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?
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.
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:
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.
Names of African
American High Schools in Louisiana
Prior to the Civil War and in the immediate years following the war, there was no infrastructure for African American education, except, the church. The initial education effort for African American primary schools was privately funded by African Americans. The Slater Fundwas established for African Americans in 1882. The Rosenwald Fundwas established in 1912 establishing rural African American schools. The Jeanes Fund was established in 1907 to aid community, county and rural schools. The first schools established were elementary schools and gradually additional grades were added as the perceived need and funding arose.
Initial public funds for education were for white students and there was a reluctance to share funds for African American education. Besides there was a well-conceived idea that Negroes did not need a formal education for manual labor. Education evolved over the years; initial school funding was by the freed slaves and, later, by philanthropic donations. The state reluctantly provided funds though at an unequal pace to white schools resulting in inferior equipment and inadequate supplies to black schools. The U.S. Supreme Court decision, Plessy vs. Ferguson, 1896, upheld this behavior. This extended into the mid-1950’s when the U. S. Supreme Court reversed it’s decision withBrown vs The Topeka Board of Educationdecision, 1954, changed the paradigm and sixteen years later the schools were largely closed with a few exceptions, less than fifteen schools surviving (down from over two hundred schools in 1970). African American high schools were not the only victims of closure, some legacy white institutions were closed after integration in the early 21st century due to consolidation of resources..
Just as funding for schools evolved over the years, the names of schools changed, with time to reflect this pattern. Earlier schools were named by the church or community from which they emanated. The church-school expanded into the one-room school. These church-schools may have retained their names. As private funding became available, the donors fund name was added to the name. As public funding came available in the early twentieth century, a pattern of naming from the parish ward, parish, religious icons, religious benefactors and private benefactors began to appear. As African American educators became more abundant and their lifeworks became synonymous to the school, some schools were named after these prominent educators. Examples of these educators are W. O. Boston, Eula D. Britton, Cordelia M. Washington and Hattie B. Watts. Some schools had dual and triple origins. Jonas Henderson and H. C. Ross were educators and ministers. The very first publicly funded high school in Louisiana was named after a president (William McKinley) in 1916. The second high school in Louisiana (1st in New Orleans) was named after a philanthropist (John McDonogh) in 1917. The third high school was simply named generically as their white counterpart with the addition of Colored so there would not be any confusion (Central Colored High School) in 1918.
There was a distinction of high schools in the late nineteenth century and the early to mid-1950’s in Louisiana. Some schools were considered normal because they taught the standards for teaching. There was a severe shortage of African American teachers and schools. There was also a widely held opinion in many political circles that African Americans did not need an education to do manual tasks. This had two major effects. The school year was inadequate and the level of the school in many instances was limited to elementary, and sometimes, intermediate levels. High school was available in limited arenas (major cities) after 1916. Rural students had to find boarding in a city with relatives or other parties to receive a high school education. Some bright educators in outlying areas seized the moment to advance their peoples’ education by encouraging investment in their education. This led to a proliferation of schools with “Training School” added to its name. A training school taught mechanics, agriculture, home economics and other skills needed to serve the majority population. Some of these schools did, however, teach higher math and other courses necessary to enter college.
Prior to World War II, nearly sixty African American high schools existed. Many schools were “Training Schools” or “Parish Schools”. Three of the schools were university related, Southern Laboratory School, Grambling Preparatory School and Xavier Preparatory School. Near the 1950’s a proliferation of schools and a pattern of name changes appeared. Many Schools removed the “Training School” and racial connotations from their names. Other schools used pertinent individuals in the African American community as their namesake. Some of these individuals were Booker T. Washington, Joseph S. Clark, Mary McLeod Bethune, Charles P. Adams, George Washington Carver, Carter G. Woodson, Paul Lawrence Dunbar, Charles Drew and Phyllis Wheatley. There were over one hundred-seventy African American high schools in 1970 when integration occurred.
African American high school names were derived from a wide variety of sources. Schools were named after prominent citizens, highly regarded ministers in the African American communities, African American University Presidents, well known African American scientists, physicians, towns, parishes, educators, African American authors, local plantations, religious themes, consolidation themes, local areas, streets, United States Presidents, principals, natural disasters, parish wards, philanthropists (both national and local), African American Universities, local industrial and agricultural products, school superintendents, African American female poets and educators. School names were a source of pride and names were chosen as a part of role modeling.
Lists of high schools and category from which their name was chosen:
The name of the school formed the framework for the aspirations of the individual communities from which the high school sprang. The high school mascot was a source of pride and students would readily say they were a Bulldog, Lion, Hornet, etc. Students would proudly shout out their school mascot as the “Battle Cry” before, during and following competitive athletic and academic events.
Mascots were as diverse as the human imagination. Space Explorers, ferocious animals such as Lions, Tigers, Bears, Cougars, and Panthers were very popular. Wild Hogs, Badgers, Gophers, Wildcats, Reptiles, Rattlers, and Cobras were chosen as fierce mascots. Birds of prey (Eagles, Falcons, and Hawks) were well represented. Imaginary birds such as the Firebird made their appearance. Other colorful imaginary creatures like Dragons, Devils, and Demons, were chosen as school mascots. Domestic animals such as Broncos, Rams, Bulldogs, Blood Hounds and War Horses were a source of pride. Buccaneers and pirates added to the diversity of mascot choices. Lightning Streaks, and Green Hornets were just as imaginary and fearsome. Insects such as Yellow Jackets and Hornets were widely dispersed across the state. Marine creatures (Sharks) made an appearance as a high school mascot. Natural phenomena like Blue Waves were chosen, too. One school’s mascot (Hurricanes) was derived from a natural disaster in Louisiana in 1957. Ancient history was not forgotten as Trojans and Spartans were chosen as mascots. The Middle Ages were represented with Knights and Crusaders. Finally, the meekest of mascots (The Dove) a symbol of peace appeared. The Dove is symbolically the final word for the time period and sums the demise of African American high schools and its associated negative impact upon the African American communities. Peace.