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Black History

Black History Month:

NEW ORLEANS DATA NEWS WEEKLY — Again, we are in the month of February which is Black History Month, where the nation observes and celebrates the achievements of African-Americans.

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By Data News Staff

Again, we are in the month of February which is Black History Month, where the nation observes and celebrates the achievements of African-Americans.

Data News Weekly, in our role as The People’s Paper in Commemoration with of Black History Month, is doing a 4-part series on the history and legacy of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU’s) in New Orleans and the State of Louisiana.

Our 4-Part Series focus on the Southern University System, Xavier University and Dillard University. It will highlight the schools, their rich history, educations they offer distinguished graduates and their impact on the community of New Orleans and the nation.

We believe that spotlighting these beacons on Black Excellence is important in an age where the relevance of these great institutions is of pressing importance. They have been and are where many movements of African-American uplift have taken place. Additionally, they have given opportunities to countless African-Americans to receive quality educations and to be able to compete and be successful in many fields of endeavor.

This is but a snapshot of our series:

Southern University of Louisiana

What began as a dream more than 136 years ago is today a living legacy of determination, commitment, and success. The Southern University and A&M College System is the only Historically Black University System in the United States.

Southern University is a Historically Black University with a main campus located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Originally founded in 1880 in New Orleans as Southern University in New Orleans, it began its mission of providing post-secondary education for African-Americans with 12 students and 5 faculty members. In 1890 the school’s name was changed to Southern University, and in 1892 it was recognized as a land grant college. In 1912 the school awarded its first baccalaureate degree, and in 1914 the campus was moved to the State Capitol in Baton Rouge.

The Southern University System also includes another four-year campus in New Orleans, a two-year campus in Shreveport, and a law school in Baton Rouge. The four campuses were united as a system in 1975 by the state legislature, creating the largest Historically Black University in the United States.

Xavier University of Louisiana

Over its nine-decade history Xavier University is recognized as a national leader in the sciences and the liberal arts. It also carries the distinction as being the only Historically Black and Catholic University in the United States.

In a survey of students conducted for The Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education College Rankings, based on students’ opinions on how well their college or university is preparing them for their career, Xavier received the highest score of any school in the South – in fact, it received the highest score of any of the more than 1,000 schools that were included in the 2017 WSJ/THE rankings.

• Ranked #1 in the nation in awarding bachelor’s degrees to African-American students in the biological and biomedical sciences, the physical sciences, and physics.

• Ranked #1 in the nation in the number of African-American graduates who go on to complete medical school.

• Among the nation’s top four colleges of pharmacy in graduating African-Americans with Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm D) degrees.

• Ranked#3 in the nation in the number of African-American graduates who go on to earn a Ph.D. in science and engineering disciplines.

• The Department of Physics is #1 in the nation for awarding African-Americans baccalaureate degrees in physics and the physical sciences, according to the latest report from the American Institute of Physics (AIP). Xavier is consistently ranked by the American Chemical Society as one of the top 25 universities in the nation in awarding bachelor’s degrees in chemistry.

• U. S News “Best Colleges” Guide 2018 rates Xavier as the #1 “best value” among southern regional colleges and universities. The same report ranked Xavier No. 5 spot among 70 Historically Black Colleges and Universities and No. 25 among 140 schools in its grouping of the Best Regional Colleges – South. Schools are considered Regional Universities if they offer a full range of undergraduate programs and some master’s programs but few doctoral programs.

• College Consensus, a unique college ratings website that aggregates publisher rankings and student reviews, ranks Xavier as the nation’s #2 HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) in its newly released publication, Best HBCUs for 2018. It also ranks Xavier as #3 among all Louisiana colleges.

Dillard University

Celebrating its 150th Anniversary this year Dillard University has a rich heritage that will be on full display this year as they commemorate a century and a half of Black Excellence in Education. This is a short history of the early years of Dillard University.

In 1869, with support from the American Missionary Association of the Congregational Church (now the United Church of Christ) and the Freedmen’s Aid Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church (now the United Methodist Church), Straight University and the Union Normal School were founded. They were subsequently renamed Straight College and New Orleans University, respectively. Gilbert Academy, a secondary school, was a unit of New Orleans University.

In 1889, New Orleans University opened a medical department, including a school of pharmacy and a school of nursing. The medical department was named Flint Medical College and the affiliated facility was named the Sarah Goodridge Hospital and Nurse Training School. The medical college was discontinued in 1911, but the hospital, including the nursing school, was continued under the name Flint-Goodridge Hospital. Straight College operated a law department from 1874 to 1886.

In 1935, New Orleans University and Straight College merged to form Dillard University. The trustees of the new university called for the implementation of a co-educational, interracial school, serving a predominantly African-American student body adhering to Christian principles and values. The university was named in honor of James Hardy Dillard, a distinguished academician dedicated to educating African-Americans.

Dillard trustees elected to continue the work of the hospital but not that of Gilbert Academy. The latter continued operation as a separate institution under the sponsorship of the Board of Education of the Methodist Church until 1949. The university operated Flint-Goodridge Hospital of Dillard University from 1932 until 1983.

