These are events that had a major impact on the history of the African American Schools in Louisiana before 1970. Some events pertain to a specific school. Other events are representative of events that occurred throughout the whole state. Videos and other media tell the story of African American High Schools in Louisiana.
Some of these high schools were the only way for African Americans to to receive a high school education their parish. These high schools are historical landmarks at the local level. These are their entries in the Department of Interiors’ National Register of Historic Places.
Map and Legend of Claiborne Parish Schools 1945-1946
The yam is another name for a sweet potato. The Yambilee Festival was instituted to encourage consumption of the yam. The Yamba Parade was part of this festival. The Yamba Parade became the show piece of the Yambilee Festival. The Yambilee Festival was the brainchild of Opelousas businessman, J. W. Low in 1946.The festival was fun, frolic, and the promotion of the sweet potato in the United States. The festival was held annually in October and thousands of people traveled to Opelousas, Louisiana to see and partake in the fun and frolic. In 1950 Miss America (Miss Yolanda Betbeze) participated in the celebration and posed for pictures with the Yamba King and Queen. J. F. Kennedy made his visit to Opelousas to view the Yambilee Festival in 1956.
The Black community’s contribution to the festival was the Yamba Parade and it was compared to the Zulu Parade in New Orleans. At this place and time in Opelousas, segregation was the way of life for the races.
The Yambilee festivities were centered around the queen contest and the Yamba Parade. The queen contestant eligibility rules required each young lady had to be single, between the ages of 16 and 22 years and from the tenth grade through college. Selection was based up the level of poise, intelligence, personality, beauty and physique. Schools (LIALO) clubs, organizations and businesses were invited to sponsor contestants. Each parade had a theme and at least ten floats. The floats were decorated using different variations of the theme. Bands and marching groups from across parish and state came to strut their stuff. The Southern University Band and ROTC corps participated through many years of the parade.
As you scroll through Yamba pages, read and try to understand what a great accomplishment it was to put on this extravaganza. It was a true sense of community involvement for pride and little compensation for the amount of work.
The Yamba Parade began in October, 1946 and the last Yamba Parade was in October, 1963.