Our stories, stories about African American High Schools in Louisiana, are similar, they are individually unique to where we live, the political, economic, geographic and social environment that engulfed us. Often, we could not control our destiny. We were passive bystanders with a narrative dictated by others.
Our story is one of resilience, of tenacity and in many instances of prayer to God and begging man for a change of heart in our educational aspirations. Patience with deliberate action resulted in an eventual triumph in our quests.
Generally, the template for education for African Americans was closely tied to the only social institution we had, the church. The initial secondary schools were all religious in origin. Rural areas trailed urban areas with primary and intermediate schools associated with churches. Public accommodation for education to African Americans began first in three major urban areas and spread to other less urban areas and finally to the rural areas.
Each school has its own story. We had little money and many struggles. Our struggles varied but nevertheless, our paths were obstructed. Should we tell our story, or should we rely on others who could not imagine what our existence encompassed to tell our story?
Our oral histories should be written. If we fail to write our story we will be relegated to myth and much of the narrative will be distorted in a way that is inconsistent with our reality. Hence, we are the only ones who can and should tell our story and have it written into history.
We should not be ashamed, afraid or secretive about our origins. We were recipients of a boat with gaping holes in its bottom and we had to cross a river. It took courage, tenacity, perseverance and faith. We should harness these qualities and tell our story. This is the reason for the website, http://www.africanamericanhighschoolsinlouisianabefore1970.com . Many of our stories are written and we have many more stories to be written. We anxiously await the stories about schools whose histories were not recorded.
This website, http://www.AfricanAmericanHighSchoolsinLouisianaBefore1970.com was established as an urgent effort to obtain the last information about the African American high school experience during a time when resources were minimal and the need was maximal. This website has an oddly long name , however, the name is emblematic and explanatory about its contents. This name is not an attempt to lessen the efforts of our progeny. It is an effort to let everyone know how we arrived at our current station and to establish a continuity with our past. We earned it.
We have catalogued all of the high schools and presently we are aware of the existence of one hundred-eighty five secondary schools. We have received a great response and we have received very many thanks and much praise for our efforts. There are approximately thirty five high schools from which we cannot get information or we do not know an individual who can lead us to someone or a group who can assist us in obtaining information. We need help from everyone.
C. M. Washington High School was the latest addition to the website. A slight twist was encountered in its naming and it persists until today but at a lesser level from the high school. Most training schools had parish designations in their names. Mrs. Cordelia Matthews Washington was well respected in her community and in local political circles. The school was named in her honor and also the African American community protested so the name could endure into the future. A history of the school and pictures of activities are included to mark Mrs. Washington’s dream for education.
The Morehouse legacy existed for fifty-three years. A memory was compiled to verify its existence, The Tiger 1916-1969.
Valencia High School
Valencia High School was a late arrival to the L. I. A. L. O. family , however, the Vikings made their presence felt. This school existed from 1964 until 1970.
East High School
East High School in Clinton, Louisiana, had a history of accomplishment and they had a style of their own. They share their history with us. Their history is our history.
L. I. A. L. O. Athletes Who Became Professional Athletes
When we think of professional athletes, we all knew many of them. When someone says , today, he comes from a given locality in Louisiana, graduates of African American High Schools in Louisiana before 1970, remember where he or she would have matriculated had history not been reversed. Our athletes represented our schools well. We remember them. Review the list. If anyone was omitted , let us know.
This year marks the 50th Anniversary of the mass closure of the African American high schools in Louisiana. Prior to 1970 there were approximately one hundred eighty-five high schools throughout the state and their classification ranged from single A to triple AAA. Their affiliations extended through the various religious denominations in the beginning to the publicly funded schools near the termination of the era of the African American high school. All has not been lost since 1970. Approximately fifteen historically African American High Schools presently exist.
