African-American efforts to achieve social, educational and political equality with whites. In the years that have followed the civil rights battles of the 1950s and 1960s, she has continued to offer her energy and wisdom to causes and organizations that strive to make New Orleans a better place for all of its citizens.



"I can't tell you exactly why I did it. It came from a very strong impulse inside me. I'd had everything I wanted all my life. I lived very comfortably and I knew there were people who didn't."
--Rosa Freeman Keller, 1991


We at New Orleans Public Library are proud to call Rosa Keller one of our own. In 1953, she began her long association with the Library, when she became the first woman appointed to its board of directors, a post she held for the next twenty-six years. Her service to the Library and her courageous and energetic efforts to further the cause of equal opportunity for all are honored and celebrated in this exhibit, which pays tribute to one of New Orleans' most extraordinary women.


"The ultimate test of the white southern liberal was a willingness to criticize his or her society's racial mores. Under the liberal banner were included 'those white Southerners who perceived that there was a serious maladjustment of race relations in the South... and who either actively endorsed or engaged in programs to aid Southern blacks in their fight.' By this definition, Rosa Freeman Keller (1911- ), an affluent and privileged white New Orleanian, ranks as a racial liberal; moreover, because of her particular combination of education, wealth, status, and personal warmth, she came to be the most effective white liberal in her native New Orleans."
[Pamela Tyler. Silk Stockings and Ballot Boxes: Women and Politics in New Orleans, 1920-1963. University of Georgia Press, forthcoming February, 1996.]


This exhibit was designed and mounted by archivists Wayne Everard and Irene Wainwright of the Louisiana Division's City Archives staff and draws on materials from the City Archives and other Louisiana Division resources. Valuable input and advice also came from Dr. Pamela Tyler of North Carolina State University. Thanks are also due to Robert Baxter and Charles DeLong of the Library's Duplications Division, to Ridgways, Inc. and to Photo Lab for reprographic services. Very special thanks go to Cheryl Laugand and Mary Keller Zervigon, and, of course, to Rosa Keller herself, who graciously loaned the awards and a number of the photographs on display here.


The front page of the Times-Picayune's society section for December 27, 1931 announces the young Rosa Freeman's formal debut.

The Society Directory of New Orleans, 1932, listing the debutantes of the season.

Rosa Keller's father, A.B. Freeman, was born in Georgia and came to New Orleans in 1906, where he built a fortune as owner of the city's Coca-Cola bottling franchise and involved himself widely in civic and philanthropic affairs. He is show here (upper right) as Rex, in 1932.
[Charles L.. Dufour and Leonard V. Huber, If Ever I Cease to Love: One Hundred Years of Rex, 1872-1971, 1970]

During the 1932 carnival season, Rosa Freeman reigned as Queen of Nereus and was invited to be a maid in several other Mardi Gras krewe's, including Comus.
[Times-Picayune]

The 1934 Society Directory of New Orleans lists the Charles Kellers along with the Freeman family among the city's social elite.

Rosa Freeman met her future husband, Charles Keller, Jr., at a party during her debut season and married him that same year. Charles Keller was from the Midwest, a young army officer in New Orleans with the Army Corps of Engineers, and, importantly for Keller's future, he was Jewish. It was as the wife of a Jew that Mrs. Keller first began gained an awareness of racial prejudice, an awareness sharpened by the horrors of World War II. She said in a 1968 interview, "I began to learn what it was like to belong to a minority group, . . . and to be discriminated against, in a sense, because of something that you just were. This was a frightening thing for me." During the early years of their marriage, the Kellers moved with the Corps to several different states and to Panama. She is shown here in 1935, back in New Orleans for a visit.
[Times-Picayune]

Like his father, the late Richard West Freeman, reigned as Rex (1959) and served on the Board of Administrators of Tulane University; like his sister, Rosa Keller, he was awarded the Times-Picayune Loving Cup (1977) for his contributions to the civic, educational and cultural life of the Crescent City. He is shown here at the opening of the newly restored service wing of Gallier House. The restoration of the main house in 1971 was funded in part by the Ella West Freeman Foundation.
[States-Item, March 12, 1975]


The descendants of A.B. Freeman have continued and extended his record of community service. Through several charitable foundations established by members of the Freeman-Keller-Wisdom families, including the Ella West Freeman Foundation, they donate more than a million dollars a year to worthy organizations, causes or institutions. They have also dedicated their time, energy, and intelligence to civic, educational, political, and charitable endeavors; members of A.B. Freeman's family have served on the boards of the YMCA, YWCA, Tulane and Dillard Universities, The New Orleans Symphony, the Community Chest and its successor, the United Way, the Audubon Park Commission-- to name only a few.


