Principal Jesse Bilberry was a student at Union Parish Training School who realized a very successful career as an administrator at Tensas Rosenwald High School. He idolized his father and followed in his footsteps as a principal. In a two-part interview series, Principal Bilberry discusses his life, his path toward molding the character and the intellect of young African Americans who became productive citizens of the United States. These former students regularly meet in various cities throughout the United States as alumni of Tensas Rosenwald High School. This proud tradition is exemplary of gratitude to a legendary figure in their lives, Principal Jessie Bilberry.
The Panther 1968
Forty years of progress after their initial year book, the McKinley Senior High School Panthers headlined, again. In the “Panther” 1968 edition, the Panthers’ prowess was demonstrated by their excellence in basketball as L. I. A. L. O. Champions in 1967. Together, the L.I.A.L.O. Championships in Track and Field and basketball resided in south Baton Rouge in 1967. A broad range of clubs was available for student involvement in school activities. Administrative, faculty and student pictures are available to summon memories of a prior era in McKinley’s existence. The “Big M” as they often refer to themselves was on the prowl.
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.
The school mascots are listed below.
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.
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.
Mossville High School had its early beginnings with the Rosenwald fund. The Pirates were true to their creed. They excelled in all endeavors, scholastic and athletic. The school met the same fate as most of the African American high schools. However, the Mossville community was decimated by technological progress. We mourn the loss of the Mossville community and we joyously remember the Pirates of Mossville High School.
Second Ward High School, nestled on the western bank of the Mississippi River in St. John the Baptist Parish was isolated by the river and by its agrarian roots. Fortunately, a young World War II veteran who served in all theaters of the war, Africa, Europe and Pacific, was chosen to engineer a high school in Edgard, Louisiana. Drawing from positive prior education experiences from his old high school, he patterned the school after a very successful secondary high school experience he had at McDonogh 35 in New Orleans, Louisiana. His success was assured , however, “in-fighting” and “ white-flight “ caused him to become a casualty as integration was ushered onto the west bank. Both, he and Second Ward High School were replaced in the struggle for significance. His efforts in both war and peace should not be forgotten or underappreciated by all Americans. Please see the significant notes section for his eye-opening interview.