This year marks the third anniversary of AfricanAmericanHighSchoolsinLouisianaBefore1970.com. This website expanded from an idea to preserve the history of the LIALO to exceeding 30,000 pages of information that would otherwise be found at our local waste disposal sites. We are preserving this information which includes a wide array of sources and types: histories of school’s origin, mascots, alma maters, historical markers, coaches, yearbooks, class histories, newspaper articles, state department records, class roles for entire schools and published books.
A noteworthy effort,History of Central Colored High School, 1917 to 1949, the ten-year effort of Mrs. Gwendolyn Deloris Swinton, was placed on the site under the Central Colored High School banner. The book is a collection of information of this institution that paved the way for African American students in much of Caddo Parish and northwestern Louisiana corridor for thirty years. The time of its existence was short-lived, however, the Phoenix, Booker T. Washington High School rose from the ashes. The old Central Colored High School building stands today as a testament to its legacy. Mrs. Swinton’s book documents how education for the African American high school student was meant to be. There was a dedicated and well-educated faculty and a hungry community striving to succeed in life. The graduates subsequently dispersed throughout the world proud to be from the school and became aspirational leaders in the world community. The youngest graduates are now older than eighty-eight years old and only a few are alive today. We must not forget their experiences and their contributions to our existence. Interestingly, after another twenty years the youngest graduates of an African American high school from the era before 1970 will be eighty-eight years old. There will be few of us alive at this time in the future and we, too, desire to be remembered.
Since September, we haven’t released any blog posts but, we are very busy collecting history and other memoirs from high schools. We collected a variety of year books and did not announce which new schools received updates. Here are the newest high schools for the website:
St. Mary’s Academy – St. Mary’s School was founded December 3, 1867 and is one of the oldest schools in the South. Dedicated by the Sisters of Holy Family, the school’s location changed a few times and expanded from the elementary school. It began late in the nineteenth century as a high school and is active today. We have articles commemorating its anniversaries as well as year books.
St. John High School – St. John’s High School was the first high school for African Americans in Claiborne Parish, located just southeast of Homer, Louisiana. After fires in 1945, 1952 and renovations, its location is the site of a church today. A historical marker serves as a reminder of its original purpose.
Westside High School – Westside High School story began in 1872 as an elementary school and was transformed into a high school over the next century.
Franklin Parish Training School – Follow its educational roots from its opening in 1906 as Winnsboro Colored High School (1906-1921) until its closing in 1969 as Franklin Parish Training School.
Sabine Parish –
Sabine High School – We have memories from Sabine High School, Blue Wave, from the 1940s and 1950s. Browse through a year book.
Greenville Park High School – This school currently exists as a junior high school in Hammond, Louisiana. From 1954-1969 it was a high school. The Hornets’ educational roots began in 1906 as Hammond Colored School.
St. Landry Parish
St. Peter Claver High School – St. Peter Claver High School began in 1950 in response to a population increase in 1939. It was the culmination of work begun under the direction of the Society of the Sacred Heart in 1875.
Jackson High School -The History of Jackson High School covers the beginning of African American educational history in the Jonesboro, Louisiana from 1939 until its closing in 1970.
Holy Rosary Institute – Staffed by the Sisters of Holy Family, Holy Rosary Institute began as a vocational and technical school providing education to commuter and boarding school students. We have year books and historical markers commemorating the school.
Ascension Parish –
Lowery High School – We are interested in receiving the overall history of this Donaldsonville, Louisiana school. Follow some of it’s history through the collection of year books from 1940 to 1969.
Don’t forget about the ever expanding Coaching Pioneers Section in which we have added 10 new coaches over the past 4 months.
Thank you for your contributions over the past 2.5 years. Without them, this site would not be possible.
It has been over 4 months since we last published a posting about the several new postings on the website. It doesn’t mean the that the site has been dormant. We were and are still adding information throughout the whole site. We’ve added more information about each school, and added new schools to the website. If you are a regular visitor to the site, here are some of the new postings you might have missed:
Coaching Pioneers – We have changed the page and are adding new coaches all the time – If you have anyone who should be included, please let us know.