Rosa Keller (center) with two of her children, Charles Keller III and Mary Zervigon; on Mrs. Keller's right are Verna Landrieu and Mayor Moon Landrieu. The children in this photograph are unidentified, but it is likely that they are Mrs. Keller's grandchildren.
[Courtesy of Rosa F. Keller]

Rosa Keller's younger daughter, Mary Zervigon, served on the Mayor's Office staff during the administrations of Mayors Landrieu and Morial. She is shown here (Row 3, 4th from left) with other members of Mayor Landrieu's staff. Later, she became chair of the Louisiana Tax Commission
[Louisiana Division Photograph Collection; all photographs displayed in this exhibit are from the Louisiana Division Photograph Collection, unless otherwise noted]

Rosa Keller's only son, Charles Keller III, died in 1979. During his lifetime, he followed his family's tradition of community service by volunteer work with a number of organizations, among them, the Audubon Zoo, where he served as Chair of the Construction Committee which oversaw the Zoo's major transformation into a world-class facility. After his death, the Audubon Park Commission and the Friends of the Zoo honored him by naming the new primate center the "Charles Keller III World of Primates."
[At the Zoo, 1980, vol 1, no. 4]


Rosa Keller's transformation from debutante to social activist occurred gradually during the early 1940s. Matured and troubled by her new recognition of anti-Semitism, she was ready, in 1945, for the "awakening" that occurred when she became a member of the Board of Directors of the YWCA. There, for the first time, she met African-American women on an equal footing, talked to them, learned their concerns about segregation and lack of opportunity, and grew to share them. From that point on, she was committed to the cause of civil rights. "We became friends," she said in 1985, "and it changed my life."


In 1954, Keller was appointed by philanthropist Edgar Stern to the chair of the Board of Management of Flint-Goodridge Hospital, then the only medical facility where African-American physicians were allowed to practice. In 1958, she spearheaded an expansion drive designed to bring the aging facility up to modern standards. Before the drive was over, Keller and Flint-Goodridge had raised nearly a half million dollars. In this letter, Mrs. Keller thanks Mayor Morrison for endorsing the efforts of the Flint- Goodridge Expansion Fund. Morrison served on the Committee of Sponsors and contributed personally to the fund. Below right is the campaign brochure referred to in Mrs. Keller's letter.
[Mayor deLesseps S. Morrison Papers]

This note from Mrs. Keller to Mayor Morrison accompanied a report of the progress of the campaign as it reached its conclusion.
[Mayor deLesseps S. Morrison Papers]

Rosa Keller, flanked by Flint-Goodridge administrator, Dr. C.C. Weil (left) and Edgar B. Stern, a member of the Board of Managers and chair of the board of trustees of Dillard University (right), at the groundbreaking for the hospital's new wing, June 22, 1959. As a member of the Flint-Goodridge board, Mrs. Keller also fought for the right of African-American doctors to join the local medical society and worked for the employment of black nurses and graduates of Dillard University at Charity Hospital.
[Courtesy of Rosa F. Keller]

In the late 1940s and 1950s, Mayor Morrison pursued an active program of slum clearance to make way for the housing developments and new construction in the Central Business District--including the areas now occupied by the Civic Center and the Union Passenger Terminal. The result, however, was that large numbers of African-Americans were displaced from their old neighborhoods, and the racial policies of the time made it difficult for them to find new homes. To help alleviate this problem, Keller, along with her husband and Edith and Edgar Stern, financed the construction of Pontchartrain Park, the city's first subdivision for African-Americans. This photograph, ca. early 1950s, shows the site where the subdivision was built. By 1955, nearly 250 homes occupied this vacant ground. Keller invested a considerable portion of her personal fortune in the project.

Rosa Freeman Keller in 1959.


Throughout her life, Rosa Keller has worked with energy and conviction to further the cause of equality for African-Americans and to improve the quality of life for all citizens in her community. The items in this display case give only a glimpse of the many contributions she has made through her active involvement in causes and in organizations that endeavor to serve the city of New Orleans. Not shown, but equally as noteworthy as any of those achievements that are exhibited, are her efforts to effect the peaceful desegregation of the New Orleans public schools and of Tulane University. Keller was a founding member of Save Our Schools, an group of white, middle-class New Orleanians, many of them women, who came together between 1959 and 1961 to combat threats by the Louisiana Legislature and the Orleans Parish School Board to close the City's public schools. In 1961, she financed the successful lawsuit that desegregated Tulane University.


