Milam Street Trade School, Shreveport, Louisiana

Milam Street Trade School

The Milam Street Trade School opened on April 2, 1939, across from where Booker T. Washington High School is today. The school was actually started as an experiment by Caddo Parish Superintendent of Schools, W. E. W. Jones. It was an effort to provide vocational training for young blacks before they finished high school. Established as a unit of the high school, students had to take at least one year, usually 10th grade, of some type of vocational training offered at the school.

The school was another worthwhile project of the Works Progress Administration (WPA), with a physical plant valued at over $60,000.00. Four frame structures comprised the Vo-Tech school, with the largest building, known as the Administration Building, having eight classrooms, while practical work was done in the Domestic Arts and Manual arts Building. Girls received training in domestic work, such as cooking, art, sewing, and handcraft. Boys received industrial arts training in the Manual Arts Building. The fourth building was for teachers.

Courses taught at the school were beauty culture, home economics, carpentry, shoe repair, rug Mrs. Jonetta B. Smith, Mrs. Elizabeth Romby and weaving, and general domestic arts, including shade-making, mattress-making, horticulture, truck-farming, maid-training, and consumer marketing of poultry, pigeons, and produce. Part of the financial support for school material came from some of the products finished by students, and from the sales of pigeons, poultry and produce from truck farms, as well as from window shades made for the other schools in the city.

Extensive administrative demands necessitated more close supervision at the school. Mr. Albert G. Davis, a native of Lake Providence, Louisiana, and a graduate of Prairie View College in Texas, was appointed the principal of the school. The faculty included Clifton E. Davis and John Martinez, industrial arts and woodworks; Mrs. Jonetta B. Smith, Mrs. Elizabeth Romby and Mrs. E. Douglas, sewing; Walter Compier, shoe repair; Mrs. M. L. Gains and Mrs. Beulah O’Neal, cooking; George Henderson, commercial geography; A. L .Taylor, commercial arithmetic; Mrs. M. I. Boyd and Mrs. I. G.  Jackson, English; and Mrs. Kenneth C. Sartor, beauty culture.

Many high school students, housewives, and even some elementary students attended the trade school, training for jobs available to blacks in Caddo Parish. Tailoring courses, leather crafts, and various other special vocational classes were added. Basketball and football teams were also organized. Many area businessmen received training at the school as veterans of World War II. Two classes were held daily: from 9 A. M. to 12 noon and from 1 to 4 P.m.

Many students were taken out of school to fight as soldiers in World War II. Under the G. I. Bill of Rights, veterans were able to finish school. A special school was opened in Shreveport on March 11, 1946 by the Caddo Parish School Board for Negro Veterans to attend.

The School was called the Special High School for Colored Veterans and was located at the Milam Street Trade School, 2115 Milam Street. Dan L. Smith, who had been instructor of Manual Training at Central Colored High School before being inducted into army, was appointed the principal.

The school opened with an enrollment of thirty students and two teachers, Dan L. Smith and Alvin Taylor (academic instructor). On March 25, shoe repairing and leather craft was added with Walter Compier as the instructor. Sixteen students enrolled in that course. Twelve students enrolled in the carpentry course which started on April 8th under Mr. E.E. Moore. Mr. E. A. Mays, Jr. came to work on April 30th as an additional academic instructor.

The academic section was designed so that a student could complete his high school work within eighteen months; or he could opt to take the general Education Development Test(GED) at any time after completing 8 units. The trade courses required two years for completion.

The school graduated 32 veterans in the first year. It closed in May of 1955.

The only female student to ever attend the school was Miss Elois (sic) Jerry.

The  Blacker the Berry A Black History of Shreveport by Willie Burton, pp. 232-233.