New Schools – The following 17 schools now have their own pages.
The Legacy of the
Rosenwald Fund in Iberville Parish
There were two schools in Iberville Parish who received assistance from the Rosenwald Fund in 1929-1930. Two schools ( Rosedale School and Grosse Tete School) of the five were feeder schools for Thomas A. Levy High School which was constructed in 1952. The other two schools became Iberville Parish Training School and, later, Iberville High School. They received funds in 1923-1924 (primary and intermediate school) and in 1929-1930 secondary school.
The Rosedale School costed $2,500.00 with $300.00 derived from African Americans, $700.00 from whites, $1,000.00 public funds. The Rosenwald Fund contributed $500.00. The school was a two- teacher type wooden frame building on two acres in Rosedale, Louisiana. When Thomas A. Levy High School was opened in 1952 the building was re-purposed as the cafeteria. The structure was 100 feet long and 60 feet wide suspended upon concrete pillars 18 inches off the ground. The cafeteria was painted pastel green with white- trimmed windows. Four windows were on the front of the building with two windows overlooking the porch which extended over half of the front. The other two windows were over the front wall to the right of the porch. Six windows illuminated each side of the building.
A 60-foot concrete causeway was
laid to connect the cafeteria to the main school. This walkway served as a
covered area for student lines. The students’
line entered on the left through
a door on the porch. On entering the building there were white wooden ceilings
with fluorescent lights extending from a 20- foot ceiling. The walls were
pastel green. There were six rows of 10 tables extending across the width of
the building extending from the front to the rear of the cafeteria. The kitchen
was in the rear third of the building. The student line processed on the left
side of the cafeteria through a door to the serving line and out through a
second door in the middle of the cafeteria.
In 1967 a new red- brick cafeteria
was constructed upon the identical area where the old cafeteria stood. This
time the building was repurposed as a band room. There were modifications, an
elevated stage was constructed near the front of the building. This arrangement
lasted until December 1969 when integration occurred.
The Plaquemine School was constructed in 1923- 1924. This school had a three- teacher plan. The total cost was $3,900.00. African Americans ($2,350.00), Public funds ($1,050.00) and Rosenwald Fund ($500.00).
In the 1929-1930 Iberville Parish Training School was established in Plaquemine, Louisiana. This is the forerunner for Iberville High School. This school building was a two-story, wood framed, eight teacher -type, situated upon six acres. The total cost was $24,000.00. African Americans ($9,000.00), Public ($12,000.00), and the Rosenwald Fund ($3,000.00).
The Rosenwald Fund contributed directly to establishment of Iberville Parish Training School whereas Thomas A. Levy High School was an indirect recipient for primary and intermediate education at two of the five sites that merged to form the school. A remnant of the Rosenwald Fund activity, the cafeteria, later became the band room, remained an integral part of Thomas A. Levy High School and persisted until the school closed. Since Thomas A. Levy High School was a direct extension of the Rosedale School and since another feeder school, Grosse Tete School, received Rosenwald Funds a strong argument can be made for Thomas A. Levy High School to be included as a Rosenwald Fund school..
Two years prior to building these schools in Rosedale and Gross Tete, the “1927 Flood” inundated twenty Louisiana parishes. African Americans persevered despite great socioeconomic odds against their survival. To place the situation of African Americans in the correct perspective, 1929 was the year of the “Great Stock Market Crash”. Manual labor in 1929 paid $ 0.31 per hour. This tenacity when faced with adversity was the norm. To convert the African American effort in supporting schools into current terms, the African American population in the towns of Rosedale, Louisiana and Grosse Tete, Louisiana would have to contribute $5,000.00, each, in today’s dollars. However, the effort was greater at that time since the money was raised from largely manual labor salaried population. This is commendable. The Plaquemine group’s effort was equal to $132,000.00 in 2018 dollars.