Rosa Keller joined the Urban League in the early 1950s, as a result of her growing concern over racial inequities and her admiration for, in her words, the "careful, decent, well thought out, well researched, kind of work" the League was doing. Two years after joining, she became president of the local chapter and, in 1956, a member of National Urban League Board of Trustees. She is shown here with Helen Mervis, who worked with Keller in Save Our Schools, and succeeded her as president of the Urban League of New Orleans. In the center is fellow Urban Leaguer J. Westbrook McPherson. The tall display case contains two prestigious awards given to Rosa Keller by the Urban League--the 1955 Lane Bryant Award, presented annually by the National Urban League to the individual who has performed the most outstanding volunteer service to the community, and the Whitney M. Young Jr. Memorial Third Annual Brotherhood Award, presented in 1973 by the Urban League of Greater New Orleans.
[Crescent City Sepia Host: Buyers and Tourist Guide to New Orleans, 1956]

This 1961 letter, signed by Rosa Keller and other prominent leaders of the Urban League, urges Mayor Schiro to appoint a bi-racial committee to assist in negotiations between the black and white communities during the tumultuous period of desegregation in New Orleans. The small note (upper right) accompanied the list of citizens recommended by the League to serve on the committee.
[Mayor Victor H. Schiro Records]

Anticipating the possibility that passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 would increase tension between blacks and whites, Rosa Keller wrote to Mayor Schiro, offering the services of Urban League members as mediators. Keller's own considerable skills as a negotiator are among the most lasting contributions she has made to the life of the city. As Dr. Pamela Tyler, writes, "If she did not lead marches or preach fiery sermons, she contributed what she could do best--gentle efforts, courteous prodding, well- placed suggestions--made potent because of the standing she enjoyed in her city."
[Mayor Victor H. Schiro Records]

This letter to Keller from National Urban League president Whitney Young thanks her for assistance during the League's national convention, held in New Orleans in 1968.
[Helen Mervis Papers]

The Independent Women's Organization was organized during the 1945 mayoral campaign to involve women voters in the reform movement then active in the city. Rosa Keller was one of the IWO's "broom brigade," (symbolic of the IWO's campaign to sweep the city clean of corrupt officials) that proved instrumental in the election of Mayor deLesseps S. "Chep" Morrison in 1946. This 1991-1992 Directory of the IWO membership shows Rosa Keller as a Life Time Member.
[Louisiana Division Vertical File]

The Committee of 21 was founded by a group of women concerned about the lack of women in positions of political power in Louisiana. In the early 1980s, they banded together to do something to change this situation. Named for its twenty-one original members, the Committee's purpose is to promote the placement of women in positions of influence in public office, on government boards and commissions, and in other appointive professional and political positions. Rosa Keller was one of the charter members of the Committee of 21 and continues to serve on its executive board.
[Louisiana Division Vertical File]

Mrs. Keller is a long-time member of the American Civil Liberties Union and, in 1987, received the Benjamin Smith Civil Liberties Award, given annually by the ACLU of Louisiana in honor of outstanding civil rights and civil liberties achievements. Shown here is the program for the 1990 Benjamin Smith Award ceremony honoring two of Rosa Keller's co-workers in the civil rights struggles of the 1960s-- Xavier University president Dr. Norman Francis and former New Orleans Mayor Moon Landrieu. Note that Mrs. Keller is among those thanked for contributions to the narrative on the reverse of this program describing the achievements of the 1990 winners. Also see the tall display case for the award given to Mrs. Keller in 1995 by the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana.
[Louisiana Division Vertical File]

Rosa Keller was a charter member of the League of Women Voters of New Orleans and, in 1995, was one of three community leaders honored during the League's Seventy-Fifth Anniversary Celebration. Shown here is an invitation to the Anniversary to the League's Anniversary celebration.
[Ruth McCusker Papers]

