An Ode to Scotlandville:   How SU can help preserve the legacy of its flagship town

Scotlandville, the home of the main campus representing the only historically black university system in the world, is preparing to receive a historical distinction of its own. The North Baton Rouge Now Blue Ribbon Commission is in the process of registering Scotlandville as a National Historic District through the Louisiana Division of Historical Places.

In order to be considered, prospective areas must meet certain criteria, including having a connection to significant historical local, state, or national events. Plans for the NHD project were discussed roughly two years ago, with the recent few months being dedicated to data collection. Thanks to the work of Southern University alumni and professors, the goal is one step closer to coming into fruition.

One notable alumnus associated with the efforts is Metro Councilwoman Chauna Banks, who was inspired by the opportunity to preserve the historic landscape of the community, while using the benefits associated with being on the National Register to generate economic development.

“Having heard the stories from my parents, and also my grandparents, I was very much familiar with the very rich history of the Scotlandville community,” said Banks. She recalled a time when the area was a booming middle-class community, thriving with high numbers of business owners, educators, and plant workers. “I know that probably anyone that has been here the last 20-25 years had no idea the historical place that Scotlandville had, and its relationship with Southern University.”

Prior to Southern’s arrival in 1912, Scotlandville was known for being the home for recently freed slaves following the Civil War.

“Southern and Scotlandville kind of, as I say, ‘grew up together’,” said NBRNow Co-Lead Researcher Byron Washington. “Of course, Scotlandville existed prior to Southern University, and Southern University existed prior to Scotlandville. But once that marriage came, you really had the community build the university.”

The ability to prevent insensitive alterations or demolitions to the community, along with the potential for financial tax incentives, are a few of the benefits associated with being a National Historic District, according to the LDHP official website.

Washington encourages students to capture the spirit of the project by learning more about the area around them. “Scotlandville was the largest African American town in Louisiana, and its significant role not one in the state of Louisiana, but in the United States’ story as far as African Americans.”

The hope is that this project can foster communication that can develop into partnerships and continuous collaboration between the SU community and the Scotlandville community. “We should be very involved,” says sophomore Political Science major Regina Allen. “Due to the fact that we are in Scotlandville, those are the people who contribute most to us,”

“Some people came to Southern not because its an HBCU,” says Banks, “but because there was so much surrounding Southern that [positively] affected their quality of life.”

Banks commented that Scotlandville’s chances for becoming a NHD are ‘excellent’. For Junior Architecture major and Scotlandville native Byron Lott, receiving such a distinction would be a welcome addition to the community. “We are finally noticed. We’re not just another city…people actually know about us,”

Volunteers can assist in the project in the form of survey photographers, data miners, and historical collectors & organizers. To inquire more information about the project and sign up to be a volunteer, email ScotlandvilleHD@NBRNow.org. Any historical information can be emailed to history@nbrnow.org.

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