History of the Black Schools in the South

In 1919, the Rosenwald School for African Americans was constructed. It was largely funded by the Julius Rosenwald Fund.

This fund came to fruition after the 1906 financial reorganization of Sears, Roebuck and Company; when the Chicago philanthropist, Julius Rosenwald, president of Sears, became friends with a Goldman Sachs’s senior partner, Paul J. Sachs. The two would discuss America’s social situation, agreeing that the plight of African Americans was the most serious in the United States. Aware of the sad state of education among African Americans in the rural South, Sachs introduced Rosenwald to two prominent educators and proponents of African American education, William H. Baldwin and Booker T. Washington. Rosenwald and Washington quickly became associates.

Dr. Washington, who was an ex-slave and famed educator, encouraged Rosenwald, as he had many others, to address the poor state of education of African Americans in the United States.

In 1912, the vision of this unlikely partnership began to materialize, when Rosenwald provided funds for the development of several small schools in rural Alabama. Later, in 1917, Julius and his family established the Rosenwald fund for the “well-being of mankind”. Using state-of- the- art architecture plans designed by professors at Tuskegee Institute, the Fund spent more than four million dollars and provided seed grants for the construction of more than 5,300 buildings, which included 4,977 schools, 217 teachers  homes, and 163 shop buildings in 15 states, from Maryland to Texas.

The Rosenwald Fund used a system of matching grants – meaning, that if a rural black community could scrape together a contribution, and if the white school board would agree to operate the facility, Rosenwald would contribute cash-usually about one-fifth of the total project. Black communities raised more than $4.7 million to aid in construction. By 1932, the facilities could accommodate one-third of all African American children in Sothern schools. A total of 435 schools were built in Louisiana.

History of the Black Schools in DeQuincy, Louisiana

Information obtained on the history of schools for”Colored “ children in DeQuincy indicates that the first school began at Evergreen Baptist Church some time in 1917. The first teachers were (no more than one at a time), Mrs. Beatrice Lemons and Mrs. Williams, both from New Orleans, and Mrs. Sadie Chiser.

January 7, 1919   Patrons asked for a school building for Negro (Black) students. Mr. Briscoe was instrumental in obtaining land for this purpose (the present Eldridge Homestead).

January 11, 1919   Plans were accepted for one and two room buildings. One building was moved to the land site from Houston River. In the 1950’s and 1960’s students affectionately called this building “The Sugar Shack”. A second building was moved to the land site from Sulphur, Louisiana. The third building was constructed on site.

June 7, 1921   The Rosenwald Fund was used to rebuild the school after it was destroyed by a storm on August 6, 1918. The school was named Rosenwald Colored School in honor of the philanthropist, Julius Rosenwald. Many other Black schools in the state of Louisiana were built from this fund and were so named.

August 7, 1921      School was held in the Bethel AME Church, while the first school was rebuilt after it’s destruction by the storm. Mrs. Jenkins was the teacher.

1925-1940 Faculty and Principals

Mrs. Indy Tanner          Mrs. Dunham          Mrs. Zellah Whitt              Mrs. Freeman       Mrs. Mae Reed

Mr. Fuster Scott

Hattie Price -First grade                 Edith Miller- Second and Third Grade

Ellen Miller- Fourth and Fifth Grade           Velma Smith- Sixth and Seventh Grade

James Smith- Eighth and Ninth Grade            H. C. Williams – Principal

Augustine Armstead- Principal (last principal at the Rosenwald School site before the move to the Grand Avenue School site)

August 2, 1949       A bond election of $200,000.00 was passed for additional school buildings. Appropriations from this bond election were for a new colored school. The new “brick” school was built on Grand Avenue at a cost of $56,827.  DeQuincy Colored School, as it was called, was soon ready for classroom activities for a combined high school and elementary school under the principalship of Mr. Andrew Armstrong.

June 6, 1950        The wooden building from the Rosenwald site were moved behind the new “brick” building.

June 1, 1953 The first students to attain a high school diploma were: Barbara Gillespie, Carolyn Patillo, Joan Eva Pullard, Dorothy Richard and Evelyn J. Simmons.

Mr. Armstrong’s successor was Mr. Charles Coney. Mr. Coney held the reign of principalship from 1955 through the integration of schools in DeQuincy in 1970. While on sabbatical leave on two occasions, Mr. Cindy’s position was assumed by Mr. Blount and Mr. Booty, respectively. When Grand Avenue School became Dequincy Middle School, Mr. Comey remained principal until 1980.

DeQuincy became well known through DeQuincy Colored School and Grand Avenue High School students excelling in academics (L.I.A.L.A.), sports and band.

April 2, 1957        Dequincy Colored School officially became Grand Avenue High School. The name change was suggested by Mr. Comey.

July 21, 1970         A sad day for the students of Grand Avenue High School, it’s alumni and community. With the arrival of integration, the school was transformed into Dequincy Middle School. Not only was the student makeup changed, but the BLUE and GOLD colors that were cherished – with the school, were erased.

February 23, 1990     The doors of the school were closed, a new middle school was ready for occupancy at a new location across town, on the other side of the railroad tracks.