The Rosa Keller Campus was established in 1991 by the Woldenberg Center for Gerontological Studies at Touro Infirmary and Rosa Keller, who, with others, provided the initial funding for the project. The Rosa Keller Campus offers free college classes at eight New Orleans universities to adults 65 and older. Mrs. Keller herself returned to college when she was 65 and found the experience so rewarding that she wanted to provide other senior citizens with a similar opportunity. Last year, the Metropolitan Area Committee honored the Rosa Keller Campus with its "What's Working in Metro New Orleans Award," given annually to individuals or organizations which are improving the quality of life in our area. Shown here is the Rosa Keller Campus course schedule, Fall 1992.
[Louisiana Division Vertical File]


Rosa Keller's often tumultuous career as a civil rights activist has been documented in several sources as indicated in the preceding section of this exhibit. Her record of achievement is outstanding and well-deserving of delineation. Additional manuscript and other materials relating to her civil rights activities are available in the Rosa Freeman Keller Papers at Tulane University's Amistad Research Center. Perhaps it is significant that throughout her years of political activity both in public and behind the scenes, Mrs. Keller served continuously as a dedicated member of the Board of Directors of the New Orleans Public Library. The remainder of this exhibited is designed to illustrate Rosa Keller's lesser known, but no less constant, role in support of our contribution to life in New Orleans.


On November 29, 1952 Charles F. Buck, Jr. passed away, leaving a vacancy on the Public Library Board, on which he had served as chairman since 1935. Mayor Chep Morrison's advisers proposed a number of prominent New Orleans men as potential successors to Mr. Buck; to their list Mayor added the names of two women as alternative choices.
[Mayor deLesseps S. Morrison Papers]

It did not take Morrison long to decide on Rosa Keller as his nominee for the Library Board vacancy; the Commission Council concurred at its January 16, 1953 meeting.
[Official Proceedings of the Commission Council]

On January 22, 1954, Mrs. Keller joined other Library officials and the Mayor in an inspection of the Washington Avenue building recently acquired to serve as a new branch library. The facility was dedicated on April 4 of that year as the Norman Mayer Broadmoor Branch.

One of Rosa Keller's first important actions as a member of the Library Board, and surely her most famous, was her ultimately successful campaign to desegregate the city's library facilities. This page from the minutes of the March 10, 1954 Board meeting records Mrs. Keller's lonely position as the sole promoter of integration. Within a matter of months, however, her goal was realized and the Library administration decided that it would not enforce any continued attempt to maintain separation of the races in NOPL facilities.
[This and the other documents in the remaining display cases are from records of the New Orleans Public Library, unless otherwise noted]

A more pleasant, though largely ceremonial, task devolved on Mrs. Keller as part of the "finishing touches" to the new Main Library building in 1958. As chair of the Board's Memorial Committee she had a hand in designing the honor roll plaque that graces the building's lobby to this day.

During her second term on the Library Board Rosa Keller chaired the committee charged with selecting a successor to City Librarian Jerome Cushman who resigned in 1965 to take a position at the University of California, Los Angeles. This letter from the executive director of the American Library Association suggests that the committee's task was less than an easy one.

Library records suggest that Mrs. Keller's committee was prepared to offer the Librarian job to William Holman, director of the San Francisco Public Library. Mr. Holman decided finally, however, that he could not afford financially to make the move from the west coast and the position went to Gunter Jansen, director of the public library in Mobile, instead.

As Rosa Keller's tenure on the Board progressed, she became more and more involved in the effort to secure adequate funding for the library system. Perhaps her experience in trying to attract an outstanding director to a low-paying situation moved her to a realization that the institution's fiscal state needed immediate improvement. Mrs. Keller lobbied the City Council for an adequate Library appropriation in the 1968 budget. City budget documents reveal that the Library asked for a general fund appropriation of $1.4 million but the administration recommended only $973 thousand. The amount finally authorized by the Council was just over $1 million. The records do not tell us how important Mrs. Keller's efforts were in bringing about the final outcome.
[Capt. Neville Levy Papers]

Mrs. Keller also recognized that the federal government was an important source of monies for library purposes. Her contacts with New Orleans congressional representatives are documented by these letters. These documents are additionally interesting in that they testify to Rosa Keller's skill in handling people at all levels; she knew how to thank government officials for their support as well as how to request it!

Toward the end of Mrs. Keller's second term on the Board, her colleagues decided to recognize her considerable contributions by nominating her for the Louisiana Library Association's Modisette award, given annually to an outstanding library trustee from the Pelican State. NOPL's letter of nomination recounted her role in search of financial stability for the system, acknowledged her services to the underprivileged citizens of New Orleans, and enumerated her varied activities in support of public libraries beyond the city limits.

