The 141 Years at Southern University: Celebrating the Annual Founders’ Day

SU System President-Chancellor, Ray L. Belton addresses the Jaguar Nation as part of the 2021 Founders’ Day Virtual Convocation on Wednesday, March 10. (Debrandin Brown/DIGEST)

Here at Southern University, we celebrate the 141 years Southern University has been around. Usually, Founder’s Day would be celebrated in the F. G Clark Activity Center. However, due to COVD-19, the Southern University Administration has decided to host the 141st Founder’s Day through a live-streamed video on Tuesday, March 9. Southern University began in New Orleans in the year of 1880. Southern University was founded by Black community leaders like Governor P.B.S Pinchback, TT Allain, Erick J. Gilmore, and Henry Demas.

Southern University of New Orleans opens doors for those who were less fortunate in higher education. The Morrill Act of 1890 allowed Southern to become a land grant institution launching the Agriculture and Mechanical Department. Southern University moved in 1914 to an all-black community of Scotlandville in North Baton Rouge.

Dr. Charles Vincent, a History Professor at Southern University, talks about the twenty-six sites that were proposed for Southern such as Grambling, Donaldsonville, Vidalia, New Iberia, and so on. He says that “There was a feeling that the New Orleans campus limited the access to blacks in the northern part of the state to a university.” The university closed on Juneteenth 1913 and reopened in the sixties. When the university opened, Dr. Joseph Clark became the first president. The enrollment grew from forty-seven to more than five hundred students. Once J.S Clark retired in 1938 his son, Dr. Felton G. Clark continued his fathers’ work. Felton took over the campus from 1938 to 1969. Southern became a historically black college after having the largest enrollment nationwide.

Racial segregation was the factor that led to the promotion of Southern University’s growth and development. Southern became authorized to open a law school in 1947 by the state of Louisiana. As said by Angela Allen-Bell, the SULC Law Professor, “We have produced graduates [in the Law Center] who have gone to change the legal and social landscape of this nation.” The Litigation that started the Law Center was Thurgood Marshall, A. P. Tureaud, and Louis A. Berry, who became dean of the Law Center.

In 1967, Southern University grew from New Orleans to Baton Rouge and on to Shreveport, Louisiana. Southern University has grown to be the biggest historically black college in the country. It has many locations and is still growing. Dolores Spikes known as Dr. Spikes was the first African American woman to be Chief of the executive office of Southern University. Dr. Spikes, stated that she “…wanted to uplift our students to have greater aspirations, great dreams of what they could be and what they wanted to be.”

Southern University supplies the opportunity for many students to join and gain experience at a historically black college. It is known for its law center, nursing program, psychology, and the Human Jukebox marching band, just to name a few. During the pandemic, they supplied a bulk of laptops for instruction and financial aid. They are the first instate university to access eBooks where students can use all course materials electronically for an affordable rate.

Increasing broadband access, students are now allowed to go to school whether on-campus or online with little to no problem of disruption or disturbances. Due to the pandemic, there became a rise in enrollment, lifting academic probation at the Southern University of New Orleans as the student health center supplied immediate health care services to all students, faculty, and staff for free for students to come to the campus safely. Thriving to be a better place for students to learn and teachers to educate those who are willing to get a good education.

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