The McKinley High School Alumni Center is a significant contribution to the past history of African American high school history and the present history of the African American high school experience. The staff of the Alumni Center was gracious in allowing the first video tour of The McKinley Senior High School Museum. These artifacts are emblematic of the times. Melvin Mitchell narrates a visit to the museum with a brief history of McKinley Senior High School. He tells of the importance of community involvement in recovery from a cataclysmic fire resulting in destruction of the school and the phoenix-like rebirth of one of the oldest school school buildings in African American high school history. The website presents: McKinley Senior High School Museum.
Formal education is an essential element for active participation in society. When this instrument was denied or deprived by underfunding and was administered in unequal allotments to different groups, education became weaponized.
This website is a testament to the weaponization of education on a multicentury time scale. Prior to emancipation, there was a prohibition to teaching African Americans formal education. After emancipation the infrastructure for any social or educational achievement sporadically existed and the general attitude of the empowered was “Why should they be educated? What will they do with it?” Any effort to change agricultural/domestic platform was resisted. The religious denominations were quick to the charge of self-help. Education for the masses of African Americans, finally became acceptable at the turn of the twentieth century. Under the guise of equality, a separate but equal mantra with an eyewink was instituted. The public school system finally was embraced for the masses of African Americans but on an unequal footing.
The scheme of equality did not exist and a dual education system continued. A challenge to the equal access to education mounted, training schools flourished after the “Great Depression” until the mid-twentieth century. Approaching the mid-century a Topeka, Kansas, United States Supreme Court decision was greeted with a massive construction effort to feign equality. This effort was futile. Sixteen years later, deliberate action was realized so schools became united so there could be equal educational opportunities for all. Many issues exist today that prevent the equal distribution of education. Just as we see advancement in education today, we should also think, what would have happened if education had not been weaponized by denying a segment of the population equal access? What would have happened if education had not been weaponized?
Who Will Tell Our Story
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.
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.
Morehouse High School
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.
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:
New Schools – The following 17 schools now have their own pages.
Rhymes High School – Central Memorial High School (Bogalusa, LA) – George Washington Carver High School/ Beauregard Parish Training School (DeRidder, LA) – Redmond Spikes High School – Cypress Grove High School – St. John School/Claiborne Parish Training School, St. John Community-Claiborne Parish – Grand Avenue High School – Wesley Ray High School – Washington Parish High School – George Washington Carver High School (Kinder, LA) – Scotlandville Senior High School – Mayfield High School – George Washington Carver High School (Sunset, LA) – John S. Slocum High School – Cordelia M. Washington High School – Morehouse High School – Peabody High School
Check the website for more updates. If you graduated from the schools listed above, LOOK FOR YOUR NAME!!! You and your classmates should be listed.
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.
Northern DeSoto Parish was united by a group of church-communities: Antioch, Bethel, Canaan, Faltine, Friendship, Holly, Morning Star, Mt. Mariah, Mt. Zion, Providence, St. Mark, St. Mission and St. Rest. Land used to grow crops was converted to a different crop, young minds. Fifteen acres of farm land became a focal point for African American scholarship. The history of its students and their accomplishments mirror those of their peers who matriculated in schools throughout Louisiana. The Eagles soared from 1953 until 1988.
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.