The letter went on to enumerate Rosa Keller's "personal qualifications," among them the following:
C) Ability, judgment, and common sense which she uses effectively in promoting the interest of the library.
D) Open-mindedness and objectivity. She has the courage and ability to hold strong convictions yet recognizes different points of view.
E) Vast experience in politics and political connections make her an invaluable asset to the Board.
F) An undying love for books and reading, and a healthy respect for the power and value of the printed word.
G) A consistently demonstrated willingness to give freely of her time working in the best interests of the library.
H) A vast knowledge of the resources of the community, both human and natural.
Rosa Keller did, of course, receive the Modisette award in 1970, though the attendant publicity, hinted at in Betty Edgerton's letter, more than likely was not what she would have chosen for herself. The Modisette award itself is in the tall display case to the left.

The Modisette award capped the first phase of Rosa Keller's career on the Public Library Board of Directors. One year later she embarked on the second phase with her election as chairman of the Board. This page from the official minutes of the Library Board records the passage of leadership from R. Kirk Moyer to Mrs. Keller.

Even before her election to the chair, Mrs. Keller had started to take active part in the affairs of library organizations beyond the Crescent City's limits. According to the Modisette award nomination letter, "she is the first Board member to have attended an ALA (American Library Association) Convention and has attended the past three national conventions." She had also taken a leadership role on the statewide level. This letter from the outgoing chair of the Louisiana Library Trustees Association notes that Rosa Keller's activity in that body was a new departure for the New Orleans library community.

Mrs. Keller's interest in promoting library service and in improving public support for their operations assured her participation in 1973's first Governor's Conference on Libraries. Her letter to a local newspaper writer is interesting both as an overview of that event and as a description of the state's "great" snowfall of 1973. Even someone as cultured and as widely travelled as Rosa Keller appears to have been completely taken by that unexpected meteorological visitation!

When Rosa Keller joined the Board of Directors, the Main Library at Lee Circle still served as the center of the New Orleans Public Library system.
[Louisiana Postcard Collection]

Mrs. Keller and fellow Board members R. Kirk Moyer, Mrs. Thomas J. Lupo, and Ben Toledano at a 1966 meeting.

The New Orleans Public Library Board of Directors in 1967, from left: R. Kirk Moyer, Charles I. Denechaud, William B. Wisdom, Mrs. Moise Dennery, Benjamin C. Toledano, Mrs. Charles Keller, Jr., Capt. Neville Levy, and Mrs. Thomas J. Lupo.

Capt. Neville Levy and Rosa Keller served together on the Board for many years. Capt. Levy was chairman from 1961-1968, the period during which Mrs. Keller "came into her own" as a Board member. In 1972 she supported her old colleague for the Modisette award [image] Later that year she helped Capt. Levy celebrate his 80th birthday along with City Librarian Gene Wright and other NOPL officials.

As chairman, Rosa Keller worked tirelessly to maintain the Library Board as an active participatory body. She reminded truant colleagues of their obligations in a firm but friendly manner. Mrs. Keller also kept Mayor Moon Landrieu apprised of the Board's activities and kept after him to fill vacancies.

A major achievement of Mrs. Keller's term as chairman was the reopening of the Algiers Point branch in 1975. The facility had been closed since suffering extensive damage from Hurricane Betsy ten years before. Rosa Keller is pictured here both as a member of the audience (along with City Planning Director Harold Katner, Mrs. Verna Landrieu, present-day Algiers state representative Jackie Clarkson, and other Algerines interested in the rebirth of a local landmark) and as one of the speakers at the ceremony.

During her six years as Board chairman Rosa Keller started the ball rolling on two key projects that did not bear fruit immediately but which ultimately proved to be of great benefit to the Library. In 1974 she began the process of revitalizing the Friends of the New Orleans Public Library; four years later she and Board member Hester Slocum got together with several Library backers to bring about the reorganization of the Friends into a true support group.

Mrs. Keller also began discussions in 1974 with members of the Latter family for renovations to the branch that Harry Latter had donated almost thirty years earlier. Ten years later the work finally was under way. On June 3, 1985 the Milton H. Latter Memorial Library reopened following more than a year of construction activity. Mrs. Shirley Latter Kaufman gave $150,000 for interior furnishings that helped make Latter a showplace for NOPL and the Friends organization.

