African American High Schools in Louisiana Before 1970

The Invisible African American High Schools


Prior to 1970 the Louisiana secondary education system was dichotomized, African American and Caucasian, as dictated by the United States Supreme Court decision Plessy v. Ferguson,1896. After sixty years another United States Supreme Court decision, Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 1954, eliminated this dual system of education. Before the United States Supreme Court involvement and during this highly contested period in American History, African Americans did not idly stand waiting for handouts for education. A progressive minded generation of individuals rose to the task of securing the educational objectives of the freed African Americans. Diversity, as well, was the rule since women were equally involved in education and establishing schools. The initial stockholders in African American education were our mothers, fathers, uncles, aunts, grandparents, churches, businesses and well-wishers.

When we examine our histories, there were more similarities than differences along the paths to establishing and maintaining our schools. Community primary schools sprang forth and in due time these schools merged to form the high schools, that became the backbone of community activities. Our similar paths and the competitive spirits bred, within and among the various communities, through these schools became the heritage of these schools.

Competition between schools was organized through the Louisiana Interscholastic Athletic and Literary Organization (LIALO), which was established in 1928. This organization commandeered the formative years of African American education in Louisiana during this period. Significant strides were made in education and extracurricular activity under the structure generated by the LIALO. These activities were expansive, with competitions:science, math, language, typing, accounting, home economics, industrial arts, oratory, band, choir, solo vocal, solo instrument, 4-H Club , Bayou Boys State and Upward Bound. Athletic activities spanned all major sports, football, basketball, baseball, track, tennis and volleyball.

Today, most of the high school buildings were destroyed, some lay in ruins, some were partially saved and others were recognized as historic sites. However, bricks, mortar, wood and shingles were not the essence of the African American high school experience during this time. The African American high school was formed from the blood, sweat, and tears of our ancestors. The legacy of the African American high school rests in our DNA.

In 1970, sixteen years after the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, the high schools in Louisiana were integrated and the LIALO no longer existed. Approximately fifteen of the historically African American schools maintained their high school designations into the twenty-first century, the majority were demoted, disbanded, destroyed or left in ruins. This site memorializes the accomplishments of our schools emboldened by fierce competition to survive and prosper coupled with the realization that we cannot save one of them without saving all of them. Our heritage is a tribute to our schools, students, the founders, our principals, teachers, parents, boosters, communities and their political situations.

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