This Day in History

June 11, 2002: African American Residents in Louisiana Win Their Fight Against Shell Oil

Time Periods: 2001-
Themes: African American, Climate Justice, Environment

Margie Richard, founder of CCN and environmental activist, stands with a photo of her sister Naomi, who died at 43.

On June 11, 2002, African American residents of Diamond, Louisiana won their fight with Shell Oil to pay for the relocation of residents due to hazardous environmental and health conditions caused by the company’s actions in the area.

In the 1950s, Shell had built a chemical plant in the small, predominantly African American community. In 1989, Margie Richard, a Black resident of Diamond, founded Concerned Citizens of Norco (CCN) to draw attention to the environmental injustice inflicted on her community — residents were getting sick, and two were even killed in a deadly plant explosion.

After residents Leroy Johnson and Helen Washington were killed, Richard began to sleep in her clothes in case she had to escape another explosion in the middle of the night. Over the course of the next 14 years, Richard and the CCN would organize rallies, challenge Shell in court, and testify before the United Nations and the U.S. Congress. In June 2002, CCN won their demand that Shell pay for the relocation of residents given the harm caused by the company’s chemical plant.

Learn more about Margie Richard and CCN at the Global Nonviolent Action Database.

Read more about teaching environmental racism in the classroom in “The Big Red Dot of Environmental Racism” (see below) by Alma Anderson McDonald. Linda Christensen offers ways to teach about these stories with students.