In 1953 Rosa Keller became the first woman to be appointed to the Public Library Board. Given her long-fought battle for civil rights, it is no wonder that Wallace Young, the first African-American member, came to the Board while Mrs. Keller was its vice-chairman. Later, as chairman, she brought Clarence Barney and Clarence Jupiter on to the Board. When Urban League director Barney resigned in 1973, Mrs. Keller looked unsuccessfully for a way to "hold his place" on the Board.
[Mayor Moon Landrieu Papers]

Rosa Keller liked to make sure that her Library associates were properly thanked for their efforts in support of the institution. Her thanks to Ruth McCusker for her 1975 hospitality and crawfish etouffe were expressed formally through a board resolution. Mrs. Keller acknowledged her appreciation for the work of the NOPL staff in a thank-you [image] letter to Times-Picayune reporter Art Roane.

Rosa Keller with fellow Board members Wallace Young, William B. Wisdom, Dr. Humberto Valladares, and Paulette Holahan in 1974 shortly after Mayor Landrieu reappointed Young and named Valladares to succeed Clarence Barney.

Mrs. Keller and Wallace Young, her successor as Board chairman, pose together in the Louisiana Division. In the photo below they join City Librarian Gene Wright in trying out NOPL's first public-access microfilm printer.

Shortly after turning the Library Board chairmanship over to Wallace Young on July 28, 1976, Mrs. Keller suffered a pair of personal setbacks. In March 1977 her brother-in-law and long-time colleague on the Board, William B. Wisdom died. Mrs. Keller memorialized him with a donation to the Library for the purchase of books.

At about the same time Mrs. Keller herself suffered a stroke that took her out of commission temporarily. Her note of thanks for the plant sent by the Library suggests a spirit that would not allow her to stay away for long!

As far back as the 1960s Rosa Keller had been making plans for the exterior beautification of the new Main Library building. In this ca. 1968 letter to Herbert Jahncke, chairman of the Parkway and Park Commission, she mentions benches as part of the plan, noting that they "will have to come from other sources." During her last full year on the Library Board Mrs. Keller made her benches a reality by giving the funds needed for their fabrication and installation. She is pictured here with Mayor Landrieu, Gene Wright, and Wallace Young awaiting the start of the ceremonial unveiling of the "Keller Benches" on March 22, 1978.
[Capt. Neville Levy Papers]

Rosa Keller, the Mayor, and Wallace Young were the first New Orleanians to enjoy a seat on the Library's new benches. Each bench was marked by a small plaque on which was engraved the name and service dates of one of the fourteen individuals who served as chairman of the Public Library Board since its creation in 1896.

Her colleagues on the Library Board insisted on honoring Rosa Keller's gift despite her typical protestations against such ceremony.

After twenty-six years of outstanding service to the New Orleans Public Library, Rosa Keller asked Mayor Dutch Morial not to reappoint her to the Board of Directors. Her [Image] letter suggested that the management of the Library be left to younger members of the community was followed by the appointment of Nat Lacour to succeed her. Several months after her departure, the Library Board honored Mrs. Keller at a luncheon meeting held at Commander's Palace where they presented her with a silver bookmark as a retirement gift.
[Mayor Ernest N. Morial Papers]


Although Rosa Keller no longer represents the Library for the Mayor of New Orleans she remains an active user of the Broad Branch and continues to support NOPL in other ways. Those of us who were fortunate enough to be on the Library staff during her Board tenure remember fondly her interest in our affairs and the warmth of her personality. We are proud to mount this small tribute in her honor!


In a 1983 interview, Rosa Keller said, with typical modesty, "I've received so many honors it's absurd. . . . It's funny. I just thought I was being a good Christian." On display in this case are a few of the many richly deserved honors presented to Mrs. Keller over a period of more than forty years. These plaques and statues pay tribute to a lifetime of courageous and dedicated service, and they suggest the depth of respect and gratitude extended by the citizens of New Orleans, and beyond, to a remarkable woman.

Ruth Reedy, Chair of the Modisette Award Committee, presents the 1970 Modisette Award to Rosa Keller. The award itself is at the right of this photograph.

Mrs. Keller with Mayor Landrieu, City Librarian M.E. Wright, and Chairman of the Board of Directors of New Orleans Public Library, Wallace Young. The plaque Chairman Young is holding is at the right of this photograph.

The ceremony shown here is unidentified, but the photograph was probably taken at one of the commencement exercises when Rosa Keller was awarded an honorary degree. She was honored in this way by three local universities over the years: Dillard University in 1980, Loyola University in 1984, and Xavier University in 1988.
[Courtesy of Rosa F. Keller]