Will W. Alexander was chosen to be the acting president of Dillard University. He served from 1935 to 1936. At the time of his appointment, he was Director of the Commission on Interracial Cooperation (CIC), which actively campaigned against lynching and conducted research studies of issues pertaining to “Negro Welfare” and other Southern “problems.”

We at Data News Weekly look forward to bringing you this series on HBCU’s in Louisiana in the Month of February as we celebrate Black History Month.

This article originally appeared in the New Orleans Data News Weekly

Black History

Alexandre Dumas: The French Author of ‘The Three Musketeers’

Alexandre Dumas wrote plays, both comedies and dramas. Scholars describe his writing as having a “heavy emphasis on plot; his primary skill as a writer consisted of his capacity to imagine and execute tales of breathtaking adventures that cause the reader to experience feelings of excitement.”

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Alexandre Dumas.Wikipedia.org image.
Alexandre Dumas.Wikipedia.org image.

By Tamara Shiloh

Best known for having penned the historical adventure novels “The Three Musketeers” (1844) and “The Count of Monte Cristo,” (1846) Alexandre Dumas (1802–1870) established himself as one of the most popular and prolific authors in France.

He wrote essays, short stories, volumes of romantic novels, plays, and travelogues, many having been translated into more than 100 languages and adapted for numerous films. But Dumas’ own story begins with his father, Thomas-Alexandre Davy de la Pailleterie.

Thomas-Alexandre adopted the Dumas name from his Haitian grandmother. He did so just prior to enlisting in Napoleon Bonaparte’s army. He rose to the rank of general, the highest rank of any Black man in a European army. He would separate from the military after clashing with Bonaparte over his Egyptian Campaign.

The elder Dumas left Egypt in 1799 traveling on what was known to be an unsound vessel. The ship’s troubles forced it to put aground in Naples, a city in southern Italy. There Thomas-Alexandre Dumas was arrested, thrown into a dungeon, and held for two years.

After his release, he returned to France. The following year, Alexandre was born. Thomas-Alexandre died when his son was four.

Dumas’ mother, Marie Louise Labouret, took on several jobs to ensure that her son was educated. He attended Abbé Grégoire’s school, but later quit to take a job assisting a local notary.

He held such a great interest in reading and books that he relocated to Paris at age 20 to immerse himself in literature. There he met the duc d’Orléans (later named King Louis Philippe) and began working for him as a scribe. It was then that Dumas dreamed of publishing his own works.

He wrote plays, both comedies and dramas. Scholars describe his writing as having a “heavy emphasis on plot; his primary skill as a writer consisted of his capacity to imagine and execute tales of breathtaking adventures that cause the reader to experience feelings of excitement.”

Dumas’ style is often compared to that of his contemporary and rival Victor Hugo.

It is estimated that all his published writings, if placed in one document, would span about 100,000 pages.

Dumas did well financially, but his spending rivaled his earnings. He spent much of his life in debt because of his extravagant lifestyle. He built a home in the country himself (now a museum), but after two years of lavish living, financial difficulties forced him to sell it. Another downfall was that he kept several mistresses.

Dumas married actress Ida Ferrier (1840) yet continued to have relationships with other women. According to scholar Claude Schopp, Dumas entertained about 40 women and fathered at least four children outside of the marriage.

To escape creditors, Dumas fled to Belgium, then to Russia. Still, he published his work, including travel books on Russia. He continued to take on mistresses, including much younger women in his old age. He remained married to Ferrier until his death in 1870.

Suggested reading: “Alexandre Dumas: Genius of Life,” by Claude Schopp.

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Black History

Fort Mose: The First Free Black Settlement

Fort Mose was the first free Black settlement in what is now the United States, and the only one known to have been sponsored by a European colonial government. Two Fort Mose sites eventually existed: one occupied by the Spanish (1737–1740) and the other by Blacks (1752–1763). Although living there was peaceful, the settlement was not immune to violent opposition.

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Fort Mose as it may have appeared in the 1700s. PBChistoryonline.org photo.
Fort Mose as it may have appeared in the 1700s. PBChistoryonline.org photo.Fort Mose as it may have appeared in the 1700s. PBChistoryonline.org photo.

By Tamara Shiloh

During the 18th century, Florida had become a haven for colonial South Carolina’s fugitive slaves. This was a result of the competition between Spain and Britain. Spain held a flexible attitude toward slaves and Black freedmen and thus encouraged British-owned slaves to escape to Florida. Such a move would inevitably destabilize British colonization in the north.

Runaway slaves crossed swamps and forestlands on foot. Help provided by Native Americans along the way created the first Underground Railroad. Parts of the journey were treacherous, and many did not survive. Those who reached St. Augustine, Fla., were granted asylum by the Spanish government: freedom in exchange for converting to Catholicism. Male slaves served a term of military service.

The first group seeking these freedoms arrived in 1687: eight men, two women, and a three-year-old child. By 1738, the numbers increased to more than 100. That’s when the fortified town of Gracia Real de Santa Teresa de Mose (Fort Mose) was constructed on St. Augustine’s northernmost border. (A fortified town is one with strong defenses, usually a massive wall structure and inner citadels or strongholds.)

