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Tue, 03.09.1880

Southern University, (Louisiana) is Founded

*On this date, in 1880, Southern University was founded.  They are among over 90 public Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.   Southern University (SUBR) is the largest HBCU in Louisiana, a member school of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, and the flagship institution of the Southern University System. Its campus encompasses 512 acres, with an agricultural experimental station on an additional 372-acre site, five miles north of the main campus on Scott's Bluff overlooking the Mississippi River in the northern section of Baton Rouge.   

At the 1879 Louisiana State Constitutional Convention, African American political leaders P.B.S. PinchbackTheophile T. Allain, and Henry Demas proposed founding a higher education institution "for the education of persons of color." Before the American Civil War, Louisiana had an established class of free people of color who were property owners and educated; they kept that tradition for their children.  In March 1880, the Louisiana General Assembly chartered what was then called Southern College, originally located in New Orleans. Southern opened its doors on March 7, 1881, with 12 students. The school was held at the former Israel Sinai Temple on Calliope Street, between St. Charles and Camp.  

In 1890, the legislature designated Southern as a land grant college for Blacks to continue to satisfy federal requirements under the land grant program to support higher education for all students in the state, despite having a segregated system. It established an Agricultural and Mechanical department.  The 1904 "Picayune Guide to New Orleans" described the University on the 5100 block of Magazine Street in Uptown New Orleans as "for the education of colored persons. Coeducation is in force here. The school is excellent, and the instruction of an advanced character."   

Because of continued growth and a lack of land for expansion, in 1914, the university moved to Scotlandville, along Scott's Bluff facing the Mississippi River and north of Baton Rouge. Now absorbed into the capital, this area is included as a historical destination of the Louisiana African American Heritage Trail.  The first president of Southern University was Dr. Joseph, Samuel Clark. Clark, a Black leader from Baton Rouge. He had led Baton Rouge College and the Louisiana Colored Teachers Association.  In 1921, the Louisiana Constitutional Convention authorized the reorganization and expansion of Southern University.  Clark presided over Southern University during its resulting expansion. Student enrollment grew from 47 to 500, and two of the school's early buildings were built during this time.  

The Southern University Laboratory School System began operating in September 1922. The Laboratory School was first accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools in 1936 and has conferred more than 5,000 high school diplomas since its inception. Clark presided until his retirement in 1938, and his son Dr. Felton Grandison Clark, was appointed president that year. The State School for the Negro Deaf and Blind was established in 1938. In 1943, the university was visited by the First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt. F. G. Clark generated much more expansion of the university: 33 of 114 current buildings were erected during his 30 years of tenure. The student enrollment grew from 500 to nearly 10,000 students by the end of his tenure.

Under segregated state education, LSU Law School had refused to admit Charles J. Hatfield, III, an African American college graduate who filed a lawsuit in 1946 to gain professional education in the state. A special Louisiana Convention established a law program in 1947 known as the Southern University Law Center. F. G. Clark expanded affiliated centers for Southern University, founding Southern University at New Orleans (SUNO) (1956) and Southern University at Shreveport (SUSLA) (1964). The legislature officially incorporated them into the Southern University System in 1974.  In 1969, Clark retired, and Dr. G. Leon Netterville was selected as president. On November 16, 1972, on the second day of protests, as students argued to be included in determining administration policies and decisions, Denver Smith and Leonard Brown were shot during a protest outside the Old Auditorium (now the Southern University Museum of Art).

The murders have never been solved, but the students were killed with buckshot, which the sheriff's deputies used. These two students were involved with "Students United," a student activist group. The governor and sheriff's office denied that their people were responsible for the deaths. Governor Edwin Edwards ordered the campus temporarily closed, and it was patrolled by troops to keep the peace. The institution continued to grow. In 1974, a special session in the Louisiana Legislature established the Southern University System, with Jesse N. Stone of Shreveport as its president. The system consists of Southern University and A&M College, Baton Rouge (SUBR); Southern University, New Orleans (SUNO); Southern University Law Center (SULC); Southern University Agricultural Center (SUAC); and Southern University, Shreveport (SUSLA). SUSLA is a two-year commuter college.  

The Southern University Museum of Art at Shreveport has been designated as a destination of the Louisiana African American Heritage Trail.  In 1978, the legislature merged the Southern School for the Deaf with the Louisiana School for the Deaf, moving the students temporarily into the Mayflower North Campus during the construction of the new South Campus. In 1985, they entered the new buildings in the South.  Between 1970 and 1990, the university consistently enrolled over 10,000 students and secured the title of the largest HBCU in the nation.   Between 2004 and 2013, Southern University ranked 4th in the nation for the baccalaureate-origin institution of black male doctorate recipients.  In the 2010s, the university suffered from severe financial problems as the state cut its budget. Enrollment.  

Southern University's 13 intercollegiate athletics teams are known as the Jaguars and are members of the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC)in NCAA Division I. The Human Jukebox is the internationally renowned collegiate marching band representing the university since 1947.  The New Orleans campus of the university fell significantly after Hurricane Katrina flooded the campus in 2005. In 2019, the university's regional accreditor placed the New Orleans campus on probation and the university began furloughing employees.  Several months later, the New Orleans campus of the university also announced plans to suspend all intercollegiate athletic programs at the end of the 2019-2020 academic year.  

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