A host to the only College of Government in the nation, the Rodney G. Higgins Hall for Social Sciences is a unique landmark on the campus of Southern University. The origin of the building can be attributed to the historic professor Rodney G. Higgins, who formed the Political Science Department of Southern University today.
Before coming to this university, Higgins legacy began in the city of Statesville, North Carolina, where during his childhood in St. Louis, Missouri took place. The archives of Southern University chronicle his higher education: “He received the B.Ed. from Southern Illinois Teachers College in 1935 and the M.A. and Ph.D.in Political Science from the State University of Iowa in 1936 and 1940, respectively.”
In 1943, he joined the U.S. Army, as well as the American Red Cross in 1944. He leaned his writing abilities as a contributor of the literature of the University of Iowa Studies and the Quarterly Review of Higher Education among Negroes. As a professor, Higgins established a foundation for not only Political Science at Southern, but also Sociology, History, Economics and Geography.
Outside of the classroom, Higgins was well regarded for his activism and involvement with the local community, and his efforts to expand the political realm of the Black population of Louisiana. Higgins first influence in the sphere of Social Sciences began with him and his wife Mildred Higgins’ leadership of organizations known as the Bayou Girls State and Bayou Boys State. These were Southern University’s chapter of the Illinois-based Boy’s State, which was founded in order “to educate the youth in the duties, privileges, rights and responsibilities of American citizenship. It is a wholly plan for training in the practical mechanics of government. Applications of the principles of democratic government were made in every possible way. The Constitution and the statutes of the State of Louisiana were the pattern from which the fundamental law of Bayou Boys State was developed”
Following the death of activist and former South Africa president Nelson Mandela, Higgins Hall was given the title of the Nelson Mandela College of Government and Social Sciences in his honor. Mandela was a renown figure in the world of politics and civil rights, having been jailed prior to his presidential term due to his movement against racism and apartheid in his homeland. He received an honorary doctorate from Southern University as well as Louisiana State University, and also spoke at Southern’s spring commencement ceremony in May of 2000.
Kelsey Perine, a junior Political Science major and president of the Southern University chapter of the NAACP, expressed how she identifies with the mission Higgins led, “ I decided to be a Political Science major because I feel [that] the best way I can advocate and create change in my community is through politics. Policy and politics is the backbone of everything, and I believe Mr. Higgins believed in that as well.” Perinne also recognizes how the Political Science has influenced her own advancements as a student, “The Voter Engagement campaign for the governor’s race last year has been the most impactful. While I was bought on originally for my work as NAACP president, I got the opportunity to work with students and professors from my department who all have the same drive and passion as me.”