Fort Mose was the first free Black settlement in what is now the United States, and the only one known to have been sponsored by a European colonial government. Two Fort Mose sites eventually existed: one occupied by the Spanish (1737–1740) and the other by Blacks (1752–1763). Although living there was peaceful, the settlement was not immune to violent opposition.

A war broke out between England and Spain (The War of Jenkins’ Ear: 1740–1750). Citizens of St. Augustine and Fort Mose had suddenly found themselves involved in a conflict spanning three continents. This action of war was The Battle of Fort Mose (then dubbed Bloody Mose or Bloody Moosa).

The English employed thousands of soldiers and dozens of ships to destroy St. Augustine. All runaway slaves were to be returned to their former owners. A blockade was set up and the city was bombarded for 27 consecutive days. Those protecting St. Augustine and Fort Mose were hopelessly outnumbered. But that did not stop a group of Blacks, whites, and Native Americans from pulling together and fighting back.

Capt. Francisco Menéndez, a formerly enslaved African, led Fort Mose’s free Black militia in protecting St. Augustine. They lost the fort briefly but were able to recapture it, holding back English forces. In 1763, Spain ceded all of La Florida to England (Treaty of Paris). The citizens of Fort Mose once again faced enslavement. To maintain their freedom, they abandoned the fort for safety in Havana, Cuba, then a colony of Spain.

Fort Mose was demolished by the British during the War of 1812. As the years passed, the land was swallowed by marsh; the important legacy of its community was forgotten.

But later in the 20th century, a team of archaeologists, historians, government leaders, and citizens restored Fort Mose to its rightful place of honor.

Today, the location of the fort occupied by Blacks is recognized as a significant local, national, and international historic landmark.

Image: http://www.fortwiki.com/Fort_Mose

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Activism

How the Black Press Told the World About Emmet Till

Reporter Simeon Booker and photographer David Jackson covered the story for Jet. Other Black news outlets, including the Defender, also later published the photos, though not a single mainstream white outlet did, according to the New York Times. The photos turned Till’s story into “the first great [national] media event of the civil rights movement,” according to historian David Halberstam, who chronicles the murder in his book “The Fifties.”

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Mamie Till speaks to the press after her son was lynched in Mississippi in 1955. Wikipedia.org photo.
Mamie Till speaks to the press after her son was lynched in Mississippi in 1955. Wikipedia.org photo.

By Brandon Patterson

The story of Emmet Till has made its way back into the news in recent weeks on the heels of a new TV miniseries and new developments at the federal level.

Earlier this month, the historical docuseries “Mothers of the Movement” premiered on ABC. And last week, the Senate passed a bipartisan bill to posthumously award Emmett Till and his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, the Congressional Gold Medal.

Emmett Till’s story remains with us to this day, but lesser known is the role of the Black press in bringing his story to light — and in so doing, helping to catalyze the modern Civil Rights Movement.

One of the earliest news outlets to cover the Till story was the Chicago Defender, at the time one of the most influential Black weekly newspapers in the country, with two-thirds of its readership located outside the city, according to the Chicago Tribune.

The account of reporter Mattie Smith Colin, who covered the arrival of Till’s body at a local train station, captured the anguish of his mother as she received her son. Then, Jet Magazine became the first news outlet to publish the gruesome photos of Till’s body at his funeral, which his mother insisted be open casket.

Reporter Simeon Booker and photographer David Jackson covered the story for Jet. Other Black news outlets, including the Defender, also later published the photos, though not a single mainstream white outlet did, according to the New York Times. The photos turned Till’s story into “the first great [national] media event of the civil rights movement,” according to historian David Halberstam, who chronicles the murder in his book “The Fifties.”

Later, Booker’s coverage of the Till murder trial for Jet helped bring the trial to a Black and national audience. Other significant Black newspapers that covered the Till story included the Amsterdam News in New York City, which, by the 1960s, was the largest weekly community newspaper in the nation, the Pittsburgh Courier, and the Atlanta Constitution.

Coverage of Till’s story was notably different in Black news outlets compared to mainstream white papers. In the South, coverage was often sympathetic to Till’s murderers, notes researcher Michael Oby in a 2007 paper on the Till case.

Black papers, however, framed the story as an obvious and horrid injustice. At the same time, they began encouraging their Black readers to get involved in civil rights organizing, and to donate to the NAACP, which was central to the Till case.

Booker, who worked for Jet for nearly five decades, went on to receive an award from the National Press Club for his lifelong coverage of civil rights in America in the 1980s. At the award ceremony, according to the Chicago Tribune, he said of his work: “I wanted to fight segregation on the front lines. I wanted to dedicate my writing skills to the cause. Segregation was beating down my people. I volunteered for every assignment and suggested more. I stayed on the road, covering civil rights day and night. The names, the places and the events became history.”

Because of his work and other Black journalists and news outlets, we know the story of Emmet Till, and so many other critical stories.

This story was written using reporting from the Chicago Tribune, the New York Times, and academic research by Michael Oby at Georgia State University.

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